In Brixton, the “heartbeat of the community” is its market, Dragons’ Den star and the businessman behind Reggae Reggae sauce, Levi Roots, tells CityA.M.
The south London district has been Roots’ home ever since he moved to the UK as a young child from Jamaica, so it’s no surprise it is close to his heart.
However, Roots knows all too well the challenges facing those – both households and businesses – in his local community, after volunteering to collect food bank donations for the Trussell Trust.
The cost of living crisis was “shocking” to Roots, who rose to fame after cinching funding for his sauce brand on Dragons’ Den in 2007.
“I would have never thought that would have happened in the UK in 2022,” he said of the hardship faced by families amid historic inflation.
Businesses in the area are also facing a cocktail of cost pressures and facing a fight for survival this winter.
Independent street food traders on Electric Avenue face hikes to fuel and food costs, all while consumers feel the pinch themselves.
The current economic pressures have “just brought it home to me how important it is to think ahead,” he said.
The 64-year-old entrepreneur has teamed up with Ford Pro for a year-long partnership to encourage businesses to go green.
Traders on Electric Avenue will make the switch to EV vehicles ahead of a deadline for all new cars and vans to be fully zero emission by 2035.
Test drives will be offered to traders this week, as well as a promotional campaign for the legacy E-Transit community vehicle.
“The young are now leading the change for us elders to re-think,” Roots said, with his nine year old son eager to talk about sustainability with him. “It’s a wonderful thing to see people are concerned” with business’s carbon footprints, he added.
Many business owners are “too busy trying to feed their kids and earn as much money as they can for now,” he admits.
However, it was “crucial” for businesses to prepare for the deadline and for the government to work with the community to install chargers as soon as possible.
With fuel costs on the up, technology was a “fantastic way” to slash pressure, he said.
Going green was essential to future-proofing street food in the years to come. “Everybody has to be resilient.”