Sweet treats with functional benefits took home the four finalist spots this week in the Real California Milk Excelerator product innovation competition created by the Tracy, Calif.-based California Milk Advisory Board (CMAB) and VentureFuel, New York. The finalists tap into the nutritional and flavor profiles of milk and dairy ingredients, the CMAB said, to deliver performance and recovery benefits in products consumers crave.

The CMAB said the finalists include:

  • Nightfood — Uniquely formulated by sleep experts and nutritionists, Nightfood ice cream delivers great taste for those nighttime cravings and a sleep-friend nutritional profile to help promote quality sleep.
  • ReThink Ice Cream — Low-sugar, stomach and diabetic-friendly ice cream that is infused with fiber and sourced from lactose-free A2 dairy, ReThink Ice Cream’s products are a decadent source of natural nutrition.
  • Sweetkiwi — Founded by a McKinsey 2021 Black Executive Leader and certified cultured dairy professional, Sweetkiwi makes whipped Greek yogurt that is low in calories and high in nutrition. Sweetkiwi pints are under 320 calories and formulated with fiber, protein and probiotics for better gut health with fewer calories.
  • Wonder Monday — A 2020 RCM Snackcelerator finalist, Wonder Monday returns with a new protein keto cheesecake snack bar with no added sugar and 10 grams of clean protein to indulgently refuel.

These four innovators were selected from a field of 12 semifinalist competitors during a two-day virtual pitch event judged by a group of experts from Hershey’s, Nestle, Mars, PepsiCo Ventures Group, Amberstone Ventures, Branch Venture Group, FoodNavigator.com, Rosa Brothers Milk Company, Health magazine, SnackRiot and The Save Mart Companies, the CMAB said. Over 2,000 fans also were able to vote virtually through Perksy, which provides market research for the mobile generation.  

The finalists will move on to the final, live event at 5 p.m. PST on Nov. 18 where they will compete for $150,000 in marketing support to bring their visions to market, with the runner-up receiving $100,000 toward the same goal. Registration for the event is available online.

“We had tremendous diversity in our field of semifinalists this year, but ultimately, the four products moving to the finals reflect America’s sweet tooth and our continuing desire for treats that don’t give up taste in favor of function,” said John Talbot, CEO of the CMAB. “And the votes through Persky, which polled 2,000 consumers on which of these products they would be most interested in buying, support the judge’s decisions. These creative products are tackling some of consumers bigger concerns around sugar content and lactose sensitivity without sacrificing the taste and texture that make a dessert something special.”

The 12 semifinalists 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 including Branchfood, Brandology, Bristol Farms, the California Dairy Innovation Center, Diageo, Garrand Moehlenkamp, Heywell, Highlight, Ignite2x, Ketchum, LA Distributing Company, Lemos Jerseys, Mondelēz International, Rodeo, Vori and Whole Brain Consulting, the CMAB said. The total value of competition prizing is over $650,000.

“Great innovators often take something we love and make it better by removing an issue or adding a benefit,” said Fred Schonenberg, founder of VentureFuel. “Each of these entrepreneurs have created delicious products we all love to eat — but now help us optimize our health by delivering on the functional benefits of dairy.”

 For the final event, each founder will be presenting to an all-star judging panel of experts from across CPG, retail, venture capital and food science, the CMAB said.