The competition Foodpreneur Fest 2014 invites start-up food firms to pitch their business to Branson is open to retail products, restaurants, nutritious foods and kids’ food.

Winning start-ups in each of the four categories will receive a prize which includes mentoring. The prize will also offer winners a:

“Money-can’t buy support to reach new customers”

Branson will be on the judging panel deciding the winners personally, being joined by such foody luminaries as Paul Linley, the founder of Ella’s Kitchen founder and Hemsley Hemsley founders Melissa and Jasmine Hemsley.

The panel will vote on four categories:

The ‘Most exciting new brand’ award will go to new products looking at getting on supermarket shelves.

The ‘Tastiest start-up’ category is for every type of catering operation, including pop-up restaurants and mobile operations.

The “Best healthy food business” gong is aimed at those offering nutritious foods.

The fourth award will be presented to the winner of the ‘Most loved kids’ food’.

The entry process for the Virgin StartUp Foodpreneur Fest 2014 has already started. Firms interested in applying have until September 3 at 10am to apply, with the shortlisted entrants invited to present to the panel on September 17.

The announcement of the new Virgin awards comes as the Faculty of Public Health in the UK issued a warning that increasing numbers of people are suffering from malnutrition. The cause, according to the faculty, is higher levels of food poverty, with medical conditions such as rickets becoming more apparent as an effect.