The New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets, the New York Dairy Promotion Order (DPO) Advisory Board and VentureFuel Inc. announced a new startup competition, MilkLaunch, focused on accelerating product innovation for dairy products in New York state. VentureFuel, a New York city-based innovation consultancy that builds accelerators and custom programs to futurize industries and corporations, will run the competition.

MilkLaunch will encourage entrepreneurs to introduce exciting new dairy products for consumers to enjoy with the ultimate goal of boosting dairy sales in New York state. The competition includes more than $200,000 in awards, including $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 organizations said. 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.

The dairy industry is the largest single segment of New York's agricultural industry. The state has almost 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 organizations noted.

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

“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 Fred Schonenberg, founder of VentureFuel. “Our goal is to rethink what is possible and to deliver exciting milk-based products that customers will love.”

Finalists will have the 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, the organizations said. During the process, finalists can access the expertise the Cornell team has gained from tens of millions of dollars of New York Dairy Promotion Advisory Board-funded dairy research through the Milk Quality Improvement Program (MQIP) and Northeast Dairy Foods Research Center.

“The department is excited about the kick-off of MilkLaunch, which was enthusiastically supported by the DPO Advisory Board members,” said New York State Agriculture Commissioner Richard A. 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.”

The competition is for early-stage applicants ranging from idea stage to existing new products. Products must contain at least 50% fluid milk and have sales of less than $250,000. 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. Additionally, VentureFuel will tap into its worldwide network of more than 500 venture capitalists, seed investors, founders and university labs to help discover applicants, the organizations said.

Competition rules and application documents are available at The deadline for application is Sept. 15, 2020.