The California Milk Advisory Board (CMAB) plans to dole out more than $650,000 in prize money for innovative dairy products that promote personal performance and recovery benefits.

“This competition is designed to inspire new ideas integrating the natural benefits of real milk and dairy products as functional ingredients, delivering a flavor and nutritional profile that’s hard to beat,” said CMAB CEO John Talbot.

The Real California Milk Excelerator competition, in partnership with consultancy firm VentureFuel, has boiled down to 12 companies in the semifinals. The companies will participate in a series of mentoring and support events leading up to a virtual pitch event in November, when four companies will advance to a final virtual event to select the winner.

The competition taps into a functional foods market that has burgeoned into a $275 billion global industry. The aim is to identify early-stage, high-growth companies developing products based on cow’s milk and focused on personal performance, such as focus, energy, gut health and sleep.

“Each year we see such disruptive and unique products, built specifically around consumers’ evolving needs and wants,” said Fred Schonenberg, founder of VentureFuel, Inc. “This year’s applicants were particularly inspiring as each sought to create better-for-you products that can improve and sustain the many ways we define health.” 

The semifinalists are: 

Alexandre Family Farms — Fourth-generation California dairy farmers with functional brand extensions for liquid milk, powder and yogurt focused on properties for anti-anxiety and gut health.

Boba Guys — Trendy tea brand Boba Guys, with 15 brick-and-mortar locations in California, is developing a bottled milk tea latte with key nutrients, vitamins, and caffeine to optimize performance and recovery.

GoodSport Nutrition — A first-of-its-kind, all-natural sports drink made from the goodness of real milk that delivers superior hydration with three times the electrolytes and less sugar than traditional sports drinks. 

Kefir Lab — Kefir Lab takes kefir and makes it more effective with organic milk cultured with 24 live and active potent protein strains for a bottled kefir that boosts immunity, metabolism, and brain health. 

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

Positive Chemistry — A dissolving pouch that melts in the bath, releasing a bubbly, fizzing mixture of real milk and recovery salts to promote recovery for skin, muscles and the soul. A hidden exfoliating sponge with a message of positivity is designed to float to the top of the bath.

Rizo Lopez Foods — Award-winning and family-owned, Rizo Lopez utilizes Old World recipes and traditional techniques for their Ready2Go Whey products derived from a specially processed whey protein concentrate for a creamy, delicious, and gut-healthy drink. 

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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. 

The Indian Milk & Honey Co. — Sugar-free probiotic Lassi with Ayurvedic immunity supporting herbs and spices, that also support mental clarity, in one environmentally-friendly carton.

Top O’ the Morn Farms — A California-owned dairy farm with an expansive line of fresh products, Top O’ the Morn’s Cow-Pow chocolate milk is a clean-label pre- or post-workout beverage fortified with whey protein isolate and natural caffeine. 

Wunder Snacks — A 2020 RCM Snackcelerator finalist, Wunder returns with a new protein keto cheesecake snack bar with 10g of clean protein to indulgently refuel.

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