TRACY, CALIF. – Four brands emerged as this year’s grant winners in the Real California Milk Excelerator program: dosa by DOSA, Pariva, Tres Lecheria and Wheyward Spirit.
The California Milk Advisory Board (CMAB) announced the four cohort winners, which solidified their spots Nov. 2 during a final pitch event, will gain $50,000 each in resources and funding to scale their products in California.
The competition, which was created by CMAB and innovation advisory VentureFuel, seeks early-stage applicants with high-growth potential. The four winners, which emerged from a group of eight finalists, now will continue to compete for an additional $100,000 grand prize, which will be awarded based on how their brands perform as they establish their presence in California over the course of the coming year.
Emily Gilels, chief executive officer and co-founder of dosa by DOSA, said the company is close to nationally scaling lassi, its natural Indian yogurt drink.
"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,” Gilels said. “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."
Pariva founder and CEO Manjarrie Saha said winning the grant money was a “game changer” for her company, which produces a marinated yogurt snack.
“We are so looking forward to being a part of the California dairy community," Saha said. "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."
Kevin Moulder and Vince Berretta, co-owners of single serving bakery business Tres Lecheria, shared that mentorship opportunities through VentureFuel proved to provide missing pieces they needed while scaling the business.
“We are excited to further establish ourselves as a brand that highlights dairy from California farmers,” Moulder and Berretta said. “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.”
Wheyward Spirit produces artisan spirits from upcycled whey. Its CEO, Emily Darchuk, said California’s access to sustainable dairy and alcohol logistics made the state a “natural home” for the company.
"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,” Darchuk said.
CMAB CEO John Talbot said the four grant winners selected this week “stood out because of their taste, still of fundamental importance to consumers, and their use of dairy in new, innovative ways,” adding that each boasts a global flavor profile.
"Innovation is the lifeblood of every industry and these products show the best of dairy innovation,” Talbot said. “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."