Contest for new ideas for milk products aims to help NY dairy farmers

The state has teamed up with a Brooklyn venture capital firm to spur development of new milk products that will support dairy farms statewide, officials said.

The state Department of Agriculture and Markets, New York Dairy Promotion Order Advisory Board and VentureFuel Inc. have started a competition, MilkLaunch, to encourage businesses, entrepreneurs, farmers and others to invent products that contain at least 50% fluid milk.

The contest comes as milk consumption continues to fall nationwide.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture reports fluid milk use has dropped 40% since 1975 as consumers turn to alternatives, such as soy milk and almond milk. The rise of milk alternatives were cited by Borden Dairy Co. in Dallas as one of the reasons for its Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing earlier this year. 

The MilkLaunch contest includes more than $250,000 worth of prizes, including laboratory time, marketing assistance and support from food scientists at Cornell University’s Food Processing Development Laboratory and Sensory Evaluation Program.

The dairy industry is the biggest component of New York’s agricultural sector, with the state being the fourth largest producer of milk in the country, second largest producer of yogurt and largest producer of cottage cheese and sour cream.

MilkLaunch will spur “innovation of the next great dairy product to provide consumers with a new and fresh way to enjoy the delicious flavor and health benefits of milk and boost the New York dairy industry,” state Agriculture Commissioner Richard Ball said last week.

Development of the Greek-style yogurt Chobani began in upstate Chenango County in 2005. Creator Hamdi Ulukaya, a Turkish immigrant, has given upstate dairy farms a shot in the arm. The Chobani factory in South Edmeston and headquarters in Norwich employ about 1,000 people.

VentureFuel founder Fred Schonenberg said the MilkLaunch contest will cause inventors “to rethink what is possible and to deliver exciting milk-based products that customers will love.”

More information is available at venturefuel.net/nymilklaunch. The deadline to apply is Sept. 15.

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