A TRIP to the Middle East to promote the distribution company he set up at the age of 24 prompted Craig Benton to launch his next venture.

During that visit in 2012 Mr Benton, who is hoping to be named Young Entrepreneur of the Year, spotted a gap in the market for quality British products such as preserves, confectionery, crisps and biscuits.

Rather than export an existing range, Mr Benton used his experience in branding, mass buying, selling and export to independently develop a bespoke range of premium UK products for export, and the London Deli Company was born.

Within weeks of launch the company, which is also vying for the Dare to Export award, to secured a £1.8m contract with a supermarket chain in the Middle East.

Mr Benton, from Bugthorpe, near Stamford Bridge, reported that within a month the London Deli Company became one of the largest brands in Harrods and secured the largest square footage of floor space of any brand.

He said: "More and more prestigious names in retail are now demanding the brand including Harvey Nichols, Fortnum and Mason, Partridges and Liberty’s and the brand is making its way onto the Orient Express, the RMS Queen Mary 2 and even into the Royal Household.

"The entire venture was launched on a financial shoestring and yet within weeks it went global. I developed the brand independently, with no employees on the books, and the snowball effect of the brand's success is due to my constant force behind it."