Two female entrepreneurs who were driven to start their own food and drink companies when they reached watershed moments in their lives are among the finalists in the IGD's Leading Light award.

They will line up alongside a farmer's daughter from Yorkshire who has spearheaded the development of a local produce sourcing and distribution scheme when judges make their final call next week.

The Danone-sponsored award recognises individuals who have made a significant contribution to their employer, the industry or the IGD's Leading Edge talent pool of members in its food and drink networking forum.

Lotwina Farodoye was made redundant from Percy Dalton's Famous Nut Company last Spring when it was taken over by Intersnack. But as former head of new business development, she quickly applied her skills to growing her own company Castus UK, brand owner for Be Fruity Natural Fruit Bars, which have been available in Waitrose and Holland & Barrett since early this year.

"It was the height of the recession Woolworths had just gone down and reports on the food industry were not good. Prior to redundancy I would never have had the money to invest. In one way it was a blessing in disguise in another a rude awakening!" says Farodoye.

Lucinda Bruce-Gardyne, a professional chef and founder of gluten-free Genius Foods, was similarly driven to go it alone when she discovered her young son had a food allergy. Eighteen months later she launched Genius bread, which is now available in 2,500 supermarkets.

Charlotte Falkingham shares her fellow finalists' passion for natural food as general manager for From My Farm, which earlier this year picked up the £30k prize in The Grocer's digital marketing competition. Produce World Group's innovative solution to making regional foods nationally available through supermarkets links a network of farms through a single brand.

The judge's decision will be announced at the IGD Food Industry Awards next month.