Midwest Dairy, The Hatchery Chicago® partner for innovation

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Advancing research in dairy is a key strategy of dairy checkoff. Midwest Dairy funds research by focusing efforts on solving industry challenges and partnering with those who take advantage of opportunities in the marketplace to drive demand for dairy. This includes a recent partnership, now in its second year, aimed at building a contest focused on supporting innovative food and beverage entrepreneurs.

In June 2022, Midwest Dairy partnered with one of North America’s largest food and beverage incubators, The Hatchery Chicago®. Together, they hosted a pitch contest offering the winner a six-month free rent to a commercial kitchen located in Chicago’s Garfield Park. Targeting local entrepreneurs, eligible entrants were fully launched or established brands that used at least 25% dairy in their ingredient base. The contest encouraged dairy innovation while also accelerating inclusive economic growth on Chicago’s West Side.

The finalists included Twisted Eggroll, Bartleby’s Ice Cream Cakes, Zimt Cookies, Classic Cobbler and Milky Milky Ice Cream. The business owners pitched their products to a judging panel made up of farmers, processor partners and Midwest Dairy staff.

The winner, Twisted Eggroll, presented an innovative product that brings dairy to an unexpected product. From flavors like southwestern veggie, Philly cheesesteak and buffalo chicken, the impressive dairy-inclusive menu showcased more than 46% of dairy in most ingredients. 

Nikkita Randle, a Chicago native, owns Twisted Egg Roll and began to desire entrepreneurship, cooking and leaving an incredible legacy after a successful career in insurance. After fulfilling a request to make cheesesteak and cheesecake egg rolls, Randle then created a catering service that approached the thought of a traditional egg roll but with an infused spin. 

Randle was curious about the Hatchery competition after receiving an email encouraging her to apply because of her robust use of dairy products. She was in the process of scaling her business to grow, and moving into a commercial kitchen was the next step. Randle was also eager to partner with Midwest Dairy as she saw the financial and networking benefits that came with it. 

“Dairy is essential to our menu,” Randle said. “I am a fan of dairy because the taste and texture always enhance the flavor of our dishes. The quality of the dairy product also makes a difference, and I appreciate the farmers that bring dairy products to the marketplace.”

Twisted Eggroll is grateful to have won this opportunity and truly saw the benefits during their time in the kitchen. Randle admits the business was experiencing some growing pains, but this contest’s financial support gave Twisted Eggroll the time to hire a consultant and allocate other funds to other business projects. They were also able to network and obtain more catering businesses. 

Six months later, and after a successful time in the Hatchery kitchen, Twisted Eggroll is excited to make its way to a new home on the Southside of Chicago. As the 2022 fall recipients of the Neighborhood Opportunity Funds from the City of Chicago, they now own a facility in the Chatham, Chicago, area. Randle is excited to build her facility to service customers more efficiently and mass produce egg rolls as they grow into a nationwide store brand.

Midwest Dairy focused on this project because of its innovation and its many strategic elements. For example, the Chicago location was key. By doing a pitch contest in one of the most populated cities in our 10-state region, we exposed many consumers to these dairy products and are paving the way to bring this contest to other metropolitan areas. Including our processor partners was also a huge goal for Midwest Dairy in hopes we would create checkoff advocates by inviting them to become judges.  

Due to its success, Midwest Dairy is proud to partner with The Hatchery Chicago® again to relaunch this contest in 2023. 

The new contest will officially launch this fall and includes exciting enhancements: Two winners will be awarded access to commercial kitchens. As before, the contest is open to established businesses that use 30% of dairy in their ingredient base with no alternative dairy products. First place will receive one-year free rent to a commercial kitchen, while the second-place winner will receive six months. 

By having two winners, we encourage even more dairy innovation and sales. Our ultimate goal is to allow these food vendors to create a long-standing business that can garnish the funds to move out of The Hatchery kitchen once their time is complete and into their own space to continue selling and promoting dairy products. Midwest Dairy and The Hatchery Chicago® are eager to open this contest once more, encouraging dairy innovation and removing barriers for local food entrepreneurs. Prospective businesses and entrepreneurs are encouraged to apply at bit.ly/midwestdairyhatchery2023.

To learn more about Midwest Dairy’s research strategy and updates about the research initiatives mentioned above, visit www.midwestdairy.com. 


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