MilkLab oat

Milklab on the long-awaited release of Milklab Oat milk

Australian milk for coffee brand Milklab has announced the long-awaited launch of its latest plant-based product, Milklab Oat.

One of Milklab’s many defining features is the breadth and variety of its range, from dairy and lactose-free milks to the popular almond and soy and even offbeat options like coconut and macadamia. However, one plant-based milk was notably absent from the Milklab range, until now.

Milklab Oat milk will officially launch in the second half of June 2021, completing the Australian brand’s plant-based portfolio.

“Milklab’s advantage as a brand is the extent of our range. We’re unique with how we provide dairy and lactose-free milks alongside dairy alternatives so can cater to a café’s full milk requirements. We see the ‘holy trinity’ of plant-based milks being almond, soy, and oat, and without oat there was a gap in our portfolio we’ve worked on filling for a while,” says Natalie Latimore, Milklab Marketing Manager.

“Milklab Oat has been years in the making. We’ve come close to releasing it in the past and it’s taken a lot of courage to say ‘no’. It would’ve been a lot easier to launch a product 80 per cent ready a year ago and have that competitive advantage of being one of the first to market, but as a team we agreed it was critical this product was superior to the other oat milks on market.”

Natalie adds it was important that Milklab release a product of a quality that the coffee industry has come to expect from its other products.

“We have an amazing product in Milklab Almond, which is the number one almond milk in the foodservice channel, with year on year growth in the channel. Our almond milk has such a good reputation and loyal following, we want to ensure each and every product we release is of equal quality – with both performance and taste,” Natalie says.

“Oat milk is currently a small segment of the plant-based milk market but it’s also the fastest growing and is looking likely to be the next ‘big thing’ in plant-based beverages. Milklab has set the standard for dairy alternatives, so we’ve ensured not to cut corners undertaking numerous trials and formulation tweaks to make sure we launch a product we’re confident can rival the best.”

Daniel Valenz, Owner of Dan’s Café in Caringbah, taking part in barista validation of Milklab Oat at the first Milklab Barista Social Club.

The Milklab brand is built on collaboration and the brand has continued this approach with the industry, engaging with baristas, café owners, coffee roasters, and distributors for feedback in every round of product development to ensure the milks meet their needs.

“We work closely with our R&D team to develop a formulation we’re happy with then run a production following the standard manufacturing and packaging procedures we would follow for the final product. The sales and marketing team then hit the road and take the new recipe to dozens of cafés to talk to baristas and ask them to test the product and give us their honest feedback,” Natalie says.

“We ask them how they feel about working with the product, which is a really important part of the process. It’s not just about how the product tastes, it’s about how well it heats up, what temperature is required to get the best out of it, the texturing and stretching of the milk, and the latte art performance quality. Then it’s about how it compares to other dairy, dairy alternatives and oat milks on the market. We combine all feedback and share it with the R&D team to make the tweaks to further improve the product, which is quite a long but worthwhile process.”

Three Pence Coffee Roasters in New South Wales is one of the many coffee businesses Milklab has partnered with since its inception, including in the development of Milklab Oat.

“Three Pence Roasters have been working closely with the team at Milklab over the past five-plus years and have enjoyed seeing the brand grow and fill that demand in the market for premium plant-based milks. We are excited to see Milklab Oat launch this year, Milklab’s newest edition to their range,” says Mark Gentle, Director of Three Pence Coffee Roasters. “Having seen the development of this product from start to finish and the way it has changed over this time is amazing. Milklab Oat pairs exceptionally well with both light and dark coffee roasts and doesn’t overpower the coffee notes, allowing the unique flavour of each blend to shine through.”

One of the reasons Mark says oat milk is becoming more popular with consumers is because of its more neutral taste and closer profile to dairy, making it better at replicating the creamy mouthfeel people look for in a milk coffee.

“Anthony [Preston, co-founder of Three Pence Coffee Roasters] and I are looking forward to working alongside the team with the launch of Milklab Oat and continuing our collaboration with the brand to ensure that Milklab maintains their place as market leader when it comes to premium plant-based milks,” Mark says.

Placing the Milklab range side-by-side creates a veritable rainbow of dairy and dairy alternatives. As well as looking good on a coffee bar, Natalie says the design choice serves a practical purpose.

“The colours we choose for each plant-based milk is to help baristas with speed of service. They can quickly spot and pick up the right carton and matching milk jug, so they don’t mix up or cross contaminate milks,” Natalie says.

“We’ve used green, blues, purples, yellow, and of course, orange for almond, so it’s coming to the point we’re almost running out of colours. For Milklab Oat, we went with a contrasting grey, to stand out as something unique, contemporary, and a clear point of difference.”

Another distinguishing feature of Milklab Oat is that, while oat milk is known for its neutral taste, Natalie says it embraces the inherent qualities of oat to improve the overall coffee experience.

“Some of the feedback from our testing was that our oat milk had more of a natural sweetness to it than other products on the market, and that this complemented the espresso rather than taking away from it,” she says.

“Results from consumer sensory research conducted by an independent agency showcased Milklab Oat outperforming the market leader, really cementing that we had an amazing product. That, combined with positive feedback from trade validation, gave us the confidence to launch.”

Not only is Milklab designed in and for the Australia market, the brand was born here and sources its ingredients locally wherever it can, including for Milklab Oat. Natalie says that local focus has been brought to the forefront over the last year.

“As the impact of COVID-19 has settled down and lockdowns have relaxed, we’ve seen month-on-month growth, so the plant-based milk market is not slowing down. We’re even seeing the customer base grow, as dairy drinkers switch to plant-based milks or add them to their repertoire as part of a ‘flexitarian’ based diet,” Natalie says. “One of our philosophies is to never rest on our laurels. We’re continually reviewing all the products in our range in addition to looking towards future additions. That’s how we ensure our products are the best they can be and cater to needs and wants of both baristas and our consumers.”

For more information, visit www.milklabco.com

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

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