Real California Milk Accelerator finalists: High protein kefir and collagen lattes

By Beth Newhart

- Last updated on GMT

Milk innovation from WheyUp and Good Citizens landed the finalists $25,000 each. Pics: California Milk Advisory Board
Milk innovation from WheyUp and Good Citizens landed the finalists $25,000 each. Pics: California Milk Advisory Board

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Earlier this month, the first accelerator sponsored by the California Milk Advisory Board (CMAB) saw presentations from nine dairy finalists, driven by fluid milk innovation.

After participating in the accelerator, the startup finalists now face the challenge of scaling up their business for the commercial market. Bears Nutrition came in first​ and was awarded $250,000, and the remaining eight companies received $25,000 each.

The CMAB set out looking for “high-growth potential liquid milk applicants, with cow’s milk making up at least 50% of their formula.”​ The applicants also had to commit to producing their products in California if they won the competition in order to make an economic impact on the local dairy farmers and processors.

Eliminating collagen powders

Kiowa Saunders from Good Citizens told DairyReporter that his collagen milk latte product came in third. The brand is known for its organic mac n’ cheese products, but Saunders decided to branch out into the fluid dairy category after seeing a post for the accelerator in August.

good citizens

The team developed four varieties of the collagen milk lattes in just 50 days after being accepted to the Real California Milk program in mid-September.

“Being an ex-retailer I tend to follow trends, and what I know is that RTD coffee uses a large amount of milk in the beverage, and it’s growing quickly,”​ Saunders said.

Starbucks has traditionally been a major player in the market, but has recently been losing share to smaller premium coffee chains like La Colombe. Saunders chose to combine RTD coffee with collagen because he saw it as another major beverage trend with room to improve.

The products use whole milk instead of reduced fat milk because Saunders sees it making a comeback. The company also includes 10g of collagen, which has 9g of protein. He said the accelerator “did a great job of teeing up mentors to chat with and get guidance from,”​ and he felt like Good Citizens performed well in the competition considering how quickly the new beverage came together.

The company is currently going through the regulatory process to finalize the nutritional panels labels for legal content. They then plan to launch in Whole Foods in southern California as a pilot, as well as Costco in northern California and Equinox gyms.

Leveraging California's on-the-go lifestyle

Another finalist in the accelerator was WheyUp, a protein and probiotics rich kefir enhanced with whey protein isolate. Founder Aman Gill told DairyReporter that it’s designed to be an alternative to workout beverages for a variety of active consumers.


Gill said it differs from traditional kefir because its innovative processing methods make it lower viscosity and it utilizes a blend of cultures that give it a mild, creamy texture without any added sugar or flavors. It contains 21g protein, 170 calories and 0g added sugar per 8oz bottle.

The startup’s main mission is to bring innovation to the dairy marketplace working with functionality, flavor and health. Gill’s background in dairy science gave her the idea for the product when the accelerator was first announced.

In the past three months, her experience with the CMAB accelerator helped transform her idea into physical reality. She said the program’s network helped her build good connections in the industry and learn about the dairy process from end-to-end.

“I think the way they set up the accelerator was very clear and concise and focused, in requiring that it be Real California Milk and also in making sure it’s produced in California. It made sure the products would stay and flourish in the states,”​ Gill said.

The program mentors have stayed in contact with all the finalists and are encouraging of their success, according to Gill. They are offering their continued support to help the products to flourish in California.

“Personally for my product, it’s specifically for that on-the-go active consumer, and when you think of California it’s that on-the-go active lifestyle. So I’m really gearing for that market and I feel like that market is in California,”​ Gill said.