I can still remember my first sip of oat milk. The year: 2016. The place: Butler Café in Brooklyn, New York, a few blocks from my old apartment (the second coffee shop in town that it wears that I would learn from later) The New Yorker). A steaming hot and incredibly creamy latte later, and I was obsessed with the rest of my hipster foodie neighborhood who wasn’t used to sleeping on an expensive plant-based milk trend. Williamsburg saw what can only be called oat milk, and Oatly, the Swedish brand that brought oat milk to the US, could not keep up with demand. Brooklynites grew grumpy – and desperate, with some spilling out $ 20 a liter on Amazon New Yorker reported at the time. (I admit that I only have three boxes in stock at a time when my grocer has received a shipment.)
Four years later, this local shortage of oat milk has given way to a nationwide blessing. According to the market research company SPINS, sales in US dollars have increased by 1
So what’s behind the ongoing passion for oat milk?
First and foremost: have you tried the stuff? The incredibly creamy mouthfeel, the light sweetness. Soy milk (“the consumer did not care about the taste”) and almond milk (“astringent in coffee”) could never reach the taste fandom in a wider population, says Aimitus. (In my family’s fridge, which is filled with various dairy products, Oatly is the only one that my dairy father thinks is acceptable.) I can vouch for his taste directly on cereals, in coffee and in baked goods. In contrast to most of the competition, oat milk emulsifies wonderfully in coffee – hence the latte craze. (It also foams fabulously in a homemade cappuccino, by the way.) And “it’s very good for baking,” adds Aimitus.
The science behind his cravings? “We love sweet and we love fat, and you get a little bit of both with oat milk,” says Aimitus. Many oat milk products are fortified with a little vegetable oil, which enhances the buttery feeling of creaminess on your tongue, explains Aimitus. And they often contain some sugars that are naturally produced in the production of oat milk when part of the oat starch breaks down into sugar molecules.
Oat milk has also got it going from a nutritional point of view. It is allergen-friendly – free from tree nuts, soy and gluten. (However, not all brands are made in a gluten-free facility, so check certification if you have celiac disease.) Many varieties do not contain added sugar that some are looking for. Thanks to the LDL-lowering beta-glucan fiber, the industry is enjoying the marketing of oats as heart-healthy food. (Oat milk usually contains one or two grams per cup.) “Before people try oat milk, they are generally aware of the health-promoting activities of oats,” explains Aimitus.
Then there is the S-word: sustainability. “Oat milk [tells] A better story from a sustainability and environmental perspective than even almond, cashew or coconut, ”says Aimitus. Oats are cheap and easy to grow. “We can plant oats whenever we can plant wheat and corn, while cashews and coconuts only grow in certain tropical regions,” explains Aimitus. Growing and processing oats also requires significantly less labor and water. “Large farmers can grow oats fairly easily, while cashew nuts and almonds are very labor intensive [and] more water intensive. “(The poor PR of almond milk due to the exorbitant water consumption has affected my love of the stuff.) And with an efficient supply chain, companies can quickly turn new products around, adds Aimitus.
Last month, Oatly received the ultimate seal of cultural recognition. Oprah invested in the company, as did Jay-Z and Natalie Portman. The review? Cool two billion dollars. Meanwhile, Aimitus keeps an eye on new products from “the next oatmeal in the world”.