The heat is on as four finalists have been announced for the Real California Milk (RCM) Excelerator product innovation competition. The competition, which was created by the California Milk Advisory Board (CMAB) and VentureFuel, has finalists showcasing sweet treats that feature the nutritional and flavor profiles of milk and dairy ingredients in order to take home $250,000 and drive forward sector innovation.
“We had tremendous diversity in our field of semi-finalists this year but ultimately, the four products moving to the finals reflect America’s sweet tooth and our continuing desire for treats that don’t give up taste in favor of function. And the votes through Persky, which polled 2,000 consumers on which of these products they would be most interested in buying, support the judge’s decisions,” said John Talbot, Chief Executive Officer of the CMAB. “These creative products are tackling some of consumers bigger concerns around sugar content and lactose sensitivity without sacrificing the taste and texture that make a dessert something special.”
The four finalists were selected from a group of 12 semi-finalist competitors during a virtual pitch event, according to a press release. The showcase was judged by a group of experts from Hershey’s, Nestle, Mars, PepsiCo Ventures Group, and more impressive names. More than 2,000 fans were also able to vote virtually through Perksy.
Overall the four finalists that were selected are:
“Great innovators often take something we love and make it better by removing an issue or adding a benefit,” said Fred Schonenberg, Founder of VentureFuel “Each of these entrepreneurs have created delicious products we all love to eat—but now help us optimize our health by delivering on the functional benefits of dairy.”
These finalists will take part in the final live event that is being hosted tomorrow, November 18, at 5 p.m. PST. They will compete for $150,000 in marketing support to bring their visions to the market, with a runner up receiving $100,000 toward the same goal.
The 12 semi-finalists received $10,000 worth of support each to develop an edible prototype. They also were granted a suite of resources including graphic design; lab or kitchen time; and elite mentorship from global marketing, packaging, and distribution experts.
During the final round of the competition, each Founder will be presenting to an all-star judging panel of experts from across CPG, retail, venture capital, and food science. Judges for the event include Russell Barnett, Managing Director/Chief Marketing Officer of My/Mochi Ice Cream; Donna Berry, Editor of the Daily Dose of Dairy; Heather Boyd, Managing Director, RTD of Beam Suntory; Chad Coester, Senior Vice President Own Brands at Albertsons Companies; Chris McCann, CEO of 1-800-Flowers.com; Julia Bello, Principal, Local Producer Loan Program at Whole Foods; John Talbot, CEO of the California Milk Advisory Board; and Adriano Torres, Senior Director Global Marketing, Dairy & Plant-Based Beverages at Coca-Cola.
“It’s a tremendous honor to be a finalist in this years’ RCM Excelerator program. With support and access to resources from CMAB, we’re looking forward to securing distribution for sleep-friendly Nightfood ice cream sandwiches in hotel lobby shops across the country,” said Nightfood Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Sean Folkson.
Ehime Eigbe, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Sweetkiwi also expressed her excitement for the competition.
“We are so excited to make it to the finals, it was such a shock and means the world to us,” she commented. “For a small brand that started in my kitchen, I cannot believe how far we have come. Thank you [to] the CMAB and VentureFuel for this amazing opportunity.”
ReThink Ice Cream Founder and Chief Executive Officer George T. Haymaker III also chimed in to discuss the opportunity.
“We’re grateful to be moving onto the next stage of the CMAB/VentureFuel Dairy Innovation competition,” he shared. “In terms of what it means for our brand, more than anything it’s validation that others (consumers and CPG experts) feel we are on the right track and have a product of value to offer consumers; that it fills a need not currently being filled by other brands. We are trying to make ice cream as healthy as possible, without taste and texture being negatively affected. We want all people, regardless of health circumstances or restrictions, to have access to a great-tasting, creamy, and decadent ice cream experience.”
Candace Wu, Co-Founder of Wonder Monday agreed with his statement.
“We’re thrilled to be moving on to the finals, and by the reception to our 1g net carb, no sugar added cheesecake. We loved hearing the reactions of the judges when they tried their first bite. We’re glad that everyone loves cheesecake as much as we do! Thanks to CMAB and VentureFuel for giving us this fantastic opportunity.”
Congratulations to the finalists selected for this exciting opportunity!
How will this competition drive forward innovation across the dairy industry? Keep reading Deli Market News for answers.