Oat Milk Sales Surge During COVID-19
Surging oat milk sales made the news at the onset of the COVID-19 outbreak as consumers rushed to stock up on their favorite products. Oat milk was already on the rise as the next big thing in plant-based milk alternatives, but the sudden demand for oat milk in stores put a spotlight on this emerging product.
Baristas Choose Oat Milk and Consumers Love It!
The plant-based milk alternative section has evolved quickly—from soy to almond to coconut milk and then on to seed milks - like hemp and flaxseed - new nut milk alternatives (like cashew and hazelnut), and high-protein milk alternatives such as those made from pea protein. While these products all have their own unique flavors, textures, and benefits, one thing they have in common is their start in retail.
Oat milk’s path was distinctly different. One by one, the country’s leading coffee shops began adopting oat milk as their go-to plant-based milk alternative for use in coffee beverages. This new barista favorite offered the creaminess of milk, a mild and pleasant taste, and excellent functionality in lattes. Countless Americans tried oat milk for the first time at their local coffee shops, were won over, and then picked some up at the grocery store.
What Consumers Love About Oat Milk
Consumers embrace oat milk for a variety of reasons—including sensory appeal, functionality in cooking, health and nutrition benefits, and environmental sustainability. It is often a combination of factors that elevate oat milk to a household staple for many consumers. Oat milk satisfies consumers’ desire for something new while also providing a creamy texture and neutral taste that is both familiar and comforting.
Favorite home uses for oat milk include drinking it as a delicious beverage, adding it as a creamer in coffee and tea, and pouring it on breakfast cereal. Oat milk’s functionality in cooking also makes it a popular ingredient in soups, pasta sauces, and macaroni and cheese. Consumers can even get their oat milk in prepared foods such as oat milk ice cream, yogurt, and cold brew coffee lattes.
The health halo around oats is not only based on conventional wisdom that a bowl of oatmeal makes a healthy breakfast but also on scientific evidence on the health benefits of oats. As a whole grain, oats are an important source of dietary fiber. In addition, the beta-glucan fiber in oats, which is linked to cholesterol-lowering effects, makes oats eligible for an FDA heart health claim. Oat milk is also allergy-free, unlike soy and nut milk alternatives, as well as gluten-free or non-gluten.
Packaging and Claims
Oat milk is available in an array of packaging options to meet consumers’ different needs. Consumers can choose from cartons or bottles, refrigerated or shelf-stable, and family size or single-serve options. The most popular packaging claims are application call-outs (such as “for baristas”) and allergy-free claims (such as soy-free, nut-free, and gluten-free). Other oat milk claims include no sugar added, no gums added, non-GMO, and low-to-no irrigation and tilling.