Agropur, a Longeuil, Quebec-based dairy cooperative, said it launched Inno Accel, “North America's first accelerator for dairy businesses.” The first cohort of five young entrepreneurs from Canada and the United States aims to help reinvigorate and reinvent dairy with the support of “entrepreneur-in-residence” Patrick Gagné, CEO of the OSMO Foundation; “chief ambassador” Jérôme Ferrer, chef and co-owner of the Europea Group; and a strong network of mentors.

Inno Accel is an offshoot of the Inno Agropur program, the largest open innovation initiative in the North American dairy industry, Agropur said. It matches Agropur's resources with high-potential startups to reinvent dairy and quickly bring the most exciting innovations to market. With initiatives such as the international Inno Challenge, the Inno Capital co-investment fund, the in-house Inno Fabrik process and the open innovation platform, Agropur said it is “taking the lead and is ready to take on the world.”

The five North American businesses selected for the first Inno Accel cohort, Agropur said, include:

  • U Main, a company that develops do-it-yourself artisanal cheesemaking kits.
  • Sweetaly Dolceria, which makes decadent desserts using simple ingredients and traditional Italian recipes.
  • SaltiSweet Ice Cream Factory, a company that is “revolutionizing ice cream novelties” by replacing the stick with a biscuit (cookie), eliminating the unpleasant taste and environmental footprint of wood.
  • Cheese Grotto, a collective that makes beautiful cheese storage devices for the home to preserve fine cheeses under ideal conditions.
  • Peak Yogurt, maker of triple-cream, low-sugar yogurt that takes its cue from the ketogenic (or keto) diet.

The group will spend four months at Inno Accel, disrupting convention and thinking outside the box, Agropur said. Each business will be supported by two mentors — a successful entrepreneur and a member of the Agropur executive team. The businesses also will be supported by some 20 coaches with different areas of expertise (marketing, sales, R&D, etc.), who will provide guidance and help them develop their enterprises in an environment that resembles real-life conditions in the business world and the food industry.

Agropur said it launched its innovation program in 2016 to explore new avenues in a fast-changing business landscape and keep focusing on better meeting the needs of consumers for a unique dairy experience.

"Innovation is a necessity, even a condition for survival for the entire dairy industry,” said Robert Coallier, CEO of Agropur. “For Agropur, which is celebrating its 80th anniversary and is resolutely turned towards the future, we absolutely have to develop new market opportunities and new alliances for dairy production with partners who are characterized by their inventiveness and agility."