The information below has been supplied by dairy marketers and other industry organizations. It has not been edited, verified or endorsed by Hoard’s Dairyman.

Today, the California Milk Advisory Board (CMAB) announced eight finalists in the Real California Milk Excelerator, a partnership with innovation consultancy VentureFuel. The program is focused on identifying, curating, and accelerating dairy-based products – including traditional consumer food and beverage items, textiles and beyond. The competition will award up to $500,000 in prizes for startups that introduce novel benefits and drive use of California milk and dairy in formulations.

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 seeks early-stage applicants with high-growth potential that create a 50% cow's milk-based product or working prototype.

"We launched the Excelerator to foster a culture of innovation in support of California dairy and this year's contestants certainly delivered on our high expectations. Our 'Open Innovation' finalists' focus on themes important to the next generation of consumers: sustainable sourcing and use of upcycled materials; clean labels and benefits from convenience to function; and global flavors and ingredients," said John Talbot, CEO of the CMAB. "It's exciting to take the next step with each of these candidates in preparation for the final pitch event."

The eight members of the 2022 Real California Milk Excelerator cohort are:

Dosa by DOSA (Chico, Calif.) – Indian yogurt Lassi drinks.

Board at Home (Chico, Calif.) – E-commerce company, offering an experience of artisanal crafted cheeses and products shipped directly to consumers' homes.

Goon with the Spoon (Danville, Calif.) – Specialty super premium ice cream from hip-hop artist, entrepreneur, and chef Earl "E-40" Stevens.

Mi Terro (City of Industry, Calif.) – A first-of-its kind, venture-backed synthetic biology and advanced material company that engineers biomass waste into compostable biomaterials to end microplastic.

Neutral Foods (Gustine, Calif.) – Organic Half and Half product that has a carbon neutral footprint.

Pariva (Boston, Mass.) – Spreadable marinated yogurt bites.

Tres Lecheria (La Habra, Calif.) – Traditional and flavored Tres Leches cakes.

Wheyward Spirit (Sonoma, Calif.) – A clear, specialty spirit upcycled and distilled from whey.

"This VentureFuel innovation program for CMAB was designed to uncover the many uses of dairy," said Fred Schonenberg, Founder and CEO of VentureFuel, Inc., the corporate innovation advisory firm that curated and runs the Excelerator. "Our curation of new startup solutions, especially the finalists, demonstrates the many ways dairy can innovate to connect with the next generation of consumers, showcasing sustainable options, creative packaging, new markets and direct-to-consumer approaches."

Each member of the cohort will have access to a group stipend and a robust network of resources to refine and scale their product and business. They will also participate in the CMAB/VentureFuel Mentorship Program, consisting of elite counsel from successful founders, investors, leading corporate executives, and experts across design, marketing, sales, manufacturing, distribution, farming, and processing industries.

Finalists will participate in a pitch event Wednesday, November 2nd in San Carlos, Calif. where all eight companies will present before a live audience and panel of industry expert judges.

For the first time, up to four of the eight startups will receive $50,000 each to grow and expand their product in California. One of the participating companies will win an additional $100,000 grand prize by establishing their presence in California and exhibiting the most promising growth. The competition awards have a total value of half a million dollars.

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.