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The California Milk Advisory Board recently doubled the number of semi-finalists and is offering more than $350,000 in additional awards in the Real California Milk Snackcelerator, its dairy-product innovation competition. Inspired by the number of ideas and products that integrate California dairy into snack formulations, the VentureFuel-run competition has expanded to include 16 companies. They’re competing for more than $800,000 in awards.

The accelerator taps into the $605-billion global snack-food market. The competition aims to inspire innovation and investment in dairy-based snacks, packaging and capacity by connecting processors, producers, investors, ideas and entrepreneurs.

VentureFuel Inc., an innovation consultancy, is working on the program with the California Milk Advisory Board. It identified and recruited applicants from a network of investors, founders and academics.

Contest applications have included personalized nutrition, functional foods and novel flavor-profiles inspired by cultures around the world, said Fred Schonenberg, founder of VentureFuel.

The competition now moves to the "Sweet & Savory 16." Semi-finalists will compete in two categories – “Sweet" for those who cater to sweet flavors – and "Savory" for those that look for salty flavors. The semi-finalists are listed.

Sweet snacks compete

  • Peekaboo Ice Cream – organic ice cream with added nutritional benefits of vegetables
  • FitPro Heroes' Cookies – lactose-free, shelf-stable protein cookies that deliver ingredients designed to support healthy energy, joint support and inflammation relief, as well as offering traditional protein-recovery benefits from milk proteins
  • Moody's Ice Cream – ultra-premium ice cream with functional ingredients, adaptogens and herbalist blends to naturally boost mood
  • Lucha Leche – protein-rich yogurt drinks in Latin-inspired flavors, fortified with prebiotics and probiotics and no added sugars
  • Frutero Ice Cream – premium Latin-inspired ice cream made with 100-percent tropical fruits and creamy butterfat
  • Optimized Foods: Functional Ice Cream Bars – premium ice-cream novelties that use encapsulation technologies to deliver health ingredients with improved taste and bioavailability
  • Petit Pot – brings traditional French desserts to American grocery stores; the desserts are made from organic, locally sourced ingredients
  • wunder Cheesecake Bites – snackable cheesecake high in protein and low in carbohydrates. Ready to eat in a single-serve package

Savory snacks compete

  • Baozza – a snack combining two popular foods in Asian culture – Bao buns and pizza
  • WheyUp Probiotic Kefir Krisps – chips made from creme Kefir with a one-year shelf life while maintaining active probiotic cultures in a cheese yogurt snack
  • Point Reyes Farmstead Whey Cool Kitchen Curd Cup – a mix-in, high-protein dairy snack with savory flavors
  • Sach Foods Organic Paneer – rooted in Indian cuisine, a snackable version of paneer, a nutrient-rich, high-protein food
  • Fahris LLC: Yoghurt Chips – inspired by a historical Mediterranean recipe, the chips are made from milk. It first turns into prebiotic-rich yogurt and then is mixed with crushed wheat and thyme. The final product is rich in protein, fiber, enzymes and probiotics
  • Saga Ventures Crispy Cheese Bar – the bar features cheese and other flavors for a low-carbohydrate, high-protein snack
  • Yummy Industries: Cheese Bits – snacks made from fresh and wood-smoked scamorza and chechil cheeses
  • Enrich Protein – Hispanic-style dairy chip containing enhanced dairy proteins to support health, body composition and exercise recovery

The snack entries feature cow's milk as their first ingredient. At least 50 percent of their formula must be comprised of milk. The startups have committed to producing the product in California with milk from California dairy farms if they win the competition.

The sixteen startups will each receive $10,000-worth of support to develop an edible prototype. They also will receive resources such as graphic design, laboratory or kitchen time, and mentorship from marketing, packaging and distribution experts.

Semi-finalists will compete in four virtual events Nov. 10-11. A virtual "Final Four" event will be held from 7 to 8:30 p.m. Central Time Nov. 19. The first-place winner will receive as much as $200,000-worth of additional support to take their product to market. The second-place winner will receive $100,000-worth of additional support.

More than 1,200 family dairy farms produce the California milk in fluid milk, cheese, butter, yogurt, ice cream and other dairy products identified by the Real California Milk seal. Visit RealCaliforniaMilk.com and venturefuel.net for more information.

This article originally ran on agupdate.com.

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