TRACY, CALIF. –  The California Milk Advisory Board revealed the eight finalists for its 2022 Real California Milk Excelerator, a cohort that includes makers of snacks, drinks and more.

The program, now in its fourth year, is put together by the CMAB and innovation consultancy VentureFuel, and seeks to identify, curate and accelerate dairy-based products, from traditional food and beverage varieties, to textiles and beyond.

Real California Milk Excelerator will award as much as $500,000 for startups that both introduce novel benefits and drive the use of California milk and dairy in their formulations.

The eight finalists for this year’s competition are:

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

Board at Home (Chico, Calif.) – E-commerce company that offers 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 venture-backed synthetic biology and advanced material company that engineers biomass waste into compostable biomaterials, with a goal of putting an end to microplastic.

Neutral Foods (Gustine, Calif.) – Organic half and half products with 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.

Finalists gets access to a group stipend, as well as a network of resources to refine and scale their products and business. Plus, a mentorship program connects the early-stage companies with established founders, investors, corporate executives and experts, who will offer advice on subjects such as design, marketing, sales, manufacturing, distribution and processing.

A pitch event is scheduled for Nov. 2, when the finalists will present in front of a panel of industry expert judges and a live audience.

New to the CMAB and VentureFuel program this year, as many as four of the finalists will receive $50,000 to grow and expand their products in California. The eventual grand prize winner takes home an additional $100,000 for establishing its presence in California and exhibiting the most promising growth.

“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, chief executive officer of the CMAB. "It's exciting to take the next step with each of these candidates in preparation for the final pitch event."

Added Fred Schonenberg, founder and CEO of VentureFuel, Inc.: "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."