12 startups featuring functional benefits of California dairy compete for $650,000 in prize funds

The Shark Tank-esque competition​ is hosted by the California Milk Advisory Board and the innovation consultancy VentureFuel as a way to support startups developing and marketing products that showcase cow milk’s performance and recovery benefits and open the door for California dairy farmers to the fast-growing functional foods market, which is projected to reach more than $275bn globally by 2025.

In exchange for committing to produce their products in California with milk from California dairy farm if they win the competition, each semi-finalist will receive $10,000 worth of support for product development and marketing. The first place winner will receive up to $150,000 worth of support and the second place winner will receive $100,000 in support to accelerate their products to market.

The competition comes at a time when consumption of conventional low-fat and non-fat milk are down – falling 4.3% and 14.1% respectively in 2020, according to USDA ERS data​. This continues a downward trend in fluid milk consumption that began in the 1970s. Despite these declines, whole milk sales are a bright spot – climbing 4.1% in the first eight months of 2020 – a shift that suggests growing consumer interest in the functional as well as indulgent benefits of whole milk.

To build on this glimmer of hope for the category, the 2021 RCM Excelerator will work with the following 12 companies to advance their businesses and products before they go head-to-head in a pitch competition this fall:

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