This photo has been used for illustrative purpose only.
Almond, soy, coconut, nonfat or whole? American stores offer a dizzying array of milk but a new option is experiencing unprecedented growth and fast becoming a vegan favourite: oat milk.
The oat milk market was virtually non-existent five years ago, but in the 12 months to April 2019 revenues from the sale of the non-dairy creamy drink catapulted 222 percent, according to The Good food Institute.
In recent months, Starbucks, American yogurt giant Chobani, and Nesquik have all started offering oat milk, known for its nutritional and environmental benefits.
"There seems to be a buzz around oat milk, especially in the US, which isn't there with other plant-based milks," Andy Coyne, food correspondent at research firm GlobalData, said.
Swedish world leader Oatly entered the US market in 2016 by first offering oat milk in coffee shops for cappuccinos and lattes.
"(That) was a very clever piece of ground-up marketing from Oatly," said Coyne. "It became a word of mouth phenomenon and its popularity has grown from there."
"Almond milk is great but it tastes like almond," said Peter Truby, chief marketing officer at Elmhurst, an American oat milk producer.
"And what if you don't want an almond taste in your coffee and you're just looking for something creamy to go with your coffee and will not overpower it?" he added.
While oats have a very common-man image, Oatly succeeded in positioning oat milk as a high-end product by first establishing it in the coffee market.
Now it is ubiquitous on shelves across supermarkets.
For Mike Messersmith, president for North America at Oatly, on top of taste, oat milk has two other advantages which fit well with the rise of veganism.
Firstly, its nutritional properties: It's low in calories, possesses lots of fiber, has more protein than other grains and unlike soy or almonds is known to cause few allergies.
Secondly, it "minimizes the impact on our natural resources," Messersmith told.
The production of cow's milk and almond milk requires about 15 and 8 times the amount of water needed to make oat milk respectively, according to a study published in the journal Science in 2018.
"Sustainability is becoming an important selling point and it's something that clearly resonates with consumers," said Coyne, the food correspondent.
"I think it will take a few years because almond milk has been dominant for a long time," predicted Truby.
"But just like almond milk overcame soy, I really see oat milk becoming the leader."
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