Cornell University's Center for Regional Economic Advancement (CREA) and the Northeast Dairy Foods Research Center (NDFRC) have announced the 10 finalists for the first-ever Northeastern Dairy Product Innovation Competition, which supports food innovators in launching products made from dairy ingredients produced in the Northeast.

Funded by a $1 million grant from the Northeast Dairy Business Innovation Center (NE-DBIC), the competition provides finalists early-stage incubation assistance from Cornell's food processing and business experts, access to the university's food processing facilities, industry mentorship, and training on product prototyping. Along with these resources, finalists will receive $20,000, up to three winners receiving an additional $55,000, and a presence at the Dairy Innovation Showcase at the 2023 Grow-NY Summit in November.

Laura Ginsburg of the NE-DBIC, said, "This initiative responds to a growing need for developing new value-added dairy products, a critical component to increasing milk value for farmers, supporting regional opportunities, and building energy around dairy."

More than 50 food entrepreneurs, including those making products on organic and small farms, applied to the competition from across the United States. A committee of dairy experts representing producers, industry, and research selected the 10 finalists based on product concept, innovation or improvement, viability, prominence of dairy ingredients, and consumer value.

The 10 finalists are:

  • Bell & Goose Cheese Co., New HampshireMarinated feta cheese.
  • ice cream, VermontGoat's milk gelato.
  • Maia Yogurt, ConnecticutGrassfed yogurt for kids.
  • Maple Valley Farm, VermontSaffron maple yogurt.
  • North Counrty Creamery, New YorkSemi-hard, pasteurized cheese.
  • Oakfield Corners Cheese Co., New YorkMexican style cheese.
  • SpekldConnecticutPre-made, brown butter product.
  • Terra Firma Farm, ConnecticutReady-to-use, premium ice cream base.
  • Naturally Golden Family Farms Co-op, PennsylvaniaAll natural, dairy-based coffee creamer.
  • Very Good Yogurt, New YorkSugar-free, savory yogurt.

"The Dairy Innovation Competition builds a pipeline of entrepreneurs equipped to create and scale value-added products that address today's consumer preferences. Growing these businesses is key to increasing the utilization of dairy ingredients produced in the Northeast, and strengthening our rural economy," said CREA's Director of Food and Ag Startup Programs Jenn Smith.

"We are thrilled with the enthusiastic response to the dairy innovation competition and look forward to working with the 10 finalists by providing access to much needed technical and entrepreneurial resources. This competition positions the Northeast to create more product lines and business opportunities for our region's dairy farmers," said Dr. Samuel Alcaine, director of the NDFRC and associate professor at Cornell CALS.

Photo courtesy of CREA.