The New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets, the New York Dairy Promotion Order (DPO) Advisory Board and New York-based VentureFuel announced this year’s MilkLaunch startup competition. The program focuses on accelerating product innovation for dairy products in the state of New York.

This year’s program centers on products targeting Generation Z consumers (10 – 23 years old), with a focus on sustainability, the organizations said. The competition will be run by VentureFuel, an innovation consultancy that builds accelerators and custom programs to futurize industries and corporations.  

MilkLaunch will encourage entrepreneurs, startups and existing companies to introduce exciting new dairy products, including any type of product across cheese, yogurt, liquid milk, ice cream and butter — as well as makeup, clothing, etc., that specifically target Gen-Z consumers, a group that is growing in size and purchasing power.

The competition offers more than $200,000 in awards, including $10,000 stipends for up to six finalists to perfect their product via lab time, consumer 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.   

“During our first NY MilkLaunch program, we saw so many innovative products that spoke directly to younger consumers in a contemporary way that really enhanced the excitement around dairy,” said Fred Schonenberg, founder of VentureFuel. “We also saw many novel ideas focused on sustainability and know that Gen-Z and the New York State Dairy community are both deeply passionate about sustainability, resulting in the perfect combination for this year’s focus.”

The competition is intended for early-stage products ranging from ideas to existing new products, the organizations noted. Products must contain at least 50% fluid dairy 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 ogranizations said.

“We are thrilled to work with VentureFuel on the MilkLaunch program this year,” said Larry Bailey, chair of The New York State DPO Advisory Board. “We as New York dairy farmers and the DPO are excited by the program’s focus on sustainability and Generation Z to help promote and sell more dairy products to this impactful group of consumers who strive for a better future.”

The DPO Advisory Board, the board that advises the State Department of Agriculture on the allocation of milk producer funds, is supporting this project as part of its 2022 goals to promote and increase the consumption of New York milk and dairy products, the organizations said. Competition rules and application documents are available at, and the deadline to apply is June 15, 2022.