Got (collagen-laced) milk? California dairy startup competition promotes novel applications for dairy

By Elaine Watson contact

- Last updated on GMT

Picture: California Milk Advisory Board
Picture: California Milk Advisory Board

Related tags: Dairy, Milk

Nine dairy startups promoting everything from whey protein-packed probiotic drinks to indulgent dessert-inspired dairy beverages will square up in San Francisco on November 7 in a competition designed to identify novel applications for fluid milk with real commercial potential.

The shortlisted candidates in the Real California Milk Accelerator dairy startup competition​ - run by the California Milk Advisory Board​ (CMAB) with innovation consultancy VentureFuel​ – will each receive up to $25,000 of support to help develop prototypes, while the grand prize winner (announced November 8) will receive an additional $250,000 worth of support to help build a go-to-market strategy.

Each will get access to marketing, packaging, and distribution experts and will take part in a business development trip the week of October 14 to tour California dairy farms and production facilities and meet with industry leaders to help facilitate their new ventures, said CMA CEO John Talbot.

Per capita consumption of fluid milk has been declining consistently

Per capita consumption of milk has been declining consistently for more than 40 years for three key reasons. The first is the explosive proliferation of other beverage options, and I’m not even really talking about plant-based beverages​,” he told FoodNavigator-USA.  

“The second is the decline of cereal consumption, which has accounted for about 25% of milk consumption and it’s down 11% over the past five years.

"The third – which is a particular issue here in California - is the decline in the birth rate. Young adults are not getting married, they’re not having families, and they have always been the bread and butter of the milk category."

‘It’s not something that marketing can fix. We have to focus on innovation’

Put another way, there’s an increasing realization that money allocated to milk marketing might be best spent on encouraging innovative applications for fluid milk - from indulgent ready-to-drink coffees to high protein functional dairy beverages – instead of trying to turning back the clock, he said.

“It’s not something that marketing can fix. We have to focus on innovation and focus on new products containing milk that appeal to a new generation of consumers.”

While it is important for the dairy industry to defend milk's nutritional merits and correct what Talbot claims are misleading statistics about its environmental impact (dairy cows are responsible for no more than 2% of GHG emissions he claims), they should remain laser-focused on innovation.

"We have to find ways to stand out, to differentiate ourselves and leverage the strengths we have from a nutrition standpoint."

'Everyone is looking for functional beverages right now'

So what are the key areas of opportunity?

Everyone is looking for functional beverages right now​,” said Talbot, noting that milk is inherently functional, featuring meaningful levels of protein and micronutrients.

However, it can also be bolstered with additional functional ingredients or use in a new wave of indulgent ready-to-drink coffees, teas and other creamy beverages, he said.

 “Some of these concepts ​[developed by the nine finalists] have a larger addressable market than others​,” added VentureFuel CEO Fred Schoenberg. “But sometimes it’s niche-sounding products that really move the needle.”

He added: “Some of them don’t even have a logo yet, they’re just at the conceptual stage, while others are more advanced. We can put them in touch with a number of mentors from social media and PR and branding experts to people that have worked on innovation in Fortune 500 companies. And then the CMAB can help connect them to the dairy ecosystem, assisting with sourcing, distribution, packaging and so on.”

All eligible applicants have products containing at least 50% cow’s milk and have committed to producing the product in California, should they win the competition.  The entrepreneurs submitting applications include dairy farmers, food scientists, and serial entrepreneurs, said CMAB CEO John Talbot, who said he had been pleasantly surprised by the number of quality entries.

The finalists are:

  1. Bears Nutrition Daily Nutritional Milk Beverage for Active Kids
  2. WheyUp Protein Dairy Beverage with 12 Live and Active Probiotic Cultures and Whey Protein
  3. Good Citizens Ready to Drink Latte with Collagen
  4. Thai Star Brewing Co. Thai Star Iced Tea
  5. Nutraberry Upcycled High Fiber Polyphenol Milk Protein Beverage
  6. NAICHA Milk Tea w/Probiotics and Vitamins
  7. ALLPUR FIZZA Sparkling Dairy Nutrient Refresher
  8. Cheese Yogurt Fermented Dairy Beverage
  9. Stuyt Dairy Dairy-Based Dessert Beverage

What should kids drink?

Dairy milk? Bananamilk? Almondmilk? Water?  Join the debate at our FOOD FOR KIDS​​​ conference in Chicago in November where we'll explore what kids are drinking, what they perhaps should be drinking, and where we go from here...

The panelists in this session include:

  • Megan Lott, senior associate, policy and research, Duke Global Health Institute
  • Matt Swanson, founder and CEO, Rethink Brands
  • Howard Telford, head of soft drinks, Euromonitor International
  • Christina Ferzli, head of global corporate affairs, Ocean Spray Cranberries

Check out the latest SPEAKERS.

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