We have just judged the finalists for the Cotswold Fayre Young Entrepreneur of the Year. The quality of the six short-listed candidates for the semi-final was absolutely superb, the best ever - things have come on a long way in the last five years. I set up this competition due to a dearth of young people within the speciality food sector. This stemmed from walking around the Speciality & Fine Food Fair in 2012 and noticing that the average age of exhibitors was too old, I wanted to encourage younger people into the industry. Thanks to this and several other similar initiatives and the fact that millennials are now very interested in what they eat, this has happened in spades. Having written that paragraph, I left writing to check the average age of our employees, which is now 38. This is also much lower than it used to be as we now have some brilliant 20 and 30-year-olds working for us, who bring a lot of energy to the company, which does us all good! Anyway, I digress! One of our judging criteria when scoring the candidates is a score out of 20 on “Would you invest in this company”. I find this a very useful guide on making the decision on choosing a winner, because if not, do they deserve to win? This is also a useful question for our Buying Team and indeed those that buy for retailers, I believe. It is a hypothetical question, of course, as most of us don’t have spare cash sitting around, but surely, we want products on our shelves and in catalogues that are very investable. These are the brands that are likely to have good marketing, increase sales and make us money. It is my belief that there are too many brands on the shelves of speciality food stores that are not investable, and I think if the sector is to continue to grow more of the brands we put on our shelves need to be from dynamic and rapidly growing businesses, and probably many of them run by millennials, who are becoming increasingly significant amongst our customer base. There are far too many lifestyle businesses run by older people that have been doing the same thing for years. Personally, I believe it is time to de-list these. I am thinking back to an article I wrote in April after the Farm Shop & Deli/Convenience Shows looking at the differences between the two sectors. The convenience sector owners/managers are completely focussed on sales out of their shops, and of course, many speciality food retailers are too. But, dare I say, there is probably too much focus on buying in huge numbers of products and making the shop look very pretty and not enough focus on sales. Stock the stuff that sales and makes you money rather than those products that look pretty and mark you out as a proper food retailer. Of course, ideally the best products do both for you. Finally, this week, some sad news. I heard yesterday that one of the characters within the speciality food sector has sadly passed away at far too young an age – Julian Pollard of Scarlett & Mustard. Julian burst onto the speciality food brand several years ago with his huge enthusiasm and you could not fail to like him. Our thoughts are with Sandy, the rest of the team and his family.