NORTH Yorkshire and East Riding of Yorkshire's strengths in the food and drink industry have been recognised as five local businesses are selected as Food Stars as part of a new national initiative.

The family-run companies, spreading the length of the region from Leyburn in the North through to York, and Beverley in the south east, have been listed among the UK's 50 most promising food and drink entrepreneurs.

Yorkshire’s Food Stars, selected from hundreds of award-winning businesses, include Acaster Malbis-based ice cream-maker Yorvale, Wold Top Brewery, based near Driffield, sausage company Heck Foods in Leyburn, Northallerton-based soup specialist Yorkshire Provender, and Three Little Pigs chorizo company in Beverley.

The Food Stars scheme was launched yesterday by Dame Fiona Kendrick, chief executive of Nestle UK, which has its confectionary headquarters in York, along with former Sainsbury's chief executive Justin King.

All 50 Food Stars were invited to the Department of Food and Rural Affairs in London to attend master classes on topics from exporting through to social media, and will receive a package of continued support from the Food and Drink Federation (FDF) and Cranfield University over the next year.

Kate Balchin, director of Wold Top Brewery, which is The Press Business Awards Business of the Year, said: "We are so pleased to be part of the Food Stars network.

"It's a great opportunity for our business to meet like-minded companies and individuals from all over the UK and gain from their experience and knowledge."

The Foods Stars initiative, which is part of a wider government drive to inspire entrepreneurial activity across the UK, comes as the UK food chain generated a record £103 billion last year.

Food and farming employs one in eight people in Britain. In 2013 entrepreneurs set up 30,000 new food and drink businesses generating thousands of jobs in the sector.

The industry is bringing 16,000 new products to the market each year, more than France and Germany combined, with almost £19 billion worth of orders shipped to more than 150 countries in 2013.

Jamie Keeble, director at Heck Foods, said: "We’ve had an amazing two years since we set up HECK and feel very proud to be selected as a UK Food Star.

"Being part of the scheme will open up lots of new doors and give us the opportunity to share experiences and take our business to the next level."