Peekaboo Organics' ice cream featuring hidden vegetables was named the grand prize winner on Nov. 20 in the Real California Milk Snackcelerator dairy snack innovation competition, created by the Tracy, Calif.-based California Milk Advisory Board (CMAB) and VentureFuel, New York. The competition will provide Peekaboo with $200,000 in resources and funding to bring a snack-sized version of its innovative products to market and expand the overall market for its products, the CMAB and VentureFuel said.

This is the second event of its kind by the California dairy industry designed to inspire ideas integrating the values of fluid milk and dairy ingredients into snacks to meet growing consumer demand and providing resources to help bring them to market.

As presented by Jessica Levison, founder and CEO, Peekaboo's mission is to solve the parental dilemma of getting children to consume more vegetables by putting them into a format they can't get enough of — ice cream. As the owner of a popular ice cream scoop shop in Miami, she turned her frozen dairy knowhow into flavorful super-premium ice creams hiding a nutritious vegetable secret. The products are currently available in pints at select retailers, but Levison is looking forward to introducing the single-serve snack line and expanding distribution with Real California Milk at the core, the CMAB and VentureFuel noted.

"Like many of our fellow startups, we confronted what seemed like insurmountable challenges this year. This win validates our innovation, our mission and our team's hard work and resilience," said Levison. "We learned so much from this Snackcelerator experience and cannot wait to launch Peekaboo minis into the market — made with Real California Milk, of course! Much gratitude to everyone involved."

Peekaboo is one of four innovators selected from a field of 16 sweet and savory semi-finalist competitors to present to a field of judges from the consumer packaged goods, retail, venture capital and food science world. Judges represented such companies as Clorox, Mondelez, Whole Foods, CircleUp and more in a live pitch (and sample) event tapping into future technologies and emerging startups such as OS Studios, Perksy and more to transform what was an in-person sampling experience into a state-of-the-art virtual event. Alongside three other finalists, Peekaboo was judged on uniqueness or innovation, taste, the ability to scale and the founder team, said the CMAB and VentureFuel.

Yummy Industries came in second place with its Cheese-Bits premium snacking cheese packs and will receive $100,000 in support for growth and distribution.

"Being selected as a semi-finalist really was significant for us because we were associated with a tremendous caliber of founders and snack concepts," said Yummy Co-Founder Stefen Choy. "Throughout this process, the feedback and mentorship sessions have really helped move our business forward significantly. We have changed our strategic plan and even added a broker based on this competition. The bonus of continued support as a runner up is icing on the cake."

The Real California Milk Snackcelerator competition was designed to inspire innovation and investment in dairy-based snack products, packaging and capacity within California by connecting manufacturers, producers, investors, ideas and entrepreneurs for high quality, sustainable products. The competition received 76 entries, which inspired expansion from the original eight finalists to 16 representing both sweet and savory snacking startups in the Sweet & Savory 16 virtual semi-finals the week of Nov. 9.

"This was a tough decision; all four of these finalists presented products that fit the needs of our current consumer and each with their own unique take on snacking,” said John Talbot, CEO of the CMAB. “Peekaboo just had a slight edge because of its unique concept — marrying two things that normally don't go together like ice cream and vegetables and then executing the [product] perfectly in terms of creative flavor combinations. Not only are we excited to grow the dairy snack portfolio offered with Real California Milk by helping to expand distribution for Peekaboo ice creams, we look forward to continuing our relationship with all of our finalists and semi-finalists to see what they are able to achieve."

All 16 semi-finalists received $10,000 worth of support each to develop an edible prototype, while receiving a suite of resources including graphic design, lab or kitchen time and elite mentorship from global marketing, packaging and distribution experts from companies that include Diageo, Nestlé, Mondelez, My/Mo Mochi Ice Cream, Bristol Farms, Rosa Brothers, Food Network/Hearst Magazines, Pod Foods, Latitude Ventures, The Marketing Greenhouse, The Creative Pack, Whole Brain Consulting and Power Brands. Semi-finalist rounds were judged by a prestigious group of snack experts from Conagra, SnackRiot, Hershey's, Bristol Farms, General Mills, Unilever, Mondelez, Rosa Brothers, RangeMe, Acreage Holdings, Better Food Ventures and Trail Mix Ventures. The total value of competition prizing is over $800,000, the CMAB and VentureFuel said.

"Innovation is the ultimate growth accelerator for any business or category, and this competition continues to deliver a flywheel of new ideas, new products and new ways to think about dairy from a consumer perspective," said Fred Schonenberg, CEO and founder of VentureFuel. "When my family begged me for more samples between the semi-finals and finals, I knew we had chosen four winners all, of which can make an impact on-shelf. Peekaboo's cotton-candy with beets flavor dominated the pre-judge chatter as one of the most delicious and unique desserts the judges had ever tasted; meanwhile, Cheese-Bits was the product everyone was snacking on behind the scenes. They are making premium cheese easy to snack on and introducing new styles and flavors that will stand out."