Kerry’s functional oats are at the forefront of plant-based milk technology

Radicle by Kerry

Radicle by Kerry offers functional oats that are at the forefront of plant-based milk technology, thanks to the brand’s four pillar approach.

Consumer demand for plant-based milk continues to grow, with the oat beverage market reportedly worth $4 billion globally as of 2020, according to AP Food Online.

Jie Ying, Senior Strategic Marketing Manager of Kerry Asia Pacific, Middle East, Africa (APMEA), says that oat milk has been growing in popularity due to its compatibility with coffee, creamy texture, and similarity to dairy milk.

“It’s a market game changer because it can deliver the same type of drinking experience as a latte but is 100 per cent plant-based,” says Jie Ying.

Taste and nutrition solutions provider Kerry has used an insight-led approach to innovation and technology to create healthy ingredients for the past 40 years. However, it wasn’t until last year that Kerry decided to gather all its plant-based knowledge under one brand: Radicle by Kerry.

Jie Ying says Radicle by Kerry seeks to produce sustainable plant-based food and beverages that are authentic in taste and texture.

“We have accumulated more than 10 years of knowledge that comes from a lot of research and development and technology investment into this [plant-based] space,” says Jie Ying.

A study titled ‘APMEA Consumer Insight into Dairy Alternative Beverages’ by Kerry researched attitudes and perceptions towards oat milk consumption. These insights influenced the four pillars and solutions Radicle by Kerry offers.

“I usually use oat milk for my tea as it has a thick and creamy body. Almond milk is lacking in mouthfeel and texture,” said one participant from Australia.

Another participant from China said they liked using oat milk in coffee, however, they were concerned about the carbohydrates and lower protein, as compared to almond and soy milk.

The study further found that millennials were the largest consumer group driving APMEA oat milk consumption, and outlined four driving factors of oat consumption: health, taste, food and retail service, and sustainability.

Kerry has more than 10 years of knowledge in the plant-based market.

It was found that oat milk’s ability to offer higher health benefits and its ability to complement coffee and imitate dairy milk texture played crucial roles in increasing consumer demand.

The study also found that an increased demand for consumer customisation in retail service, alongside oat milk’s low environmental impact, have all driven the popularity of oat milk. This insight study, combined with Radicle by Kerry’s proprietary technology, formed the basis for Kerry’s Functional Oats.

“We called it ‘functional’ because other than adding the goodness of whole grain oats to the end product, it is very easy to use in end application and an environmentally friendly product,” Jie Ying says.

According to Jie Ying, while having a sustainable plant base like Functional Oats is important, delivering an optimised consumption experience is key in achieving consumer acceptance.

Radicle by Kerry’s Functional Oats goes through a proprietary process that allows it to have various functional properties, including being ready to drink, across several beverage applications. Oat milk can be easily made with our functional oats by combining sunflower oil, water and our Sherex system.

“[Sherex] is our propriety blend of stabilisers and emulsifiers that actually forms this texture system. It gives you the mouthfeel and, most importantly, it gives you stabilisation, so the oat milk does not separate when standing on the shelf,” says Jie Ying.

Radicle by Kerry supplies Functional Oats to its clients who are typically within the food and beverage manufacturing sector. These clients then use the oat product to improve existing products or create new innovations.

“We use a four-pillar holistic approach that encompass functionality, taste, sustainability, and nutrition to provide an integrated solution that will enable our customers to create superior tasting dairy alternative beverages,” Jie Ying says.

The functionality pillar looks at how Radicle by Kerry manufactures its plant-based milk to perform similarly to dairy fats, proteins, and solids while maintaining product stability. The taste pillar examines whether a client wants a product to be creamier or emulate the taste and texture of real dairy.

“The main challenge for barista plant-based milk is getting them to complement the taste of the coffee rather than dominating them. Barista oat milk is a plant-based milk that is not only neutral in taste but also able to perform similarly to dairy milk especially in drinks such as a latte,” says Jie Ying.

“With the Radicle by Kerry platform, customers can create their signature oat milk, tailored to their market needs, without compromising on the taste and functionality.”

Jie Ying says a key factor in taste is the oats themselves and where and how they are sourced, which ties into the pillar of sustainability.

“Different types of oat have different tastes. The United States is one of the top oat producing nations in the world and is where we source our oats because we know we can get really great quality,” says Jie Ying.

Jie Ying says oats are currently the most sustainable type of plant-based milk, with the crop requiring minimal water to grow.

Kerry sources its oats from sustainable farms across the United States.

“When we extract oats, we utilise all of the oats, resulting in less waste and producing a more sustainable product,” says Jie Ying.

Radicle by Kerry’s Functional Oats uses a proprietary process that reduces the production time needed to create oat milk, as compared to using an oat kernel.

“We also produce the oats in powder format which is a more environmentally friendly way to transport the goods around the world,” adds Jie Ying.

Radicle by Kerry’s last pillar looks at the nutritional value of the product and what solutions it can offer clients. The macronutrient protein has numerous health benefits from lowering blood pressure to building muscle, with Jie Ying saying consumer demand for protein filled plant-based milks has been high, but previously, not easily achievable.

“If you were to incorporate protein into your product, usually it has an undesirable aftertaste,” says Jie Ying. “A technology we use to overcome this is our ProDiem Complete, which is a blend of pea and rice protein. It provides the same protein quality as dairy protein and great taste and mouthfeel.”

Radicle by Kerry’s Functional Oat Milk also offers 3 to 5 per cent beta glucan, a fibre that comes from the whole grain oat.

“You don’t get a lot of fibre in plant-based milks, and even cow’s milk has zero fibre,” says Jie Ying. “Right now, I think rather than trying to make up for the lack of nutrients in plant-based milk, consumers are after adding extra nutrition in plant-based milk.”

Jie Ying says this stretches to an increased consumer demand for oat products which offer higher immunity and can be easily built into an everyday diet.

By rising to meet consumer demands through Radicle by Kerry’s four pillars, Jie Ying believes the company can tap into the rising oat milk market, where new consumers and hybrid product markets await.

“Especially with so many investments, it’s a very heated space that still hasn’t matured yet. The future is definitely moving into a functional, targeted type of personal wellness,” Jie Ying says.

Soon, she predicts, beverage manufacturers will have oat milk for every different age group and vocation, for health benefits in sport recovery to compatibility with coffee in the café.

“Functional Oat products are really about adding value. The innovation is endless, and I believe it’s up to the creativity of our customers or manufactures and how they would like to differentiate themselves in the market,” Jie Ying says.

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This article appears in the August 2021 edition of BeanScene. Subscribe HERE.

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