TRACY, CALIF. — The California Milk Advisory Board (CMAB) is bringing back its Real California Milk Excelerator competition in partnership with VentureFuel.

Now in its sixth year, the competition will focus on health and wellness startups. The program seeks companies that are innovating products using 50% milk or dairy.

Eight participants will be selected for the cohort and will receive a group stipend and networking opportunities.

The 2023 cohorts were:

• Arbo's Queso Dip (Memphis, Tenn.) – The company makes gluten-free, keto-friendly queso-style cheese dips.

• The Empanada Shop (Redondo Beach, Calif.) – Empanadas featuring California flavors make use of melted cheese.

• New Alchemy Distilling (El Doradao Hills, Calif.) – The distillery produces Spilt clarified milk punch cocktails, and its process utilizes upcycled whey from cheesemaking.

• Amazing Ice Creams (Stockton, Calif.) – Its novelty cookie wafer ice cream bars are covered in chocolate to stay crunchy.

• Noorysha Yo-Gut (Los Angeles, Calif.) – The company makes a specialty probiotic dairy product, which focuses on supporting gut health.

• Petit Pot (Emeryville, Calif.) – Specializing in French-style dairy desserts, the company also stresses sustainability with paper-based cups.

• Shakewell (Garden Grove, Calif.) – Emphasizing high protein with its drinks, the company’s products include only five ingredients, including upcycled whey.

• WonderCow Nutrition (Valencia, Calif.) – The company formulated a supplement to promote immunity, muscle recovery and gut health using bovine colostrum.

The program will offer a three-month CMAB/VentureFuel mentorship program in addition to a value of up to $500,000 in prize and program value.

Four of eight participants will receive $30,000 each to help grow and expand products in California and have access to an investor buyer virtual roadshow. Last year’s winners were Amazing Ice Cream, Arbo’s Cheese Dip, Petit Pot and WonderCow. 

“Innovation is the lifeblood for all industries,” said John Talbot, chief executive officer of the CMAB. “Our investment in the Excelerator and the California Dairy Innovation Center continues to introduce new products and innovators/founders into the pipeline and relationship with Real California Milk. With an overall market value of more than $5 trillion, the health and wellness focus makes sense and allows us to hone in on startups that are leveraging the natural goodness of milk and its myriad benefits.”

At the end of the program, cohorts will present their innovations at a pitch event in November. Companies also will have the opportunity to attend a new Future of Dairy Expo event during the final pitch.

One company will receive a $100,000 prize and establish growth in California within 12 months of the final competition.

“At VentureFuel, we are dedicated to driving innovation and fostering collaboration between forward-thinking organizations and disruptive startups,” said Fred Schonenberg, founder and chief executive officer of VentureFuel. “This year’s Real California Milk Excelerator represents a unique opportunity for innovators to come together with the CMAB to unlock the power of milk’s natural health benefits in a way that redefines the future of health and wellness.”

The deadline to apply is July 2.