Twelve Innovative Dairy Brands Head Into Virtual Pitch Semi Finals in 3rd Real California Milk Excelerator Competition

TRACY, Calif. – The California Milk Advisory Board (CMAB) announced today the schedule for the Real California Milk Excelerator virtual semi-finals, which will be held October 26th and 27th from 5-7 p.m. PST. The 3rd edition of the CMAB’s dairy product innovation competition partnership with innovation consultancy VentureFuel will bring 12 entrepreneurs together to pitch their functional dairy products for a chance at a slot in the final competition.

Semi-finalists will compete in four virtual events on October 26 and 27 leading to the November 18th virtual finals where the first place Excelerator winner will receive up to $150,000 worth of additional marketing support from CMAB to accelerate their product growth in the marketplace. Second place will receive $100,000 of marketing supports from CMAB. The total value of the competition prizing is $650,000.

The 2021 Real California Milk Excelerator taps into the thriving functional foods market – a market that has grown significantly over the past year and is projected to reach over $275 billion globally by 20251 and focused on early-stage, high-growth companies with a cow’s milk-based product that plays a critical role in personal performance and/or recovery.

“This is where it all comes together. Our finalists have honed their pitches and will be putting it all on the line to showcase how their products best integrate the natural ingredients, flavor and nutritional profile of milk and other dairy products to deliver a functional benefit to consumers,” said John Talbot, CEO of the CMAB. “We are excited to see any of these 12 innovative products make it to the final four.”

VentureFuel, Inc., the leading corporate innovation consultancy, has partnered with CMAB to run the program and identified and recruited applicants from their global network of investors, founders, and academics. Semi-finalists received a $10,000 stipend and support to refine and scale their individual business as well as benefit group resources including the development of sales and marketing tools and have participated in a virtual master’s class of mentor and support sessions to refine products, create marketing tools, and hone their presentations for the semi-finals.

The 2021 RCM Excelerator mentor team includes:

  • Lauren Abda, Co-Founder/Partner, Branch Venture Group
  • Roger Arechiga, Director of Dairy, Deli and Frozen Foods, Bristol Farms
  • Ila Byrne, Former Head of Ideation and Innovation, Diageo
  • Patti Cerami, Account Director, Ignite2x
  • Zachary DeAngelo, Founder/CEO, Rodeo
  • Jim Dimataris, VP, Processor Partnerships, California Milk Advisory Board
  • Britt Dougherty, Co-Founder, Heywell
  • Jessie Gilligan, Partner/Chief Client Officer, Garrand Moehlenkamp
  • Brandon Hernandez, Partner, Whole Brain Consulting
  • Brandon Hill, Founder/CEO, Vori
  • Dana Kim, Founder/CEO, Highlight
  • Veronique LaGrange, Director, California Dairy Innovation Center
  • Nevin Lemos, Founder, Lemos Jerseys
  • Ken Matsubara, Partner/Chief Creative Officer, Garrand Moehlenkamp
  • Richard Medina, Founder/CEO, LA Distributing Company
  • Maura Mitchell, Founder, Brandology
  • Jennifer Reinhard, VP, Media Group Manager, Ketchum
  • Brigette Wolf, Head of SnackFutures, Mondelēz International

Judges for the October 26 and 27 RCM Excelerator semi-finals include:

  • Lauren Abda, Co-Founder/Partner, Branch Venture Group
  • Alexander Bernstein, Managing Partner, Amberstone
  • Bob Carroll, VP, Business Development, California Milk Advisory Board
  • Elizabeth Crawford, Deputy Editor,
  • Stephen Crozier, R&D Partnerships, Hershey’s
  • Jen Giambroni, VP, Communications, California Milk Advisory Board
  • Molly Hayes, Global Senior Director of Growth & Innovation, Mars
  • Sarah Holley, Manager, Product Innovation, Nestle
  • Jarett Margolis, Senior Manager, Business Development, California Milk Advisory Board
  • Noel Rosa, Owner, Rosa Brothers Milk Company
  • Marnie Schwartz, Nutrition Editor, Health
  • Jason Stamm, Principal, PepsiCo Ventures Group
  • Erica Wagner, Founder, SnackRiot
  • Dr. Jen Welter, Former NFL Coach, Sports Psychologist, Motivational Speaker
  • Josh Zodikoff, Senior Category Manager, Deli, The Save Mart Companies

The four finalists from those events will participate in a private pitch event with buyers and investors and a live, virtual final pitch on November 18th before a team of judges representing media, retailers, CPG food and beverage brands, investors, and eCommerce platforms. The finals event will be broadcast live for public viewing and a link will be made available on the RCM Excelerator site.

