Agropur, Canada, launched Inno Accel, what is said to be North America's first accelerator for dairy businesses. The first cohort of five young entrepreneurs from Canada and the United States aims to help reinvigorate and reinvent dairy with the support of Patrick Gagné, chief executive officer of the OSMO Foundation, Canada, Jérôme Ferrer, chef and co-owner of the Europea Group, Italy, and a strong network of mentors.

Inno Accel is an offshoot of the Inno Agropur program, an open innovation initiative in the North American dairy industry. It matches Agropur's resources with high-potential start-ups to reinvent dairy and quickly bring innovations to market.

The five North American businesses selected for the first Inno Accel cohort are:

  • U Main, a Montreal, Canada-based company that develops do-it-yourself artisanal cheesemaking kits.
  • Sweetaly Dolceria, an Oceanside, Calif.-based processor of decadent desserts using simple ingredients and the owners’ Italian grandmother’s traditional recipes.
  • SaltiSweet Ice Cream Factory, Littleton, Colo., is revolutionizing ice cream novelties by replacing the stick with a biscuit, eliminating the environmental footprint of wood.
  • Cheese Grotto, Brooklyn, N.Y., makes cheese storage devices to preserve fine cheeses under ideal conditions.
  • Peak Yogurt, a San Francisco-based processor of triple-cream, low-sugar yogurt that takes its cue from the ketogenic diet.

The group will spend 4 months at Inno Accel, and will be supported by two mentors and some 20 coaches with different areas of expertise (marketing, sales, R&D, etc.) who will provide guidance and help develop an environment that resembles real-life conditions in the business world and the food industry.

The entrepreneurs are:

  • David Côté, co-founder, LOOP Mission, Canada
  • Daniel Drouet, chief operating officer, Soko, Canada
  • Alex Mensi, co-founder, Mango Software, Canada
  • Nectarios Economakis, founding partner, The PNR, Canada
  • Marie-Ève Prévost, co-founder, MissFresh, Canada

Agropur launched its innovation program in 2016.

"The global economic environment which are highly competitive, and the global economic context, including the AEUMC, require companies to constantly question their ways of doing things. Thus, innovation is a necessity, even a condition for survival for the entire dairy industry. For Agropur, which is celebrating its 80th anniversary and is resolutely turned toward the future, we absolutely have to develop new market opportunities and new alliances for dairy production with partners who are characterized by their inventiveness and agility," says Robert Coallier, chief executive officer of Agropur.

In addition to Agropur's expertise, the pilot plant in Saint-Hubert, Canada, and the new co-creation room at Agropur’s head office, allows members of the first Inno Accel cohort to benefit from partnerships with pillars of the entrepreneurial ecosystem such as the OSMO Foundation, FoodBytes! by Rabobank, New York, and the Quartier de l'innovation, Canada. Inno Accel will therefore be able to build on its strong connections with innovation platforms and foodie entrepreneurs to achieve its global ambitions.

"With Inno Accel, we have a catalyst for that energy and the opportunity to work on projects in an industry that is new for us—the rich and stimulating world of dairy," says Patrick Gagné, ambassador and entrepreneur-in-residence of OSMO.