Opinion

What's driving oat milk sales and where's it headed?

By Philip Rayner

- Last updated on GMT

Philip Raynor 'spills the alternative milk': Why oat drink is so successful
Philip Raynor 'spills the alternative milk': Why oat drink is so successful

Related tags Oat alternative ingredients Nutrition Trends

The co-owner and managing director of Glebe Farm Foods looks at what the future may hold for the humble oat as consumer tastes and needs continue to evolve.

Oat drink is leading the way in the milk alternative market. While dairy alternative milk products saw an overall decline last year, oat drinks bucked the trend as the only one to see growth.1

Glebe Farm Foods commissioned research with 2,000 UK adults which revealed that the key purchase drivers for oat milk are taste and natural ingredients.1​ This means consumers aren’t just turning to dairy-alternative drinks as substitutes, but see them as delicious, healthy, and nutritious products in their own right.

Additionally, we’ve seen that health and dietary concerns are a big factor driving plant-based food and drink growth. Our research has shown that over a third of oat drink drinkers say that they’ve noticed positive changes in their health over the past year as a result of switching to oat drink.2

Overall consumers are increasingly adopting a flexitarian diet with reduced meat and dairy consumption. Our research found that 39% of consumers are already reducing their meat and dairy intake so will be looking for plant-based alternatives.2 ​Other factors that influence people’s choices include the desire to buy locally and sustainably. This doesn’t just apply to oat drinks of course, but it shows the importance of ensuring that more and more products are available to people that meet this need.

How are consumers’ demands evolving?

Consumer habits have undergone a transformation in recent years, largely propelled by a heightened awareness of health and sustainability concerns. As an industry, it is our responsibility to remain at the forefront of these changes to ensure that individuals have an extensive range of choice.

One big trend among consumers is food provenance: where food comes from. In Glebe Farm Food’s consumer survey, almost two thirds felt it was important to know about the source of their food and drink.3

Despite this, this information isn’t always readily available. For example, although 91% of dairy milk is produced in Britain,4​ more than 80% of oat drinks are imported.5​ This comes as a surprise to many consumers, particularly those who have switched towards a plant-based diet because of concerns over the environmental impact of what they consume.

Philip Raynor
Philip Rayner, Co-owner and Managing Director of Glebe Farm Foods

We believe that consumers deserve better transparency. At Glebe Farm Foods, our oats are 100% sown, grown, milled and packed in the UK, so we know where every single one of our oats has come from. Being British-grown and produced means we have the lowest food miles on the market too.

As food provenance becomes more of a focus for consumers, we expect to see more people actively seeking plant-based products grown and produced in the UK.

What does this mean for oat producers?

The increase in consumers turning to oat-based products presents producers with new opportunities and challenges.

We are seeing an increase in food intolerances and allergies. Already 1% of the UK population has Coeliac disease, and (as shown by our own research) 10% either already follow a gluten-free diet or would like to.2​ The UK places high importance over allergen safety and quality of food products. This means oat producers and manufactures will need to ensure their oats are at the highest gluten-free quality to ensure they’re not excluding a growing need.

At Glebe Farm Foods, we use advanced testing techniques to achieve the highest standard of gluten-free oats possible. This means manufacturers who use our oats and oat flour have confidence their products are 100% gluten-free and can be marketed as such.

Aside from the oat production industry, gluten-free oats present major opportunities for food product manufacturers. Oats are extremely versatile and provide huge opportunities for manufactures to use them within a range of food products – from meat products and baked goods, to soups, smoothies and more. By ensuring manufacturers use gluten-free oats they are guaranteeing their products are accessible to all.

We’re also seeing a lot of growth in our oat flour products which are used as a substitute for white flour in food manufacture. Oat flour doesn’t have a distinctive taste so food manufacturers can use it in their products without compromising flavours.

When comparing to white flour, oat flour is nutritionally superior as it contains fat, proteins and starch. Oat flour is naturally gluten-free, making it suitable for those who are coeliac intolerant or those following a gluten-free diet.

How Glebe Farm is responding to oat demand

As a leading oat producer, we recognise the growing demand for high quality oats and oat products. Our PureOaty drink caters for all, including those with dairy or gluten intolerance and allergies, concerns about provenance and sustainability, or those wanting to improve their overall gut health.

By prioritising sustainable farming practices and carefully selecting ingredients, we ensure the highest quality oat drinks for our consumers. We’re always seeking to understand how we can ensure people get the choice they want, and we speak to our consumers regularly to help us innovate in the right way.

We also continue to set ourselves apart from the market by being the only oat drink in the UK that holds the Crossed Grain trademark from Coeliac UK. All our products are certified gluten-free, including granolas, flours and dairy alternative drinks. We are so proud of this as we know the importance of providing the highest quality oat products to our customers.

References

  1. Source: Nielsen Scantrack 52 WE 31 December 2022 vs YA
  2. Research, commissioned by Glebe Farm, was carried out online between 29 and 31 March 2023 among a nationally representative sample of 2,000 adults in the UK.
  3. Glebe Farm, Farmers Market Report 2023. Commissioned by Glebe Farm in collaboration with Censuswide, it explores the views of over 2,000 nationally representative UK consumers over 16 alongside secondary market data from reputable sources.
  4. Dairy market and self-sufficiency webinar, AHDB, December 2020
  5. IRI All Outlets 52 w/e 13th August 2022

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