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State announces MilkLaunch, a milk startup competition

The state has announced MilkLaunch, a new startup competition focused on “accelerating product innovation” for dairy products in New York.

The New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets; the New York Dairy Promotion Order (DPO) Advisory Board; and New York City–based VentureFuel Inc. on Aug. 21 announced the competition.

VentureFuel will operate the competition. The firm is described as an “innovation consultancy that builds accelerators and custom programs to futurize industries and corporations,” per the news release.


MilkLaunch will “encourage entrepreneurs to introduce exciting new” dairy products for consumers to enjoy with the “ultimate goal of boosting dairy sales” in New York.

The competition includes more than $200,000 in awards, including providing $15,000 to support four finalists in perfecting their product via lab time; customer insights; research; and “elite mentorship from global experts” across the consumer products, retail and dairy industries.

The winner will use the grand prize of $150,000 to accelerate its effort to get to market and drive dairy sales. 

“We want to inspire the dairy community in New York, from large operations to small family-run farms, to put forth new ideas and unique products while inspiring global beverage entrepreneurs to unleash their creativity on the milk category,” Fred Schonenberg, founder of VentureFuel Inc., said. “Our goal is to rethink what is possible and to deliver exciting milk-based products that customers will love.”

The DPO Advisory Board — a 10-member board that advises the state Agriculture Department on the allocation of milk producer funds — supported this project as part of its 2020 goals to “promote and increase the consumption” of New York milk and dairy products.

The dairy industry is the largest segment of New York’s agricultural industry. The state has nearly 4,000 dairy farms that produce nearly 15 billion pounds of milk; is the fourth largest producer of milk; the largest producer of cottage cheese and sour cream; and the second largest producer of yogurt.


Getting involved

The competition is for early-stage applicants ranging from idea stage to existing new products.

Products must contain at least 50 percent fluid milk; have sales of less than $250,000; and 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, Inc. will tap into its worldwide network of more than 500 venture capitalists, seed investors, founders and university labs to help discover applicants.

Finalists will have the opportunity to collaborate with top food scientists from Cornell University’s food processing development laboratory and sensory evaluation program to improve their product’s safety, quality, labeling and product-marketing practices.

Application documents, which are due Sept. 15, are available at the following website:


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