NYS MilkLaunch, a new startup competition focused on accelerating product innovation for dairy products in New York state, selected Slate Milk as the winner of its inaugural competition. Slate was awarded $150,000 worth of support to accelerate its new product in the market, according to New York-based corporate innovation consultancy VentureFuel. VentureFuel runs the competition in collaboration with The New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets and the New York Dairy Promotion Order Advisory Board.

More than 1,000 consumers, combined with eight expert judges, including the president of Chobani and head of investments at Zx Ventures, voted on uniqueness, taste, viability and the founding team. Slate Milk’s Slate brand covers a low-sugar, higher-protein line of lactose-free milks for everyone — not just children. The company developed a vanilla flavor specifically for the competition, VentureFuel said.

The open competition included global applicants with products ranging from the idea stage to existing with sales under $250,000. All products were required to contain at least 50% fluid milk.

"There were plenty of people in the New York Ag community who took a chance on us and helped us launch when we were just an idea,” said Slate Milk’s co-founders, Manny Lubin and Josh Belinsky. “To now have that same community award us the grand prize is extremely exciting. Slate is simply a compilation of all of our employees, investors, advisors and partners. We can't wait to continue to grow and innovate real milk with New York Ag as a partner!"

The other three finalists, VentureFuel said, include:

  • Karviva: Gold Sage: Inspired by ancient wisdom, backed by modern science, these wellness drinks infuse functional ingredients such as turmeric and other minerals into New York milk to deliver a full range of health benefits.
  • Superfrau: An Alpine-inspired electrolyte elixir made by upcycling surplus whey and infusing it with unique flavors such as cucumber lime, lemon elderflower and peach mango. A hydrating, protein and nutrient-packed recovery drink that promotes sustainability in the dairy industry.
  • Pursue Happiness Cold Brew Cowffee: An Innovative dairy-based, shelf-stable coffee drink with high protein, low sugar and added CLA Plus for increased health benefits.

All four semi-finalists received $15,000 worth of support each to develop a 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 Chobani, Diageo, Pod Foods, Hudson Valley Fresh, Blue Hill Farm and more. The total value of the competition prizing is over $210,000, VentureFuel said.

"Our goal with this program was to re-imagine and re-invigorate liquid dairy through new products that capture new consumers to drive demand for dairy in New York state," said Fred Schonenberg, founder of VentureFuel. "Slate exhibits the best of external innovation — utilizing core products in new and exciting ways that can accelerate growth for an entire industry."