Oat is in

Research shows dairy-free milk has surged in popularity. Australian owned Alternative Dairy Co is determined to capitalise on the trend, expanding its barista range with the introduction of its new oat milk.

Plant-based milks have become a part of Australia’s mainstream café culture. Baristas around the country are now adept at working with non-dairy products, with consumer demand driving cafés to introduce more variety.

According to a 2019 study by Report Buyer, plant-based milk isn’t a simple craze which will fade into obscurity any time soon. The research shows the global alternative milk market is experiencing a compound annual growth rate of 14 per cent and is expected to reach revenues of US$38 billion (about $55 billion) by 2024.

“Where soy was once the hero, almond has now taken over, but there are also other great tasting varieties such as cashew and coconut-based milks driving excitement in the category,” says Emma Seberry, Senior Brand Manager Alternative Dairy Co.

Part of the Sanitarium Health Food Company Stable, Alternative Dairy Co is riding the dairy-free wave in Australia and has been providing premium plant-based milk products designed exclusively for the café trade since 2018. In December 2019, it launched its new offering – oat milk.

“Oat milk has been trending globally due to its creaminess and natural sweetness. This combination makes it unique compared to other plant-based milks as it appeals to the dairy drinking segment too,” Emma says.

Alternative Dairy Co’s oat milk is vegan-friendly, low in sugar, and carrageenan free. Like its soy and almond milk siblings, it’s created specifically for coffee.

“Our products are perfectly designed for use in cafés,” Emma says “We work on a formula where the milk complements rather than overpowers the coffee.”

According to Emma, the decision to source oats from Australian farmers was an easy one, given the brand’s values and its Australian ownership.

“It’s important that we support Australian farmers. It’s a win-win because we’re getting a quality raw ingredient with a small carbon footprint and consumers are getting something that they trust,” she says.

Oats require less water during production, which makes oat milk highly desirable for sustainability-conscious consumers. Additionally, sourcing homegrown ingredients reduces fuel and energy compared to if they were sourced from overseas.

When Alternative Dairy Co’s project team began developing the oat milk, it was projected that it would take 18 months to get the product from the concept stage through to market, but Emma says they recognised that they needed to move quickly.

To do this, Alternative Dairy Co formed a team of specialist food scientists and engineers to fast-track the development of the new oat milk offering.

“Amazingly, they were able to turn the entire project around in six months. We are extremely impressed with our team,” Emma says.

She adds that one of the challenges during production of oat-based products is that oats naturally create sugars, leading to an exponential rise in sweetness that can be overpowering when mixed with coffee.

“But we managed to find a clever method that balances the milk’s sweetness so that it promotes the flavour of the espresso,” Emma says.

In order to test the flavour and find a balance of sweetness that appealed to consumers, a coffee lab was setup with La Marzocco espresso machines at Sanitarium’s manufacturing facilities on the New South Wales Central Coast.

The oat milk was blind tasted and trialled with different beans. Test groups included dairy and non-dairy drinkers to ensure the final flavour appealed to a broad spectrum of consumers.

“The dairy milk consumers told us it’s the best non-dairy milk they’ve tasted because of the creaminess. So, we feel it is probably the closest alternative to milk, which is a great thing,” Emma says.

Alternative Dairy Co’s oat milk is tailor-made for coffee using Australian-sourced oats.

Baristas from St Ali and Glee Coffee Roasters were also invited to try the oat milk during production and provide feedback.

Having perfected the recipe, Sanitarium’s field team has now embarked on an extensive tour of cafés around the country. Its mission is to demonstrate to baristas how the new oat milk performs both in terms of taste and texture, and increase awareness of oat milk among coffee drinkers.

“We work with cafés in a really personal and dependable way because for us at Sanitarium, we are a very collaborative company and are all about the relationships that we build with our customers,” Emma says.

She says that despite the oat milk industry being in its infancy in Australia, the promising performance of oat products overseas, coupled with domestic demand for dairy alternative products, gives her optimism.

“Dairy-free milk is really on trend at the moment for a variety of reasons, whether its environmental, health, or flavour. A lot of people are making the switch – and we’re really passionate about driving the category,” Emma says.

For more information, visit www.altdairyco.com