Oatein, ARN, And The Secrets of Dragon’s Den

Having featured in a bidding war on the hit TV show, the Directors of Oatein attracted the backing they needed and their Low-Sugar Protein Bars are now available to vending operators through ARN. To mark the occasion, Ian Reynolds-Young met Oatein co-founder Andy Dixon to get the inside track on what goes on behind the scenes in the Dragon’s Den …


You can’t really take anything you see on TV at face value. There’s widespread use of ‘smoke and mirrors’, so producers don’t have to leave anything to chance as they strive to deliver their vision to the small screen – without bursting the budget.

Take Dragon’s Den for example. Andy Dixon’s been there, done that; he’s got the investment and enjoyed the exposure that comes in shed-loads when you’ve appeared on a popular TV show. With his partner at Oatein, John Paul Gardner (the two met in the boxing ring – you couldn’t make it up), he knows how it feels to have three Dragons competing for attention. Since accepting a bid from Peter Jones, life and business has changed beyond recognition for the man from Whitley Bay.

Oatein‘It was the best PR possible’, Andy said. ‘Four million people watched what was, essentially, a 20 minute presentation about our Oatein brand. That’s the kind of exposure that really does open doors.’

Oatein: ‘A Couple of Geordie Grafters.’

One of the doors opened up to Andy and John Paul, dubbed ‘A couple of Geordie Grafters’ by Dragon Jenny Campbell, was that of Allan Walker, head-honcho at Automatic Retailing. Now, Allan might not breathe fire like a dragon, but he has been known to blow hot and cold when it comes to considering new products. It’s hardly surprising: ARN is the vending industry’s stand-out wholesaler, stocking thousands of lines, including more than a few ‘healthier’ snacks and drinks. However, after an initial encounter at last year’s Vendex North, Allan invited Andy to visit him in his own den and once again, Andy left with the desired outcome.

So, now it’s possible to sell Oatein bars through your vending machines, of which more later…

OateinHave you ever wondered how you get to be on Dragon’s Den? Maybe you imagine hundreds of wannabe entrepreneurs, samples in hand, stood in line à la ‘Britain’s Got Talent’? It wasn’t like that for Oatein. ‘We were contacted by one of the researchers for the show’, Andy said, ‘who’d heard about us somehow and had a look at our web site. We had a long think about it and decided we’d give it a go.’ So, there’s the first surprise. They come looking for good ideas.

No Contracts Are Signed

The second is that deals are not done on the day of the pitch. ‘No contracts are signed, no deals are done until the programme has been broadcast’, Andy says. ‘Then, there’s a window of 30 days to get the details ironed out.’

You might conclude that being on the show, together with all the attendant hoopla, has already ‘done the job’ for Oatein. Three ‘major UK supermarkets’ were on the phone asking for meetings within a week of transmission. And after all, it’s not as if we’re talking about a start up company…


‘Far from it’, Andy says. ‘Our products are on sale in 50 countries. In Dubai alone, for example, we’re stocked in more than 800 outlets. The irony is that the UK is in fact our smallest market, the country in which we’ve faced the greatest difficulty in bringing our products to market. We’re up against a lot of competition, all of which has more muscle and more money than we do when it comes to advertising and marketing. We’re hoping things will turn on our favour now and we’re excited at the prospect of having a spiral or two in the nation’s vending machines.’

You’ve seen them on telly, you’ve read the story, now speak to your ARN rep and buy the bars…


Notes For Buyers:

  • Oatein is exclusively available from Automatic Retailing Northern Ltd, (ARN).
  • Oatein low-sugar protein bars are available in 5 flavours: White Choc and Strawberry, Salted Caramel; Cookies and Cream, Dark Choc Brownie and Peanut Crunch
  • Oatein is sold in outers of 12 x 60gm bars
  • Each bar contains an essential blend of proteins including whey and soy. They are also full of slow release carbohydrates making them the perfect pre or post workout snack for health conscious individuals.

About the author

The Editor

Planet Vending’s Editor is Ian Reynolds-Young and it’s Ian’s unique writing talent that has made PV what it is today – the best read (red) vending blog in the world, and vending’s best read (reed). Ian ‘tripped and fell into vending’, in the capacity of PR executive, before launching a specialist agency, ‘reynoldscopy’, dedicated to the UK Vending business. The company continues to represent the interests of many of the sector’s leading brands.

‘It’s all about telling stories’, he says. ‘We want to make every visit to PV a rewarding experience. By celebrating the achievements of the UK’s operating companies, we’re on a mission to debunk the idea that vending is retailing’s poor relation.’

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