The California Milk Advisory Board (CMAB) announced the return of its annual dairy innovation competition with a new name and increased focus on advancing excellence in functional dairy product development. The Real California Milk Excelerator, the 3rd edition of the CMAB dairy product innovation competition with innovation consultancy VentureFuel, will award up to $650,000 in prizes for new dairy products that support performance and recovery benefits.
The 2021 Real California Milk Excelerator taps into the thriving functional foods market – a market that has grown significantly over the past year and is projected to reach over $275 billion globally by 20251. With consumers prioritizing personal health and wellness in response to the pandemic, the competition will seek out early-stage startups that use two of California’s great resources – an abundant supply of sustainably sourced California milk and the state’s entrepreneurial spirit.
One of the biggest dairy competitions in the world, the competition seeks early-stage, potential for high-growth applicants with a cow’s milk-based product or working prototype that plays a critical role in personal performance (focus, energy, exercise, strength) and/or recovery (rejuvenation, relaxation, gut health, sleep). 
Up to 12 applicants will be selected to join the RCM Excelerator program with each receiving a $10,000 stipend and support to refine and scale their individual business as well as benefit from group resources including the development of sales and marketing tools. They will also be entered into the CMAB/VentureFuel Mentor Program which includes elite counsel from successful founders, investors, leading corporate executives, and experts across design, marketing, sales, manufacturing, distribution, farming and processing industries. The first place Excelerator winner will receive up to $150,000 worth of additional marketing support from CMAB to accelerate their product growth in the marketplace. Second place will receive $100,000 of marketing supports from CMAB. To further advance opportunities for finalists, a private, Buyer/Investor Day event will be hosted for finalists to pitch actual clients to drive business development and secure financing. The value of the competition awards is $650,000.
For the first time, CMAB and VentureFuel also will be awarding up to three companies entry into the new Real California Milk Incubator Boot Camp, an option for companies that have great ideas but are too early for the competition. Led by executives at CMAB, VentureFuel and the California Dairy Innovation Center, Boot Camp participants also will gain entry into the VentureFuel Mentor program as well as review of products, tweaking of pitch, introductions to food labs, nutritionists, etc. (a value of $50,000).
VentureFuel, Inc., the leading corporate innovation consultancy, is again partnering with CMAB to run the program and to identify the best emerging opportunities from their global network of investors, founders and academics.
Competition rules and application documents are available at and the deadline for application is June 25, 2021.
The Excelerator competitions, which in the past have focused on fluid milk and snacking product startups, are part of the CMAB’s innovation ecosystem, which includes the development in 2020 of the California Dairy Innovation Center, a collaborative platform created to further product-oriented innovation and enhance productivity for the California dairy industry through research, training and education.
California, known for innovation, has a reputation for quality dairy products. As the number one producer of milk in the nation, California also leads the nation in sustainable dairy farming practices. More than 1200 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.