12 semi-finalists announced for Real California Milk Excelerator


The finalists will compete for over $650,000 in prize funds to support the development of dairy products that promote personal performance (focus, energy, etc.) and recovery benefits (rejuvenation, relaxation, etc.).


Photo © iStockphoto.com/ ValentynVolkov

Twelve semi-finalists in the third edition of the Real California Milk Excelerator were announced by The California Milk Advisory Board (CMAB; Tracy, CA) and innovation consultancy VentureFuel. The finalists will compete for over $650,000 in prize funds to support the development of dairy products that promote personal performance (focus, energy, etc.) and recovery benefits (rejuvenation, relaxation, etc.).  

“This competition is designed to inspire new ideas integrating the natural benefits of real milk and dairy products as functional ingredients, delivering a flavor and nutritional profile that’s hard to beat. This year’s entries demonstrate the versatility of these ingredients and how they can be used in endless formulations,” said John Talbot, CEO of the CMAB, in a press release. “Just as our definition of health has evolved, our desire for functional benefits from our food and beverage choices has evolved with it. Our 12 finalists certainly capture this evolution, with every manner of benefit, from maximum athletic performance to gut-health and even sleep support—all in relevant formats that will appeal to today’s consumers.”

Fred Schonenberg, founder of VentureFuel Inc., who is partnering with CMAB for a third consecutive year to direct the program, said in a press release: “Each year we see such disruptive and unique products, built specifically around consumers’ evolving needs and wants. This year’s applicants were particularly inspiring as each sought to create better-for-you products that can improve and sustain the many ways we define health. We saw applications from Australia to Austin, from local dairy farmers to PhDs to celebrity chefs, all tapping into the natural nutritional value of real dairy. Now we move to accelerating these businesses to drive commercial growth through mentorship, strategic resources and introductions to buyers and investors.”

The 12 semi-finalists are: 

  • Alexandre Family Farms
  • Boba Guys
  • GoodSport Nutrition 
  • Kefir Lab
  • Nightfood 
  • Positive Chemistry
  • Rizo Lopez Foods 
  • ReThink Ice Cream 
  • Sweetkiwi 
  • The Indian Milk & Honey Co.
  • Top O’ the Morn Farms
  • Wunder Snacks 

Each semi-finalist’s product’s first ingredient is cow’s milk dairy, making up at least 50% of the formula. Should they win the competition, the startups have committed to producing the product in California, with milk from California dairy farms. Each semi-finalist accepted into the cohort will receive $10,000 to develop their product further while receiving a suite of resources including lab or kitchen time, graphic design, consumer insights, and elite mentorship from global marketing, packaging, and distribution experts. The first-place winner will receive up to $150,000 worth of additional support and the second-place winner, $100,000 worth of additional support to accelerate the commercialization of their product to market.

Semi-finalists will participate in a series of mentoring and support events leading up to the virtual pitch event semi-finals in November, where four companies will be selected for a final virtual event to select the Excelerator winner. 

In addition to the semi-finalists, two companies have been selected to participate in the new Real California Milk Incubator Boot Camp program, which was built to assist ideas and promising prototypes that are too early for the Excelerator. These two companies — Darvida and Perfect by Nature — will receive mentoring and support from VentureFuel, CMAB, and the California Dairy Innovation Center (CDIC).

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