Oat milk comeback

Oat milk comeback

Oat milk is back! I probably tried it for the first time 10-15 years ago. The oat milk comeback is evident now that coffee shops have it on display and/or announce it on the blackboard.

Oat milk comeback evidence

I used the trusty Google Trends to check how interest in oat milk has changed over the past 5 years.

Worldwide, interest has increased in the past few years. The first peak in the graph below is from January 2018, with another big peak in January 2019.

In Australia, however, there are a lot more peaks and valleys, the first of which in the past 5 years happened on January 2015. The second notable peak in the middle of the graph below happened in June-July 2017, followed by one in April, July and October 2019.

Where is oat milk most popular?

Again, based on Google searches in the past year, it seems that folks in the UK are the most interested in oat milk, followed by Ireland, Canada, the US and New Zealand. Australia ranks 7th in this list.

Within Australia, VIC leads the chart followed by NSW, which matches the coffee shop culture trends (see graph below).

Why oat milk?

It is another alternative for those seeking dairy-free alternatives to regular milk due to health issues (e.g. lactose intolerance) or lifestyle choices.

Moreover, oats have often regarded as a health food with good reason: they are high in fibre (notably β-glucan) and low in glycaemic index. Therefore, they are great for regulating blood lipids and sugar.

Ingredients

Unlike almond milk, which can be made at home with just gaalmonds and water, oat milk needs a few more ingredients to have the right consistency. This means that drinking oat milk is potentially not as healthy as eating plain whole oats. Below are the ingredients lists for common oat milks available in supermarkets.

  • Coles Organic Unsweetened Oat Milk: Filtered water, organic oats (15%), organic sunflower oil, calcium carbonate, sea salt
  • Oatly Oat Milk Original: Water, oats (10%), vegetable oil (rapeseed), minerals (calcium carbonate, dibasic calcium phosphate, tribasic calcium phosphate), salt
  • Oatly Oat Milk Barista Edition: Water, oats (10%), vegetable oil (rapeseed), acidity regulator (dibasic potassium phosphate), minerals (calcium carbonate, dibasic calcium phosphate, tribasic calcium phosphate), salt
  • Pureharvest Organic Oat Milk: Filtered water, organic whole oats (15%), organic sunflower oil, sea salt
  • Vitasoy Oat Milk Unsweetened: Filtered water, whole oats (min.15%), oat flour, sunflower oil, gum arabic, mineral (calcium phosphate), sea salt
  • Vitasoy Café for Baristas Oat Milk: Filtered water, whole oats (min. 13%), oat flour, sunflower oil, gum arabic, food acid (340), mineral (calcium carbonate), emulsifier (471), sea salt, natural flavour

Price

As it happens with other specialty milks, oat milk can be pricey. Compare the sample prices below with the price of the cheapest UHT cow’s milk of about $1 per litre.

  • Coles Organic Unsweetened Oat Milk: $2.50 (Coles)
  • Minor Figures Oat Milk: $5.65 (Doorstep Organics)
  • Oatly Oat Milk Original: $4.5 (Woolworths)
  • Oatly Oat Milk Barista Edition: $4.8 (Woolworths)
  • Pureharvest Organic Oat Milk: $2.8 (Woolworths and Coles)
  • Vitasoy Oat Milk Unsweetened: $2.9 (Woolworths)

Nutrition information

The following table shows a comparison of nutrient values for oat milks available in the market.

Nutrient Coles Organic Unsweetened Oat Milk
Per 100g
Oatly Oat Milk Original
Per 100g
Oatly Oat Milk Barista Edition
Per 100g
Pureharvest Organic Oat Milk
Per 100g
Vitasoy Oat Milk Unsweetened
Per 100g
Vitasoy Café for Baristas Oat Milk
Per 100g
Energy 231 193 247 237 298 280
Protein 1.5 1.0 1.0 1.8 1.0 0.9
Fat, total 1.6 1.5 3.0 1.8 2.0 2.1
– Saturated < 1 0.2 0.3 0.3 0.3 0.5
Carbohydrate 8.6 6.7 6.6 7.7 11.5 10.4
– sugars 4.1 4.1 4.0 3.7 1.8 0.9
Dietary Fibre – Total N/A 0.8 0.8 Not Detected 1.5 1.3
Sodium (mg) 46 42 42 38 55 51
Calcium (mg) 120 120 120 2.5 120 80

What the values tell you is, essentially, that there is a wide variation in macro- and micronutrient contents depending on the brand. Moreover, there are difference within brands depending on the specific product. “Cafe” version tend to be higher in fat, I think to achieve better mouthfeel.

Ok, but how does oat milk compare with other milks? The tables below contain information from the Australian Food Nutrient Database (1).

Energy and protein

If we compare different types of milk and alternatives, oat milk is lower in energy and protein than cow’s milk. It’s a lot lower in protein than soy milk, but higher than almond and rice milk.

Carbs, sugar and fibre

The total amount of carbohydrate in oat milk is a little higher than cow and soy milk, a lot higher than almond milk and about half as much as rice milk. The great news is that oat milk is very low in sugar and has a lot more fibre than any of the other beverages.

Calcium and sodium

Unfortified oat milk is extremely low in calcium. Fortified varieties are comparable to fortified almond, rice and soy milks but still lower than cow’s milk.

Vitamins and minerals

On the micronutrient front, oat milk is not very impressive. It is low in folate, iodine, phosphorus, potassium, vitamin A and vitamin B12.

Gluten

Oats and oat milk are, unfortunately, not gluten-free. If you are gluten intolerant you might be able to do well with oat milk. However, if you have Coeliac Disease, you should avoid drinking it.

Summary and recommendations

If you need to (or choose to) avoid dairy + you do not have Coeliac Disease (or gluten intolerance) + you want to consume a milk substitute + you enjoy the taste and texture of oat milk, give it a shot. Read labels and be mindful of the ingredients and energy that it will add to your diet. Unfortunately, it is too easy to over-consume liquid foods. If you are planning to consume oat milk quite often and/or in large quantities, consider eating plain rolled oats instead, as they are likely to be healthier.

References

  1. Food Standards Australia New Zealand (2014). AUSNUT 2011–13 – Australian Food Composition Database. Canberra: FSANZ. Available at www.foodstandards.gov.au

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