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Dragons’ Den sauce sisters on road to Levi Roots fame

By Lorraine Mullaney , 28-Nov-2012

Dragons’ Den’s sauce manufacturing sisters Lisa and Helen Tse are on the road to achieving their dream of making their Chinese sauces as big as Levi Roots’ Reggae Reggae brand.

Saucy sisters: Helen and Lisa Tse pictured with Gordon Ramsay after winning the F Word's best local Chinese restaurant award

Saucy sisters: Helen and Lisa Tse pictured with Gordon Ramsay after winning the F Word's best local Chinese restaurant award

Last week the entrepreneurial twins secured national listings for their gluten-free Sweet Mandarin sauces in 500 Sainsbury stores across the UK.

Helen Tse told FoodManufacture.co.uk: “It’s a dream come true for us and a massive vote of confidence in our sauces because a listing in 500 stores is unheard of for a new company. Usually buyers will sign you up for 50 stores as a trial run and, if you’ve done well in six months, it goes up to 200. We’re delighted.”

A Sainsbury senior buyer said: “The sauces are excellent and something our customers will want and enjoy. The Sweet Mandarin brand fits perfectly with our ethos to encourage customers to try something new.

‘Nurture smaller, niche British manufacturers’

“Working with Helen and Lisa is fun and they have the passion and drive to succeed. We want to help nurture smaller, niche British manufacturers like them and add to their quality offering. We’ve pulled out all the stops to make their sauces available in stores as quickly as possible.”

After winning a £50,000 investment on BBC TV’s Dragons’ Den and the support of Dragons Duncan Bannatyne and Hilary Devey, the sisters shared their plans to make their Chinese sauces as big as Levi Roots’ Reggae Reggae brand.

Tse told FoodManufacture.co.uk: “Peter Jones didn’t want to invest in us because he felt we were a threat to his current portfolio, which includes the Levi Roots brand.”

Sweet Mandarin Sauces come in three flavours: barbecue, sweet chilli and sweet and sour. The sauces are vegan accredited and have no gluten, monosodium glutamate or artificial colouring. They were produced in response to demand from customers in their Manchester-based restaurant Sweet Mandarin who suffered from coeliac disease.

Gluten-free market

Tse said: “We want to be a pioneer for the gluten-free market.”

They will arrive in Sainsbury’s free-from aisle on December 4 and on Selfridges’ shelves in time for Christmas. The Tses are also in talks with Booths supermarket chain.

In January they will start to supply their sauce to a supermarket in Russia.

Surprisingly, they have achieved all of this without any help from the Dragons.

Tse said: We were talking to the supermarkets before going on the show. We’ve achieved this because the taste of the sauce speaks for itself and we’re the only Chinese gluten-free sauce on the market.”

The sisters plan to launch a new sauce range within the next 12 months. But first they’re focusing on making enough sauce to satisfy demand.

“We’re working day and night but we’re not complaining,” said Tse. “We’ve taken on more staff and bought a machine that can make 90 bottles a minute. We’ve got sauce coming out of our ears but we’re loving every minute of it because it’s our dream.”

Eventually the sisters will open a factory and take on more staff to meet demand.

“If we get any more deals for 500 supermarket outlets then we’ll get a factory,” said Tse. “But let’s see how it goes with Sainsbury first.”

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