Oat milk: Plant-based ingredient update

Oat milk has gained traction over recent months as consumer demand for plant-based products continues to grow.

A familiar alternative to dairy milk and with mounting consumer acceptance, oat milk is increasingly being utilised as an ingredient in a wide range of product categories including plant alternatives in yoghurt, cream, butter and cheese.

Driven by the rise in veganism and flexitarianism, there is little doubt that plant-derived alternative ingredients are popular with consumers. However, creating these products is not always straightforward, as mimicking taste, texture and other properties can be a challenge. Several brands have successfully replicated diary-like qualities, for example, an oat milk cream with the ability to heat to the boil and an oat milk sauce that can be whipped. One brand has even created an oat milk cheese that can be melted.

What is next for oat milk products?

Some say that the next natural step for oat milk and oat ingredients, in general, is in plant-based meat alternatives. Not only would the use of oats provide a sustainable alternative to meat, but it would also bring additional health benefits in the form of plant protein and having the advantage over dairy-based products, for example, the absence of lactose and some origins gluten-free, as opposed to other plant-based milks/ingredients such as nuts and soya both containing allergens.

Coconut products are also free from allergens but have disadvantages in that these ingredients have less than a clean taste and lower sustainability credentials.

What are the health benefits of oat milk?

Although not as nutritious as whole oats, the inclusion of oat milk as an ingredient offers various health benefits.

A source of nutrients

Oat milk contains almost twice the dietary fibre found in dairy milk, making it an excellent option for supporting digestive and gut function. As many nutrients are lost in the straining process, oat milk is often enriched with calcium, vitamins A, D, B2 and B12.

Free from common allergens

Being lactose, soy and nut-free, unlike other types of milk, oat milk is free from allergens. Oat milk is also naturally gluten-free but may be contaminated through processing or carry over from other cereal crops.

Supports heart health

Oat milk is a source of beta-glucans, a soluble fibre with heart health benefits. Beta-glucans have been shown to help reduce blood cholesterol levels, particularly LDL cholesterol, which is linked to heart disease.

Beta-glucans carries two positive health claims which appear on the EFSA Nutrition & Health Claims register with conditions of use and specific wording that can be used on packaging or on advertising materials if certain criteria are met.

The wordings in the register are prescriptive and should be used as they appear or in words having a similar meaning, these claims are:

"Beta-glucans contribute to the maintenance of normal blood cholesterol levels"

"Consumption of beta-glucans from oats or barley as part of a meal contributes to the reduction of the blood glucose rise after that meal"

Environmental sustainability of oat milk

In comparison to dairy milk and even other plant-based milk alternatives, oat milk scores well in terms of environmental sustainability. According to The Grocer, Greenhouse gas emissions, water use and land use are all at comparatively low levels for oat milk, almost as low as for soy milk.

Since oats grow in temperate climates, there is reduced associated loss of biodiversity and wildfires than for other crops. The UK's bestselling oat milk brand, Oatly, asserts that their products use just 10% of the land that dairy milk uses.

Environmental sustainability of oat milk

Learn more about oat milk product development

At Uren, our team can help you take advantage of the growing plant-based dairy alternative market. We offer a range of plant-based ingredients, and our New Product Development team are ready to advise on bespoke requirements. For further information or to learn more about how Uren can support your plans for 2021, please contact sales@uren.com.