Food and drink entrepreneurs in Newcastle and Gateshead have been urged to enter a new competition that could see them win a six-week space at their local intu shopping centre intu Metrocentre.

The winner of intu and Virgin StartUp’s Foodpreneur 2017 which closes this Wednesday (17th May) will get the chance to run their business from one of intu’s 14 shopping centres nationwide as well as online at intu.co.uk, reaching millions of customers and benefitting from advice and support from intu and Virgin StartUp.

Finalists of the competition will pitch their businesses to four top food and drink experts including Dragons’ Den star Levi Roots and award-winning entrepreneur and founder of Ella’s Kitchen Paul Lindley to compete for the six-week space in one of the country’s most popular shopping and leisure destinations.

The judging panel is completed by Instagram star and bestselling food author Alice Liveing, aka Clean Eating Alice and Jim Cregan, founder of Jimmy’s Iced Coffee.

The competition from Virgin StartUp and intu, owner of some of the UK’s most popular shopping centres such as intu Metrocentre, invites entries from aspiring food entrepreneurs from across the country. From the entries received, eight semi-finalists will be awarded the opportunity to showcase their business in a customised pop up at an intu centre and online at intu.co.uk for one week.

Four finalists will then be selected to pitch and present their businesses to the Foodpreneur judging panel in September in order to win six weeks of space.

Levi Roots said: “I jumped at the chance to join the judging panel for intu and Virgin’s Foodpreneur as I share their passion for supporting new businesses and innovation. This is such a great opportunity to reach millions of new customers within a busy shopping centre environment so I’d encourage any budding food and drink entrepreneurs to find out how they could be part of this year’s competition.”

David Fischel, intu chief executive, said: “Our expert panel of judges’ outstanding credentials across the food and drink industry will play an important part in the competition’s aim of finding and supporting the most creative and innovative new businesses. This includes the opportunity for them to reach millions of intu customers in our centres and online. We are delighted to be working with Virgin StartUp to provide such an opportunity and I’m personally looking forward to seeing the caliber of new ideas that this competition is bringing forward.”

Mei Shui, Managing Director Virgin StartUp said: “We’re into our third year of this fabulous competition and following the success of our previous winners I’m excited to see what’s on the horizon for this year’s entrants. A competition like this wouldn’t be what it is without a distinguished and experienced panel of judges; I’m pleased to welcome Alice, Levi, Paul and Jim to this year’s competition. I know they’re going to have a huge positive impact on the whole process.”

Alongside their role in determining the overall winner, each of the judges will draw on their personal expertise during the judging process as they offer advice and tips to the entrepreneurs pitching their business ideas.

Entrants to Foodpreneur 2017 must be aged 18 years and over with the right to work in the UK and can find out more about how to enter and the full terms and conditions here: (www.foodpreneur.virginstartup.org)

Foodpreneur 2017 judges:

Levi Roots shot to fame on BBC2’s Dragons’ Den in 2007 as a charismatic sauce-man and entrepreneur who charmed dragons Peter Jones and Richard Farleigh into investing in his tangy homemade Reggae Reggae Sauce.

Paul Lindley is an award winning British entrepreneur.  He is the bestselling author of Little Wins and he’s also the founder and chairman of Ella’s Kitchen, an innovative brand of organic baby food built on a core social mission. It’s now the UK’s largest and has sales of over $100M from across 40 countries.

Jimmy Cregan started his hugely successful Jimmy’s Iced Coffee brand six years ago. Jimmy shot to fame with a series of rap videos charting his story as a Foodpreneur and knows first-hand what this year’s contestants will be going through, including what they’ll need to do to stand out.

Clean Eating Alice is a pint sized fitness expert & influencer with a passion for health and fitness. Having spent the majority of her formative years developing unhealthy habits through trying every diet there was, and gaining weight as a result, she decided to take matters into her own hands and track her complete lifestyle change through her now hugely successful Instagram blog titled ‘Clean Eating Alice’. She now boasts over 505k followers on her Instagram & 74k on her Facebook with a very engaged fan base.