Sweet treats with functional benefits took home the four finalist spots this week in the Real California Milk Excelerator product innovation competition created by the California Milk Advisory Board (CMAB) and VentureFuel. The finalists tap into the nutritional and flavor profiles of milk and dairy ingredients to deliver performance and recovery benefits in products consumers crave.

Finalists include:

• Nightfood – Uniquely formulated by sleep experts and nutritionists, Nightfood ice cream delivers great taste for those nighttime cravings and a sleep-friend nutritional profile to help promote quality sleep.

• ReThink Ice Cream – Low sugar, stomach and diabetic-friendly ice cream that is infused with fiber and sourced from lactose-free A2 dairy, ReThink Ice Cream is a decadent source of natural nutrition.

• Sweetkiwi – Founded by a McKinsey 2021 Black Executive Leader and certified cultured dairy professional, Sweetkiwi makes whipped Greek yogurt that is low in calories and high in nutrition. Sweetkiwi pints are under 320 calories and formulated with fiber, protein, and probiotics for better gut health with fewer calories.

• Wonder Monday – A 2020 RCM Snackcelerator finalist, Wonder Monday returns with a new protein keto cheesecake snack bar with no added sugar and 10g of clean protein to indulgently refuel.

These four innovators were selected from a field of 12 semi-finalist competitors during a two-day virtual pitch event judged by a group of experts from Hershey’s, Nestle, Mars, PepsiCo Ventures Group, Amberstone Ventures, Branch Venture Group, FoodNavigator.com, Rosa Brothers Milk Company, Health Magazine, SnackRiot, and The Save Mart Companies. Over 2,000 fans also were able to vote virtually through Perksy, which provides market research for the mobile generation.  

Nightfood, ReThink, Sweetkiwi and Wonder Monday move on to the final, live event at 5 pm PST on November 18 where they will compete for $150,000 in marketing support to bring their visions to market with a runner up receiving $100,000 towards the same goal. Registration for the event is available online.

The 12 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 Branchfood, Brandology, Bristol Farms, the California Dairy Innovation Center, Diageo, Garrand Moehlenkamp, Heywell, Highlight, Ignite2x, Ketchum, LA Distributing Company, Lemos Jerseys, Mondelēz International, Rodeo, Vori, and Whole Brain Consulting. The total value of competition prizing is over $650,000.

For the final event, each founder will be presenting to an all-star judging panel of experts from across CPG, retail, venture capital and food science, featuring: Russell Barnett, Managing Director/CMO of My/Mochi Ice Cream, Donna Berry, Editor of the Daily Dose of Dairy, Heather Boyd, Managing Director, RTD of Beam Suntory, Chad Coester, SVP Own Brands at Albertsons Companies, Chris McCann, CEO of 1-800-Flowers.com, Julia Bello, Principal, Local Producer Loan Program at Whole Foods, John Talbot, CEO of the California Milk Advisory Board, and Adriano Torres, Senior Director Global Marketing, Dairy & Plant-Based Beverages at Coca-Cola.

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 1,100 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.