Friday, November 8, 2019

Milk Accelerator Winners Announced

Last night, Nov. 7, 2019, the nine finalists competing in the California Milk Advisory Board’s (CMAB) Real California Milk Accelerator dairy startup competition presented their products and pitched them to nine judges, including me, in Silicon Valley, California. Accolades go out to all the finalists who spent a great deal of time and energy to create a beverage designed to bring milk back into consumers’ lives in formats they never imagined.

Key attributes of the winning products were high protein, low sugar and lactose free. A number of entries focused on organic and sustainability platforms.

“Tonight is all about milk,” said John Talbot, CEO of the CMAB. “The number and quality of entries received is a testament to the vibrancy of the beverage category and proves the desire of product developers to tap into the unique natural goodness of milk to meet consumer cravings for beverages that are not only healthy but taste great.”

He explained to the judges and a room packed with California farmers, processors and others involved in the dairy and food industries that fluid milk’s decline during the past four decades can be attributed to a number of reasons. For starters, there’s been and continues to be a proliferation of many varied beverages. Then there’s the mobility issue. We all are eating and drinking on the run and a gallon of the white stuff is simply not portable.

“No one sits down for breakfast anymore,” he said. Bowls of cereal require milk. If bowls are not being filled, milk is not being poured.

Then there’s the fact that birthrate is down in the States. “Big families with lots of kids sitting around the dinner table were the bread and butter of the milk industry,” he said.

It’s hard to battle all these changes, he explained, and therefore the industry must change. That’s how the accelerator came to fruition.

This new competition was designed to inspire ideas integrating the values of fluid milk into contemporary products and provide resources to help bring them to market.

Launched earlier this year, the competition aims to inspire innovation and investment in fluid milk products, packaging and capacity within California by connecting manufacturers, producers, investors, ideas and entrepreneurs for high quality, sustainable dairy beverages.

The nine finalists received up to $25,000 of support each to develop proto-cepts while receiving elite mentorship from marketing, packaging and distribution experts. This included a business development trip to tour California dairy farms and production facilities and meet with industry leaders to help facilitate their new ventures. Each entrepreneur had to commit to producing the beverage using California milk.

The grand prize winner will receive up to $250,000 worth of additional support to deliver their new product to market. And that winner is Bears Nutrition, a daily nutritional milk beverage for kids on the go.

Each bottle of Bears contains 170 calories, 10 grams of protein, nine essential vitamins and minerals, and a dose of omega-3 fatty acids, a formulation that delivers the most critical building blocks for growth and development. Sugar content (15 grams) is 30% lower than fruit juice and still sweet enough for kids to come back for more, according to the company, which was founded by a pediatric nutritionist, an Olympic Gold medalist and a former energy venture capitalist.

The shelf-stable product contains about 90% milk and uses lactase to make it lactose free. This also assists with keeping added sugars down. To boost the protein content, whey and casein are added.

Accepting the grand prize in this photo is David Sheu (left), CEO and one of the founders, and board member Kevin Yeung (right), who is involved in food-related businesses in Asia. As part of the pitch, Yeung detailed the opportunity with exporting this product to Asian markets where kids’ nutritional products are a booming business.
The runner-up product was Perq Plus from Allpur Nutrition Inc. Those of you who have been in the dairy industry long enough will remember this product concept from about 20 years ago. It's a slightly carbonated, lactose-free fruity milk beverage that was before its time. Developed by husband and wife team, George and Mary Ann Clark, a pharmaceutical chemist and registered nurse/child nutritionist, respectively, the product formulation has a number of patents. It’s been approved as an ala carte item in the school lunch program and a number of retailers and distributors are interested in carrying the refrigerated product that has a 72-day shelflife.

Good Citizens Collagen Lattes was the third place finalist. The company was founded by Kiowa Saunders and Ryan Fitzpatrick, entrepreneurs with a number of products in the market who are focused on social impact. Saunders explained how he specializes in identifying gaps in the market and then sets out to responsibly develop products to fill them.

The ready-to-drink shelf-stable lattes contain 55% milk and are enhanced with collagen that is known to support joint strength, and healthy skin, hair and nails. He showed how the product can compete on price and size with enhanced coffee beverages currently in the market. In addition to delivering the nutrition of milk and extra protein from collagen, the beverage provides energy from natural caffeine. Each can contains the equivalent of 1.5 cups of brewed coffee.

The Peoples’ Choice Award went to Stuyt Dairy Creamery, fifth-generation family dairy farmers now in California by way of the Netherlands. They created Dessertables, a custard-like product packaged in a squeezable pouch. It’s based on a traditional Dutch recipe and is created in small batches at the company’s farmstead operation. 

The other five finalists were:

  • Kefircha is based on a traditional fermented dairy recipe from Russia. It contains 90 grams of protein per serving and is said to cleanse, nourish and protect. 

  • Naicha Milk Tea is a ready-to-drink boba milk tea. The organic beverage comes in three varieties: orange pekoe black tea, earl grey lavender and jasmine green tea
  • Nutraberry is a fruity milk beverage made with upcycled berry seeds, which contribute flavor, color, fiber and extra protein. There are sweetened and unsweetened options in blueberry, blackberry and raspberry varieties. 

  • Thai Star Thai Iced Tea is a ready-to-drink version of the popular milk beverage that sells out at the company’s restaurant, as brewing authentic Thai iced tea is a time-consuming process. This drink is made with fair trade black tea from Thailand, and includes a range of spices, such as star anise, turmeric, cinnamon and cardamom. 

  • WheyUp is a probiotic, low-viscosity kefir enhanced with whey protein. The no-added-sugar beverage comes in original, with turmeric and earl grey spice flavors in development. 

“This competition has created an opportunity for cutting-edge technologies and dynamic entrepreneurs to drive innovation for a product that has been a household staple for generations,” said Fred Schoenberg, CEO and founder of VentureFuel, a leading innovation consultancy that worked with CMAB to find, identify and mentor the best emerging startups from their global network of investors, founders and academics to drive first-to-market innovation for the dairy space. 

“CMAB’s vision, combined with the ingenuity of the nine selected pioneering startups, sets the stage to educate the public regarding milk’s true nutritional benefits, and re-introduce it to the marketplace in inspired and engaging ways that connect with the public’s current and evolving tastes,” he said. “These startups are thinking about their product every day. Their enthusiasm fuels the hyper-acceleration of research and development to get the product to market.”

For more information, link HERE.

The Organic Trade Association is hosting a briefing on the important fall meeting of the National Organic Standards Board in a live webinar on November 13 at 2 p.m. Eastern. The webinar will feature regulatory experts to explain the issues discussed at the meeting and answer any questions from stakeholders.

On October 23 to 25, the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) held its fall public meeting in Pittsburgh. Over the course of three days, NOSB voted on seven proposals, considered three discussion documents, and voted on more than 50 sunset materials. The results of the meeting are critical to the organic sector. To register for the webinar, link HERE.

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