Finals judges include:

  • Russell Barnett, Managing Director/CMO, My/Mochi Ice Cream
  • Donna Berry, Editor, Daily Dose of Dairy
  • Heather Boyd, Managing Director, RTD, Beam Suntory
  • Chad Coester, SVP Own Brands, Albertsons Companies
  • Chris McCann, CEO,
  • Julia Bello, Principal, Local Producer Loan Program, Whole Foods
  • John Talbot, CEO, California Milk Advisory Board
  • Adriano Torres, Senior Director Global Marketing, Dairy & Plant-Based Beverages

“How do you determine if a startup has breakthrough growth potential? You look to see if retailers will shelve it, if consumers will buy it, if reporters will write on it and investors will invest in it. Each of our judges have unique vantage points on what’s next, that when combined, gives us a holistic view on what will succeed tomorrow,” said Fred Schonenberg, Founder of VentureFuel.

The 12 semi-finalist applicants competing October 26th and 27th are:

  • Alexandre Family Farms – Fourth generation California dairy farmers with functional brand extensions for liquid milk, powder and yogurt focused on properties for anti-anxiety and gut health.
  • Boba Guys – Trendy tea brand Boba Guys, with 15 brick and mortar locations in California, is developing a bottled milk tea latte with key nutrients, vitamins, and caffeine to optimize performance and recovery.
  • Churn – The pioneer of chef-crafted, health-conscious, flavor-driven grass-fed butter, Churn is bringing innovation and education to the dairy industry with flavored butters meant to empower elevated cooking at home and inspire the happiness that comes along with it.
  • Kefir Lab – Kefir Lab takes kefir and makes it more effective with organic milk cultured with 24 live and active potent protein strains for a bottled kefir that boosts immunity, metabolism, and brain health.
  • Nightfood – Uniquely formulated by sleep experts and nutritionists, Nightfood ice cream delivers great taste for those nighttime cravings and a sleep-friend nutritional profile to help promote quality sleep.
  • Positive Chemistry – A dissolving pouch that melts in the bath, releasing a bubbly, fizzing mixture of real milk and recovery salts to promote recovery for skin, muscles, and the soul. A hidden exfoliating sponge with a message of positivity is designed to float to the top of the bath.
  • Rizo Lopez Foods – Award-winning and family-owned, Rizo Lopez utilizes Old World recipes and traditional techniques for their Ready2Go Whey products derived from a specially processed whey protein concentrate for a creamy, delicious, and gut-healthy drink.
  • ReThink Ice Cream – Low sugar, stomach and diabetic-friendly ice cream that is infused with fiber and sourced from lactose-free A2 dairy, ReThink Ice Cream is a decadent source of natural nutrition.
  • Sweetkiwi – Founded by a McKinsey 2021 Black Executive Leader and certified cultured dairy professional, Sweetkiwi makes whipped Greek yogurt that is low in calories and high in nutrition. Sweetkiwi pints are under 320 calories and formulated with fiber, protein, and probiotics for better gut health with fewer calories.
  • The Indian Milk & Honey Co. – Sugar-free probiotic Lassi with Ayurvedic immunity supporting herbs and spices, that also support mental clarity, in one environmentally-friendly carton.
  • Top O’ the Morn Farms – A California-owned dairy farm with an expansive line of fresh products, Top O’ the Morn’s Cow-Pow chocolate milk is a clean-label pre- or post-workout beverage fortified with whey protein isolate and natural caffeine.
  • Wonder Monday – A 2020 RCM Snackcelerator finalist, Wonder Monday returns with a new protein keto cheesecake snack bar with 10g of clean protein to indulgently refuel.

In addition to the semi-finalists, two companies were selected to participate in a Real California Milk Incubator Boot Camp program, which was built to assist ideas and promising prototypes that are too early for the Excelerator. These companies received mentoring and support from VentureFuel, CMAB and the California Dairy Innovation Center (CDIC).

California, known for innovation, has a reputation for quality dairy products. As the number one producer of milk in the nation, California also leads the nation in sustainable dairy farming practices. More than 1,100 family dairy farms produce the California milk found in fluid milk, cheese, butter, yogurt, ice cream and other dairy products identified by the Real California Milk seal.

About Real California Milk/California Milk Advisory Board

The California Milk Advisory Board (CMAB), an instrumentality of the California Department of Food and Agriculture, is funded by the state’s dairy farm families who lead the nation in sustainable dairy farming practices. With a vision to nourish the world with the wholesome goodness of Real California Milk, the CMAB’s programs focus on increasing demand for California’s sustainable dairy products in the state, across the U.S. and around the world through advertising, public relations, research, and retail and foodservice promotional programs. For more information and to connect with the CMAB, visit RealCaliforniaMilk.comFacebookYouTubeTwitterInstagram and Pinterest.

About VentureFuel, Inc.
Founded in 2014, VentureFuel is an independent innovation consultancy that builds innovation programs for industry leaders by unlocking the power of external innovation through startup collaboration. Its programs focus on changing behaviors and beliefs in order to unlock new sources of growth. We provide senior leaders with the tools to drive transformative change within their organizations by opening up their teams to new ways of working, products, services and routes to market. Learn more at: www.venturefuel.netLinked-InTwitter and Instagram. You can hear The VentureFuel Podcast on AppleSpotify or Simplecast.