The California Milk Advisory Board (CMAB), Tracy, Calif., announced the schedule for the Real California Milk Excelerator virtual semi-finals, which will be held Oct. 26 and 27 from 5-7 p.m. PST. The third edition of the CMAB’s dairy product innovation competition partnership with New York-based innovation consultancy VentureFuel Inc. will bring 12 entrepreneurs together to pitch their functional dairy products for a chance at a slot in the final competition. 

Semi-finalists will compete in four virtual events leading to the Nov. 18 virtual finals, where the first place Excelerator winner will receive up to $150,000 worth of additional marketing support from CMAB to accelerate their product growth in the marketplace. The second-place winner will receive $100,000 of marketing supports from CMAB. The total value of the competition prizing is $650,000, the CMAB said. 

The 2021 Real California Milk Excelerator taps into the thriving functional foods market. It is focused on early-stage, high-growth companies with a cow’s milk-based product that plays a critical role in personal performance and/or recovery, the CMAB said.

“This is where it all comes together. Our finalists have honed their pitches and will be putting it all on the line to showcase how their products best integrate the natural ingredients, flavor and nutritional profile of milk and other dairy products to deliver a functional benefit to consumers,” said John Talbot, CEO of the CMAB. “We are excited to see any of these 12 innovative products make it to the final four.” 

VentureFuel partnered with CMAB to run the program and identified and recruited applicants from its global network of investors, founders and academics. Semi-finalists received a $10,000 stipend and support to refine and scale their individual business, as well as benefit group resources, including the development of sales and marketing tools. They also participated in a virtual master’s class of mentor and support sessions to refine products, create marketing tools and hone their presentations for the semi-finals, CMAB said.

The four finalists will participate in a private pitch event with buyers and investors and a live, virtual final pitch on Nov. 18 before a team of judges representing media, retailers, CPG food and beverage brands, investors and e-commerce platforms. The finals event will be broadcast live for public viewing and a link will be made available on the RCM Excelerator site

“How do you determine if a startup has breakthrough growth potential? You look to see if retailers will shelve it, if consumers will buy it, if reporters will write on it and investors will invest in it,” said Fred Schonenberg, founder of VentureFuel. “Each of our judges have unique vantage points on what’s next, that when combined, gives us a holistic view on what will succeed tomorrow.”

To learn more about the program and the 12 semi-finalist applicants competing Oct. 26 and 27, visit