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Competition aims to hasten dairy product innovation

Competition aims to hasten dairy product innovation

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A new competition will enable agricultural entrepreneurs to introduce new dairy products for consumers, ultimately boosting dairy sales in New York state.

The state Department of Agriculture and Markets, the New York Dairy Promotion Order (DPO) Advisory Board and VentureFuel have introduced a new startup competition, MilkLaunch, focused on accelerating product innovation for dairy products statewide.

The competition includes more than $200,000 in awards, including providing $15,000 to support four finalists in perfecting their product via lab time, customer insights, research and elite mentorship from global experts across the consumer products, retail and dairy industries. The grand prize of $150,000 will be used to accelerate the winner(s) of the competition to get to market and drive dairy sales.

“We want to inspire the dairy community in New York, from large operations to small family-run farms, to put forth new ideas and unique products while inspiring global beverage entrepreneurs to unleash their creativity on the milk category,” said VentureFuel Founder Fred Schonenberg. “Our goal is to rethink what is possible and to deliver exciting milk-based products that customers will love.”

The dairy industry is the largest single segment of New York’s agricultural industry. The state has nearly 4,000 dairy farms that produce nearly 15 billion pounds of milk. It is the fourth-largest producer of milk, the largest producer of cottage cheese and sour cream and the second-largest producer of yogurt.

The DPO Advisory Board, a 10-member board that advises the state Department of Agriculture on the allocation of milk producer funds, supported the project as part of its 2020 goals to promote and increase the consumption of New York milk and dairy products.

“The Department (of Agriculture and Markets) is excited about the kick-off of MilkLaunch, which was enthusiastically supported by the DPO Advisory Board members,” said state Agriculture Commissioner Richard Ball. “I believe that for any industry to grow and thrive, we must always listen to our customers and be ready to adapt and change to meet their demands. This competition builds on that idea, fueling the innovation of the next great dairy product to provide consumers with a new and fresh way to enjoy the delicious flavor and health benefits of milk and boost the New York dairy industry.”

Finalists will have an opportunity to collaborate with top food scientists from Cornell University’s Food Processing Development Laboratory and Sensory Evaluation Program to improve their product’s safety, quality, labeling and product marketing practices. During the process, finalists can access the expertise the Cornell team has gained from tens of millions of dollars of NY Dairy Promotion Advisory Board-funded dairy research through the Milk Quality Improvement Program (MQIP) and Northeast Dairy Foods Research Center.

“New York is an ideal place for dairy innovation, especially with Cornell research, processing and product resources available to startups and entrepreneurs,” said Dr. Nicole Martin, associate director of Cornell University’s Milk Quality Improvement Program. “We look forward to working with VentureFuel to identify and support new dairy product development in New York.”

The competition is for early-stage applicants ranging from idea-stage to existing new products. Products must contain at least 50 percent fluid milk, have sales of less than $250,000, and the winners must commit that all milk will be sourced from New York producers for at least 12 months.

Entries are open to all including dairy farms, processors, producers, entrepreneurs, academics and ideators. In addition, VentureFuel will tap into its worldwide network of more than 500 venture capitalists, seed investors, founders and university labs to help discover applicants.

Competition rules and application documents are available at and the deadline for application is Sept. 15.

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