Dairy Innovation Initiative Announces 10 Finalists for the Inaugural Northeastern Dairy Product Innovation Competition

Dairy Innovation Initiative Announces 10 Finalists for the Inaugural Northeastern Dairy Product Innovation Competition

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, an initiative that 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.” 

Over 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: 

“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.  

From May until early August, finalists will receive industry mentorship and entrepreneurship coaching that will include support with pitch development, as well as technical training, and identifying industry networking and resource opportunities. Industry experts who are participating as mentors include: Brian Bailey founding co-owner and creator of Yancey’s Fancy, Inc. Cheeses, Marla Buerk of Dairy Management Inc., Tim Cooley of American Dairy Association North East, Steve Funk of Nelson-Jameson Inc., Judy Keenan of Dairy Management Inc., Sheila Marshman of SUNY Morrisville, School of Agriculture, Business & Technology, Pulari Nair of Rich Products Corporation, Gil Tansman of DSM, Jeff Warner of Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, Esperanza Wingard of HP Hood LLC, and Tristan Zuber-Hrobuchak of Chr. Hansen. 

“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.  

The competition culminates on August 8 at Cornell University’s Stocking Hall in Ithaca, New York, where finalists will pitch their products to a committee of judges. Finalists will be evaluated on:  

  • Dairy product concept and execution 
  • Dairy product innovation and improvement 
  • Viability of commercialization and business model 
  • Use of dairy ingredients 
  • Consumer value 

The competition’s committee of judges includes John Crishman, CEO of the American Dairy Association North East, Sue Miller, award-winning cheesemaker and co-owner of Birchrun Hills Farm, and Vermont Secretary of Agriculture, Food and Markets Anson Tebbetts. 

To learn more about the Northeastern Dairy Product Innovation Competition, visit: www.dairyinnovation.org/product-competition/ 

To learn more about the Northeast Dairy Foods Research Center, visit: www.cals.cornell.edu/northeast-dairy-foods-research-center 

To learn more about the Northeast Dairy Business Innovation Center, visit: www.agriculture.vermont.gov/dbic