Startups dosa by DOSA, Pariva, Tres Lecheria and Wheyward Spirit claimed victory last night at the 2022 Real California Milk Excelerator: Open Innovation Final Pitch Event. Created by the California Milk Advisory Board (CMAB) and innovation advisory VentureFuel, the competition is designed to identify, curate and accelerate innovation in dairy-based products, from consumer food and beverages to textiles and beyond. The four cohort winners will each receive $50,000 in resources and funding to scale their products in California and will compete for an additional $100,000 in support based on continued performance.
In its fourth year, the 2022 Real California Milk Excelerator advances innovation in its truest state: open. As one of the biggest dairy competitions in the world, the program sought early-stage applicants with high-growth potential that create a 50% cow’s milk-based product or working prototype.
Eight finalists participated in the November 2nd live pitch event where they presented to judges from companies representing retail, consumer packaged goods, food distribution and media before a live and virtual audience of key stakeholders. The support the four winning startups will receive is to grow and expand their product in California. After 12 months, one of the participating companies will unlock an additional $100,000 grand prize by establishing their presence in California and achieving the most significant growth. The total value of competition awards is half a million dollars.
“I was already a winner having been selected to be a part of this competition alongside some awesome businesses. To be one of the winners is a game changer for Pariva. We are so looking forward to being a part of the California dairy community,” said Manjarrie Saha, Founder and CEO of Pariva, a spreadable, marinated yogurt snack. “This is such an innovative program, I’m grateful to the CMAB and VentureFuel teams. I hope other states will see what CMAB is doing in California use it as a model to elevate their state, a model that helps the entire industry, from beginning to end.”
“Winning the finalist prize is an incredible honor for myself and the team at dosa by DOSA. We’re on the cusp of scaling lassi, our natural Indian yogurt drinks, nationally, and need all the support we can get to build a robust multichannel marketing strategy,” said CEO and Co-Founder Emily Gilels. “As an emerging brand, while we’re deep in the trenches, we also want to have our heads up as visionaries planning and executing towards the future. The CMAB and VentureFuel teams have reminded us of the importance of building a strong, competitive business and have inspired us to reach our true potential. Participating in the 2022 Real California Milk Excelerator Cohort has given me incredible mentorship opportunities in everything from packaging to scaling my CPG business globally. I can honestly say that the ROI will be for many years to come and we’re only just getting started on reaping the benefits of our newfound connection with VentureFuel and the CMAB.”
“We are so grateful to be chosen for a Top 4 spot in this year’s Real California Milk Excelerator. The mentorship provided by VentureFuel have been the missing pieces of knowledge we needed to make a clear path towards scaling our business. Being chosen from a group of talented and hard-working businesses is a sincere honor,” said Kevin Moulder and Vince Berretta, Co-Owners of single serving bakery business Tres Lecheria. “We’d like to especially thank the California Milk Advisory Board for supporting Tres Lecheria and partnering with us to continue driving the demand for Real California Milk. We are excited to further establish ourselves as a brand that highlights dairy from California farmers. We are proud to work towards bringing back the excitement and nostalgia for Latino and Latine folks of enjoying a fresh slice of this beloved dessert, while gaining new fans of this classic cake with a modern twist. And now, we can ‘cake’ it to the limit.”
“California, with its access to sustainable dairy, alcohol logistics and an ethos of innovation has been the natural home of Wheyward Spirit since our inception and we are so excited to have been chosen as a RCM Excelerator winner,” said Emily Darchuk, CEO of Wheyward Spirit, an artisan spirit made from upcycled whey. “Our team looks forward to working in partnership with the CMAB over the next year to grow Wheyward Spirit and we are proud to be an example of category expanding sustainable innovation using Real California Milk.”
“While all eight of the finalists offered something unique to the market, the four winners stood out because of their taste, still of fundamental importance to consumers, and their use of dairy in new, innovative ways. Each brings global flavor profiles to the table while tapping into the inherent goodness of milk’s nutrition and functional benefits,” said John Talbot, CEO of the California Milk Advisory Board. “Innovation is the lifeblood of every industry, and these products show the best of dairy innovation. Our California dairy families have invested heavily to develop an innovation ecosystem to help with the next steps to grow these brands within the Real California Milk portfolio. And for the companies not selected, we’ll continue to offer support and connections to continue their transition to using milk from our California dairy farmers.”
“This year’s cohort shows the extraordinary, continued potential for dairy with innovative new products that are better for consumers, better for the planet and that offer unique new flavors and formats,” said Fred Schonenberg, CEO of VentureFuel. “We built this program to commercialize and scale these new businesses to drive demand and excitement for California dairy and are so excited to help these dynamic founders grow their innovative, consumer-centric companies.”
The Excelerator’s eight finalists were selected from a field of 48 qualified entries. Each finalist received access to a group stipend to help develop their product, business plan and marketing assets for the program, as well as a suite of resources including graphic design, lab or kitchen time and elite mentorship from global marketing, packaging, investment, retail and distribution experts from global brands and agencies. Winners will participate in a private retail buyer/investor week and will continue with customized marketing support from the California Milk Advisory Board’s business development team.
California, known for innovation, has a reputation for quality dairy products. As the number one milk producer in the U.S., California also leads the nation in sustainable dairy farming practices. More than 1,100 family dairy farms produce the 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 Real California Milk, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest.
About VentureFuel, Inc.
Founded in 2014, VentureFuel is an independent innovation advisory that helps the world’s best organizations ignite change through startup collaborations. Its innovation programs include Diagnostics, Corporate Accelerators and Commercial Pilots; and focus on solving clients’ biggest challenges by driving greater efficiencies; closing strategic capability gaps; and identifying emerging business models. VentureFuel provides organizations like Hershey’s, Comcast, Dick’s Sporting Goods, AARP Foundation and the State of California the tools to drive transformative change with less risk, more speed, and greater proximity to the consumer than traditional innovation models. Learn more at: Venture Fuel, LinkedIn, Twitter and Instagram. You can listen to The VentureFuel Visionaries podcast on Apple, Spotify Simplecast or wherever you get your podcasts.