California dairy innovation contest returns

By Jim Cornall

- Last updated on GMT

The deadline for application is June 25, 2021.
The deadline for application is June 25, 2021.

Related tags California Milk

The California Milk Advisory Board (CMAB) is bringing back its annual dairy innovation competition with a new name and increased focus on functional dairy product development.

The Real California Milk Excelerator, the third edition of the CMAB dairy product innovation competition with innovation consultancy VentureFuel, will award up to $650,000 in prizes for new dairy products that support performance and recovery benefits.

The 2021 Real California Milk Excelerator taps into the functional foods market – a market that has grown over the past year and is projected to reach more than $275bn globally by 2025. With consumers prioritizing personal health and wellness in response to the pandemic, the competition will seek out early-stage start-ups that utilize California milk.

The competition seeks early-stage, potential for high-growth applicants with a cow’s milk-based product or working prototype that plays a critical role in personal performance (focus, energy, exercise, strength) and/or recovery (rejuvenation, relaxation, gut health, sleep). 

Up to 12 applicants will be selected to join the RCM Excelerator program, with each receiving a $10,000 stipend and support to refine and scale their business as well as benefit from group resources including the development of sales and marketing tools. They will also be entered into the CMAB/VentureFuel Mentor Program, which includes counsel from successful founders, investors, leading corporate executives, and those in the design, marketing, sales, manufacturing, distribution, farming and processing industries.

The first place Excelerator winner will receive up to $150,000 worth of additional marketing support from CMAB to accelerate product growth in the marketplace. Second place will receive $100,000 of marketing supports from CMAB. To further advance opportunities for finalists, a private, buyer/investor day event will be hosted for finalists to pitch actual clients to drive business development and secure financing. The total value of the competition awards is $650,000.

For the first time, CMAB and VentureFuel will be awarding up to three companies entry into the new Real California Milk Incubator Boot Camp, an option for companies that have great ideas but are too early for the competition. Led by executives at CMAB, VentureFuel and the California Dairy Innovation Center, Boot Camp participants also will gain entry into the VentureFuel Mentor program as well as review of products, tweaking of pitch, introductions to food labs, nutritionists, etc. (a value of $50,000).

“Consumers are redefining what health and wellness means and looking for foods that provide not only flavor but functionality to help them achieve optimal health. Whether to maximize daily performance or replenishment after physical activity, dairy is the ultimate functional food supplying quality protein plus several vital nutrients that translate to the products consumers are looking for today,”​ said John Talbot, CEO of the CMAB.

“With the Excelerator and Incubator platforms, we will be able to support companies as they innovate with dairy to bring more of these products featuring milk from California dairy farmers to market.”

Fred Schonenberg, founder of VentureFuel, Inc., said, “By adding the Incubator Bootcamp and Buyer/Investor Day, CMAB continues their commitment to creating a product innovation ecosystem to further increase the demand for California Dairy while supporting and accelerating the influx of new startups and entrepreneurs creating better-for- you products.”

Competition rules and application documents are available online​ and the deadline for application is June 25, 2021.

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