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California Milk Advisory Opens Dairy Innovation Competition

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The California Milk Advisory Board has announced the return of its annual dairy innovation competition for the fourth consecutive year. The 2022 Real California Milk Excelerator, created in partnership with innovation consultancy VentureFuel, brings a focus to accelerate any dairy-based product from traditional consumer food and beverage items to textiles and haircare.

The CMAB is a component of the California Department of Food and Agriculture. The board is funded by the state’s dairy farm families and the group’s Real California Milk program focuses on the state’s sustainable dairy products.

Given dairy’s versatility of benefits and functionality, from nutrition and flavor to texture and chemical composition, the open approach encourages innovation across product categories, all leveraging the versatility of the dairy ecosystem. The board said that the program taps into two of the state’s resources: a supply of sustainably sourced milk and its entrepreneurial spirit.

The competition will award up to $500,000 in prizes for new innovative dairy products that introduce benefits in any form and drive consumption of Real California dairy.

“Real dairy provides a package of functional and practical benefits that’s hard to replicate. We’re seeing an increase in unique products that leverage these benefits emerging in the market,” said John Talbot, CEO of the CMAB.

“By expanding the competition to all new dairy-based products, versus a specific category, we’re creating more opportunity to make a difference in consumers’ lives and in the utilization of milk from California’s family dairy farms. With the Excelerator platforms, we’ve established over the past four years, we will be able to support companies as they innovate and establish these products in the market.”

The program seeks early-stage, high-growth potential applicants with a 50 percent cow’s milk-based product or working prototype.

Up to eight applicants will be selected to join the excelerator program. Each will have access to a group stipend and a network of resources to refine and scale their product and business. They will also participate in the CMAB/VentureFuel Mentorship Program, receiving counsel from successful founders, investors, leading corporate executives and experts across design, marketing, sales, manufacturing, distribution, farming and processing industries.

VentureFuel Inc., a corporate innovation consultancy, is driving dairy innovation through its partnership with CMAB. 

“Each year, we tap into our global network of investors, founders, academics, and idea generators to maximize collective opportunities,” said Fred Schonenberg, founder of VentureFuel Inc. “Innovation continues to accelerate in product volume and the speed from idea to market. Now, we are matching the most promising companies with capital to be deployed intentionally and with near-term, tangible impact.”

This year, up to four of the eight participants will receive $50,000 each to grow and expand their product in California. One of the participating companies will be awarded an additional $100,000 grand prize to establish their presence in the state and exhibiting the most promising growth within the 12 months after the finals. The total value of all competition awards tallies in at $500,000.

More details including competition rules, timeline and application are available at realcamilkexcelerator.com. The deadline to apply is July 17.

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