Oat-based beverages give dairy a run for its milk money 

The plant-based beverage industry is a $9.8 billion market projected to swell to $16 billion this year, and more entrants are competing not just with dairy but also with mainstream vegan options like coconut, almond, and soy. Frothy oat milk is one such alternative seeing a surge, gaining favor with baristas for its foam-ability and with consumers for its smoothness and sustainability.


Oatly is a 25-year-old Swedish oat milk brand that’s recently ascended across the U.S., expanding from 10 retail locations in New York to more than 1,000 locations nationwide in a year. In addition to its regular and chocolate varieties, the company offers a Barista Edition Oatmilk that purportedly doesn’t separate when poured into coffee or tea like some dairy alternatives and foams up nicely in “cappOATccinos.” All varieties are gluten- and GMO-free and sold on the company’s playfully toned website, which also features dozens of Oatly videos that are “potentially to most watched films about oats ever.”


A legacy brand that’s innovated to meet shifting consumer demand, Elmhurst began as a traditional dairy in 1925 and is now gaining traction in the wellness world and beyond thanks to the company's decision to overhaul production last year and focus on plant-based alternatives. The New York-based brand offers almond milk as well as milked cashews, walnuts and hazelnuts. It also recently launched the country’s first peanut milk in regular and chocolate varieties along with milked brown rice and—you guessed it—milked oats. Like Oatly, Elmhurst products are also free of GMOs and gluten.


This January, Starbucks announced that it would roll out oat milk across the UK in response to demand from consumers for more plant-based alternatives. Per Veg News, Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson revealed that the company plans to increase its profits by developing more plant-based options. The company added almond milk to its menus in 2015 and has since introduced coconut milk to build its non-dairy milk options. On the retail side, Starbucks announced last year that it would also debut plant-based versions of its bottled Frappuccinos in mocha and vanilla flavors by May 2018.