TRACY, CALIF. – In search of new and innovative dairy products that introduce novel benefits and drive consumption, the California Milk Advisory Board (CMAB) will award as much as $500,000 in prizes this year through its annual Real California Milk Excelerator program.

The dairy innovation competition, in partnership with VentureFuel, is taking an expansive focus in 2022, and looking for dairy-based products from a broad range of categories – not only foods and beverages, but also textiles, haircare and other products.

The accelerator program seeks early-stage, high-growth potential applicants with at least a 50% cow’s milk-based product or working prototype.

Following the evaluation process, as many as eight applicants will be chosen to join the Real California Milk Excelerator program and receive access to a group stipend, as well as networking resources. Additionally, the winning applicants will be part of a CMAB/VentureFuel mentorship program, through which they can access successful founders, investors, executives and other experts for insights on business aspects such as design, marketing, sales, manufacturing, distribution, farming and processing.

With the program now in its fourth year, the CMAB shared that odds of receiving an award are higher than before. As many as four of the applicants will get $50,000 to expand products in California. One of the participants will be chosen to receive an additional $100,000 grand prize by establishing a presence in California and exhibiting the most promising growth in the year following the competition.

The application deadline for this year’s Real California Milk Excelerator is July 17. Further details of the competition rules and application process can be found at

John Talbot, chief executive officer of CMAB, said products that use real dairy provide functional benefits that are hard to replicate.

“We're seeing an increase in unique products that leverage these benefits emerging in the market,” Mr. Talbot said. “By expanding the competition to all new dairy-based products, versus a specific category, we're creating more opportunity to make a meaningful difference in consumers' lives and in the utilization of milk from California's family dairy farms. With the Excelerator platforms we've established over the past four years, we will be able to support companies as they innovate and establish these products in the market."

Independent corporate innovation consultancy VentureFuel partnered with CMAB to drive dairy innovation.

"Each year, we tap into our global network of investors, founders, academics and idea generators to maximize collective opportunities," said Fred Schonenberg, founder of VentureFuel. "Innovation continues to accelerate in product volume and the speed from idea to market. Now, we are matching the most promising companies with capital to be deployed intentionally, and with significant near-term, tangible impact."

CMAB, part of the state’s food and agriculture department, is funded by more than 1,100 California family dairy farms, which produce milk that goes into products such as fluid milk, cheese, butter, yogurt, ice cream and more.