Dairy snack startups compete for $200,000 in Real California Milk Snackcelerator
Ice cream infused with vegetables, to-go premium cheese snacks, decadent chocolate mousse and flavored paneer make up the finalists announced in the Real California Milk Snackcelerator product innovation competition created by the California Milk Advisory Board (CMAB) and VentureFuel. This is the second event of its kind by the California dairy industry designed to inspire ideas integrating the values of fluid milk and dairy ingredients into snacks to meet growing consumer demand and providing resources to help bring them to market.
The finalists are:
- Peekaboo Ice Cream: The first and only organic ice cream with the added nutritional benefits of vegetables.
- Yummy Industries: Cheese Bits: A line of all-natural, fresh and wood-smoked scamorza and chechil cheeses, conveniently shaped and packaged for on-the-go snacking.
- Petit Pot: An indulgent single-serve chocolate mousse dessert, perfect for family snacking, made with the best organic, local ingredients from the first brand to bring traditional French desserts to American grocery stores.
- Sāch Foods Flavored Paneer: The world's first flavored and artisanal paneer in a snackable form. Rooted in Indian cuisine paneer is a time-tested, nutrient-rich food and a high-protein favorite for millions around the world.
These four innovators were selected from a field of 16 sweet and savory semi-finalist competitors during a two-day virtual pitch event judged by a group of snack experts from Conagra, SnackRiot, Hershey's, Bristol Farms, General Mills, Unilever, Mondelez, Rosa Brothers, RangeMe, Acreage Holdings, Better Food Ventures and Trail Mix Ventures. A virtual fan vote, through Perksy, which provides market research for the mobile generation, also was factored into the final decision.
Peekaboo, Yummy Industries, Petit Pot and Sāch Foods will move on to the final, live event November 19th hosted by OS Studios at snackcelerator.splashthat.com where they will compete for $200,000 in support to bring their visions to market with a runner up receiving $100,000 towards the same goal. Each founder will be presenting to a field of judges from the CPG, retail, venture capital and food science world representing such companies as Clorox, Mondelez, Whole Foods, CircleUp and more.
John Talbot, CEO, CMAB: "This field of finalists represent the innovation we're seeing in better-for-you snacking today - highly flavorful, portable options with added benefits. And consumers agree. Through the Perksy platform, 2000 consumers were introduced to these products during the semi-finals and voted on which they would be most interested in buying. Those scores were factored into the final judging and will be included on the 19th. Any of these four products will make a perfect partner for our real milk and dairy ingredients, which offer incredible functionality plus flavor and a host of naturally occurring nutrients. And, as the leading dairy state, our family dairy farms can provide a consistent, sustainable source of milk to fuel production of whichever product ultimately wins."
The sixteen semi-finalists received $10,000 worth of support each, to develop an edible prototype, while receiving a suite of resources including graphic design, lab or kitchen time and elite mentorship from global marketing, packaging, and distribution experts from companies including Diageo, Nestle, Mondelez, My/Mo Mochi Ice Cream, Bristol Farms, Rosa Brothers, Food Network/Hearst Magazines, Pod Foods, Latitude Ventures, The Marketing Greenhouse, The Creative Pack, Whole Brain Consulting and Power Brands. The total value of competition prizing is over $800,000.
Fred Schonenberg, CEO and Founder, VentureFuel: "It's impossible not to be inspired by the creative new thinking that the semi-finalists brought to dairy snacking. The overall excitement created by the competition with consumers, retailers, investors and dairy farmers has a tremendous halo effect for the industry, not to mention the potential scalability of these fantastic four finalists and what they can do for dairy demand."
Jessica Weiss Levison, Founder and CEO, Peekaboo: "Being selected as a finalist by industry experts is incredibly validating. As consumers seek both health and indulgence, Peekaboo fills a white space and I am humbled that the judges recognized Peekaboo's potential to disrupt the ice cream category. And…they loved the flavors. As one of the judges noted, 'Taste is King!' and we agree!"
Stefan Choy, Co-founder, Yummy Industries: "We are confident in our product but being recognized by leading experts in the field further confirms that we are on the right track," he said. "While we look forward to the final competition, we already consider ourselves and the other finalists to be winners because we have established great relationships in the industry and received a lot of support from mentors, sponsors and organizers, which is invaluable for a startup."
Maxime Pouvrea, Founder, Petit Pot: "Petit Pot is so grateful for the RCM Snackcelerator. The semi-finalist process really helped improve our offering and finalize the formula to take this item closer to commercialization. We couldn't be more excited to move to the finals."
Tarush Agarwal, Co-founder, Sāch Foods: "This is an incredible initiative by CMAB, it gives entrepreneurs an opportunity to take their innovative products/companies to another level. As a California-based artisanal Paneer cheese company, we're grateful for the entrepreneurial spirit that prevails with our community. We look forward to the next stage of the competition and showing our creativity to the world."
Beyond showcasing product innovation, VentureFuel and CMAB tapped into future technologies and emerging startups like OS Studios, Perksy and more to transform what was an in-person sampling experience into a state-of-the-art virtual event. As part of the mentorship program VentureFuel introduced several tech startups to the process.
Fred Schonenberg, Founder, VentureFuel: "We help some of the largest companies in the world partner with startups and new technologies to drive growth and competitive advantage. While our primary focus with the Snackcelerator was to find the best dairy snack product innovations, once that was accomplished, it made tremendous sense to leverage these other tech startups we are excited about to help everyone communicate better and deliver the best virtual experience possible."
California, known for innovation, has a reputation for quality dairy products. As the number one producer of fluid milk in the nation, California also leads the nation in sustainable dairy farming practices. More than 1,200 family dairy farms produce the California milk found in fluid milk, cheese, butter, yogurt, ice cream and other dairy products identified by the Real California Milk seal.