The competition was fierce. Each competitor had 25 minutes to prepare, display, describe and serve up their organic produce to the awaiting Dragons. A wide range of products were showcased amongst which were cheeses, preserves, meats and even some organic cocktail bitters.
The roles of the Dragons were taken on by industry experts Charlotte Maybury of QMU MSc Gastronomy, Nicholas Briggs of Abel & Cole, Susan Welsh of the Press & Journal, Paul Burrows of Greencity Wholefoods, Fiona Richmond of Scotland Food & Drink and Michelle Wilson of Triodos Bank. Unlike the original Dragons Den, the judges freely offered their wealth of knowledge to contestants and gave invaluable advice to help contestants further develop their products.
Demetra Pantelouris of Mero’s Dairies won the Dragons over with organic cheeses inspired by her Greek heritage. She whet the judges’ taste buds with a delicious homemade grilled Halloumi, then sealed the deal with a rich, creamy ricotta. Using milk from local Swiss Brown cows, Mero’s cheeses have a special unique flavour.
Demetra Pantelouris of Mero’s Dairies said: “With my business in the very early stages I was in need of some outsider feedback to help take it to the next stage. Not usually one to put myself in the limelight, I entered the Organic Dragons’ Den as the judging panel offered an impressive range of food industry experts - an opportunity too good to miss. Having to present and pitch about my cheeses rekindled my passion for food. That, along with the invaluable feedback I received, has given me the confidence boost I needed to power ahead with developing the business. Overall, entering the Den was a great experience and one I would urge other organic start-ups to go for.”
Demetra’s love for food was born in a flat in Glasgow where she lived with her four siblings and mother. Her mother dreamed of a self-sustainable life, making her own bread, cheese, jam and butter and growing tomatoes in a little window box enriched by the Glasgow sun. Demetra and her siblings were encouraged to help out with cooking. She has many memories of her and her siblings playing with dough to make breadsticks. Instead of toys to play with, they had food! Sadly Demetra’s mother passed away in 1994, but it’s with great happiness that she carries out her mother’s dream of building a cheese factory, and has therefore named it in her honour.
Alison Muirhead, Business Development Manager for Soil Association Scotland said: “I was very proud of the businesses that participated in the Den and very encouraged by the calibre of entries submitted. It’s great to see real creativity and innovation in the organic sector in Scotland, particularly as we approach Soil Association’s month of campaigning and awareness-raising, Organic September.
"We had a wonderful panel of Dragons with a range of expertise and experience, from online retail to ethical banking, who provided participants with frank and creative advice. I’m delighted that we were able to run the event with the support of the Community Food Fund (which is financed by the Scottish Government) and provide advice and guidance to organic businesses in Scotland. I look forward to seeing the winning products on shelves in the future.”
As winner of the competition, Mero’s Dairies was awarded a new product development session with ‘Think Local’ worth £1000. Two runners up were also awarded this prize – Cream o’ Galloway for their organic cheeses and Tiphereth Trading for their organic chutneys and jams.