Minnesota Cup
Aug 19, 2014 • By

3 finalists in food at the 2014 Minnesota Cup

Minnesota has long been a hot bed for innovation – particularly when it comes to the food industry. That’s why I was so excited to be on the judging panel for and also host the 10th annual Minnesota Cup food division competition “Pitch Slam.”

The Minnesota Cup is a competition for entrepreneurs, inventors and small businesses working on innovative new business concepts. Ideas are judged by diverse review boards filled with experienced business professionals.

This was the first year the competition featured a food/agriculture/beverage division. We, at General Mills, strongly urged Minnesota Cup founders to create the category to offer a unique learning flow – entrepreneurs receive help developing a scalable business plan and model while we learn how to become more nimble, get closer to the consumer and execute an emerging scale approach to the market.

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John Haugen, vice president of our 301 INC new business development division, kicked off the event sharing his genuine excitement for all the great ideas proposed through the competition and what a privilege it has been thus far to see the world through the eyes of true innovators.

“This competition is such a natural fit for General Mills to be part of and one that we are truly passionate about because through our involvement, we are able to showcase the talented and forward-thinking entrepreneurs that call Minnesota home,” said John. “Programs like Minnesota Cup enable an incredible channel for us to draw continuous sources of creative ideas and incubate growth in our industry.”

Over the last few weeks, the judges poured through 52 proposals and narrowed it down to 10 companies who each presented their business case in three minutes to a lively audience of fellow entrepreneurs, colleagues, industry mentors and sponsors.

The finale was undoubtedly the highlight of my evening – I had the honor of announcing the three finalists in the Food/Ag/Beverage division who will move on to the next round.

The auditorium got very quiet, everyone in attendance waited with baited breath on the edge of their seats.  And the finalists are …

Locally Laid Egg Company – Mission-based farmers who aim to change the way eggs are produced in America.

minnesota cup

Punk Rawk Labs, Inc. – Creators of living cuisine – organically handmade, gourmet, dairy-free cheeses.

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Trovita Health Science – An emerging specialty health and nutrition company creating products to address unmet needs in medical and performance nutrition.

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Jason and Luce Amundsen, founders of Locally Laid Egg Company, told me afterward about their product and their experience in the Minnesota Cup.

“Being a part of this competition has really helped us to expand our perspective and spread our wings,” said Alissa Barthel, founder of Punk Rawk Labs. “The networking and mentoring throughout the process have been incredible. But really, it’s just about soaking up as much knowledge and experience as we can.”

I also talked with Will Brown of Trovita, about the product they developed.


After the event, we received an outpouring of positive feedback from the leaders of the Minnesota Cup and those involved.

“We’re incredibly grateful for your leadership and contribution to this year’s Cup,” said Melissa Kjolsing, executive director of the Minnesota Cup. “You’ve made this new division possible and as a result, a great community is being formed to support Minnesota’s food entrepreneurs.”

2014 minnesota cup

In the next two weeks, the judging panel will narrow the three finalists down to one divisional winner which will be announced on August 27.

The final step will be September 10 when the overall Cup winner will be announced. The prize is $30,000 for divisional winners and $50,000 for the overall Minnesota Cup winner.

To view the news release issued by Minnesota Cup announcing all of the division finalists, click here.

Read about last year’s event and the announcement of the new food category here.