The mum turned businesswoman, from Scotland, pitched her vegetarian Secret Sausages, Vegetables in Disguise, but did not win investment on the hit TV programme last Sunday (August 23).
Wicklow failed to mention on air that Secret Sausages currently traded through natural spice blender Foodmaker, which is owned by a holding company of butchery specialist Scobie and Junor.
This omission was “misleading” for the Dragons because Secret Sausages had the backing of a large supplier to the meat industry, informed sources claimed.
‘Here’s the real secret’
“So, here’s the real secret. I don’t think the Dragons would have been very happy if they’d known that,” one source told FoodManufacture.co.uk.
“It was portrayed on Dragons’ Den to be a new cottage industry and that everyone was trying to eat less meat products. It seems odd to be competing with their own customers to produce alternative sausages to make kids eat vegetables.”
Denying the claims, Wicklow said that she had not misrepresented her business and only Secret Sausages was on offer as part of the deal with Dragons’ Den.
“I have worked though the family business Foodmaker Ltd to launch Secret Sausages,” she said.
“But if there was any investment in the Dragons’ Den, it was … a condition from the family that it would be a separate business as the rest of the business is not related to [the one] being offered in the Den.”
Denial of claims
“When you look at what we’ve done and how we've done it, and certainly having spent two years of not earning a penny just working on this project 24/7, I don’t feel that."
- Rachel Wicklow, director at Secret Sausages
She said they went through full disclosure with the BBC, whose researchers had approached her, and there was agreement to set it up as a separate business for investment moving forward.
Wicklow said the business had driven itself and she “single-handedly” worked on distribution, sales, commercials and communications on a relatively tight budget.
‘I really don’t believe that’
Answering criticism that Secret Sausages business was “misrepresented”, she said: “I really don’t believe that.
“When you look at what we’ve done and how we've done it, and certainly having spent two years of not earning a penny just working on this project 24/7, I don’t feel that.
“The last two years of my life would tell you a different story, with not a penny to my name.”
Although Foodmaker was owned by Scobie and Junor (Holding) Ltd, Wicklow said the bigger company structure was not “relevant” to the brand.
Wicklow said: “Secret Sausages is a departure for us, driven by myself being somebody who is vegetarian and passionate about it. Driven by the fact we had the technical know-how to create something unique and my belief in this opportunity.
“That’s why I talk Secret Sausages, but Foodmaker is the company we operate and sell through.”
None of the Dragons invested in Secret Sausages, and one of them said that vegetables should be “celebrated” not hidden away in another product.
On Dragons’ Den, Wicklow told the investors: “With your help, I believe we can take Secret Sausages, Vegetables in Disguise, from a cottage industry to a national and even perhaps international player.”
Despite the rejection, she remain determined to succeed after being overwhelmed by the positive response from viewers.
The BBC has yet to respond to FoodManufacture.co.uk’s questions about its recruitment process for the show.