While you may be familiar with dairy alternatives such as soy or almond milk, the marketplace has responded to the plant-based milk demand with an increase in other options like pea, hemp, coconut, hazelnut, macadamia, rice, and cashew milk.
The rise of plant-based milks has pushed past the point of merely trendy and staked an impressive financial claim in the food and beverage industry. In fact, milk substitutes are expected become a $16 billion market this year.
As the market grows, so does the popularity of a lesser known alternative: oat milk. Made from mixing steel cut oats with water, oat milk may not initially seem all that different from other plant-based milks. A closer look at the ingredients tells a different story and can offer people with allergies or restrictive diets another option.
While different brands may vary in specific ingredients, oat milk is often made without dairy, soy, or GMOs. Moreover, oat milk is often nut-free, which may help people with allergies. This alternative is also generally void of gluten which might help people diagnosed with Celiac disease.
Restrictive diets aside, oat milk is also high in fiber and can potentially help with weight management. Nutritionist Milly Rollason explained to the Irish Examiner that oat milk is low in fat and may lower cholesterol. While it can offer these benefits, it’s always a good idea to read the label before slipping oak milk into your breakfast routine.
The potential staying power of this new milk substitute may be thanks to the neutral and creamy flavor. Many baristas are embracing oat milk because of its the ability to behave so much like cow’s milk in terms of foaming and heating. Cafe owner, Caroline Bell, told Food & Wine that oat milk’s similarities to traditional milk allows it to be a workable substitute, saying, “We had tried soy, almond, hemp, coconut, and nothing worked with coffee.”
From an environmental point of view, oat milk not only removes cruelty concerns regarding dairy cows but helps save water. Almond milk, a leader in the plant-based milk industry, has raised some concerns over the amount of water needed to farm almonds. Just one almond requires about a gallon of water to grow. Oats, on the other hand, need six times less water than almonds to grow.
While oat milk seems to have come out of nowhere, it's actually been around for a while. Oatly, a leading producer of this substitute, has been making oat milk in Sweden for about 30 years. Oatly found its way to the U.S. by introducing their product to those in the front lines of the coffee industry: baristas.
By initially skipping supermarkets and going straight to coffee lovers, the company sparked the new craze last March. Oatly was only stocked in 10 shops when they first came to the U.S., but the company is now in more than 1,000 locations and is growing. While oat milk is still not sold in the majority of American grocery stores , those who are curious to try this new alternative can also make it at home.