First, there was Oatly. Now, established players and startups alike have their own oat milk products.
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Oat milk is a trend three decades in the making.
Oatly, an independent Swedish company, came up with a patented process to turn oats into a beverage that could replace milk in the 1990s. But it wasn’t until the past few years, when the brand underwent a redesign and targeted coffee shops in New York, that consumers took note of the oat. Oatly spread to shops and retailers across the country, and became so popular last year that there were shortages that temporarily drove prices up.
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That’s unlikely to happen again, as competition has heated up in the oat milk space. Major industry players, including HP Hood (under the brand Planet Oat), Quaker Oats, Silk and Pacific Foods now produce their own oat beverages. Nut milk maker Califia also recently introduced its take on oat milk, as did Happy Planet and several upstarts such as Elmhurst 1925, Thrive Market and Minor Figures.
Oat milk has earned praise for its taste and texture from both baristas and consumers, and compared to almond milk, it’s much better for the environment. Little wonder, then, that it’s such an appealing product for these companies. The plant-based milks category brought in $1.6 billion in 2018, a 9 percent increase from 2017. Meanwhile, cow milk sales dropped by $1.1 billion to $13.6 billion in 2018, which farmers attribute to lower milk prices, but it’s safe to say alternative options had an impact as well.