The competition, in partnership with innovation consultancy VentureFuel, taps into the thriving functional foods market that has seen significant growth over the last year and is projected to reach over US$275 billion globally by 2025. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, consumers have prioritized personal health and wellness. The competition identified early-stage, high-growth companies that have developed cow’s milk-based products that promote focus, energy, exercise, strength, rejuvenation, relaxation, gut health and sleep.
Each semi-finalist’s product is made with cow’s milk dairy as the first ingredient and making up at least 50% of the formula. The startups have committed to producing the product in California, with milk from California dairy farms, should they win the competition. Each semi-finalist accepted into the cohort will receive $10,000 worth of support to develop their product further while receiving a suite of resources including lab or kitchen time, graphic design, consumer insights, and elite mentorship from global marketing, packaging and distribution experts. The first-place winner will receive up to $150,000 worth of additional support and the second-place winner, $100,000 worth of additional support to accelerate the commercialization of their product to market.
This year’s 12 semi-finalists 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.
- GoodSport Nutrition—An all-natural sports drink made from the real milk that delivers superior hydration with three times the electrolytes and less sugar than traditional sports drinks.
- Kefir Lab—The company 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—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 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 uses Old World recipes and traditional techniques for its Ready2Go Whey products derived from a specially processed whey protein concentrate for a creamy gut-healthy drink.
- ReThink Ice Cream—A low sugar, stomach and diabetic-friendly ice cream infused with fiber and sourced from lactose-free A2 dairy.
- 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.
- Wunder Snacks—A 2020 finalist, Wunder returns with a new protein keto cheesecake snack bar with 10 g of clean protein to indulgently refuel.
Semi-finalists will participate in a series of mentoring and support events leading up to the virtual pitch event semi-finals in November where four companies will be selected for a final virtual event to select the 2021 winner.
Two companies also have been selected to participate in the new Real California Milk Incubator Boot Camp program that assists ideas and promising prototypes too early for the EXCELerator competition. The companies, which will receive mentoring and support from VentureFuel, CMAB and the California Dairy Innovation Center (CDIC), include:
- Darvida—A bottled, drinkable milk beverage made with 100% fresh colostrum, with high concentrations of vitamins and minerals to improve gut health.
- Perfect by Nature—The concept uses high-pressure processing (HPP), which leaves the original proteins and enzymes in farm-fresh milk intact, to bring the nutritious and delicious qualities of real fresh milk to the masses.