Dairy for the next generation: New York start-up competition targets innovation for Gen-Z

By Katy Askew

- Last updated on GMT

NY-baked start-up competition wants to promote innovation that targets Gen Z / Pic: GettyImages wondervisuals
NY-baked start-up competition wants to promote innovation that targets Gen Z / Pic: GettyImages wondervisuals

Related tags Innovation Gen Z

A new programme has been launched to accelerate emerging dairy start-ups who are targeting 10- to 23-year-old consumers.

The New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets, the New York Dairy Promotion Order (DPO) Advisory Board, and VentureFuel have unveiled this year’s MilkLaunch startup competition. The program focuses on accelerating product innovation for dairy products in New York State with a new theme of products targeting Generation Z consumers. The accelerator is concentrating on start-ups that have a particular focus on sustainability.

The MilkLaunch competition will be run by innovation consultancy VentureFuel. It aims to encourage entrepreneurs, startups, or existing companies to introduce ‘exciting new dairy products’ including any type of product across cheese, yogurt, liquid milk, ice cream, butter. These products should have Gen-Z consumers in their sights. The program organizers stressed that this is a cohort that is growing in both size and purchasing power.

“We as New York Dairy farmers and the DPO are excited by the program’s focus on sustainability and Generation Z to help promote and sell more dairy products to this impactful group of consumers who strive for a better future,”​ noted Larry Bailey, Chair of The New York State Dairy Promotion Order Advisory Board.

“During our first NY MilkLaunch Program we saw so many innovative products that spoke directly to younger consumers in a contemporary way that really enhanced the excitement around dairy,”​ added Fred Schonenberg, Founder of VentureFuel. “We also saw many novel ideas focused on sustainability and know that Gen-Z and the New York State Dairy community are both deeply passionate about sustainability, resulting in the perfect combination for this year’s focus.” 

Reaping the rewards of success

The competition offers over $200,000 in awards, including $10,000 stipends for up to six finalists to perfect their product via lab time, consumer insights, research, and elite mentorship from global experts across the consumer products, retail and dairy industries. The grand prize of $150,000 will be used to accelerate the winners of the competition to get to market and drive dairy sales.  

Last year’s programme winner, Slate Milk, is a producer of high protein chocolate milks and lattes. Co-founder Manny Lubin said that the experience has been beneficial to the brand as it works to expand.

“MilkLaunch was a great opportunity for Slate to work with industry experts. It allowed us to learn and get direct feedback from people who have been here before. We're also still in touch with many of the mentors that were a part of the program. They've been super helpful along the way,”​ Lubin shared.        

Melissa Martinelli, Co-founder & CEO of last year’s runner-up Superfrau agreed that the competition was a positive experience for her company, helping it to get products onto the shelf. “The NY MilkLaunch program provided me with the resources to test our consumer market and invest in continued product development. The programming and grant money catapulted us from a concept to a viable product. What followed was a rebrand and a successful DTC and Whole Foods Market launch.” ​ 

The competition is intended for early-stage products ranging from ideas to existing new products. Products must contain at least 50% fluid dairy milk, have sales of less than $250,000, and the winners must commit that all milk will be sourced from New York producers for at least 12 months.

Entries are open to all including dairy farms, processors, producers, entrepreneurs, academics, and ideators. Deadline for entries is 15 June.

The DPO Advisory Board, the board that advises the State Department of Agriculture on the allocation of milk producer funds, is supporting this project as part of its 2022 goals to promote and increase the consumption of New York milk and dairy products. 

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