Oat milk

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Oat milk
Oat milk glass and bottles.jpg
Oat milk
Place of originSweden
Inventedc. 1990
Food energy
(per 240ml serving)
120  kcal  (502 kJ)
Nutritional value
(per 240ml serving)
Protein 3  g
Fat 5  g
Carbohydrate 16  g
Glycemic index 69 (medium)

Oat milk is a plant milk derived from whole oat (Avena spp.) grains [1] by extracting the plant material with water. [2] Oat milk has a creamy texture and oatmeal-like flavor, [3] and is manufactured in various flavors, such as sweetened, unsweetened, vanilla or chocolate.


Unlike other plant milks having origins as early as the 13th century, [4] oat milk was developed in the 1990s by the Swedish scientist Rickard Öste. [5] [6] Over 2017–2019, oat milk sales in the United States increased 10 fold, [3] and one major manufacturer, Oatly, reported a three-fold increase in worldwide sales. [7] As of late 2020, the oat milk market became second-largest among plant milks in the United States, following the leader, almond milk, but exceeding the sales of soy milk. [8] [9]

By 2020, oat milk products included coffee creamer, yogurt, ice cream, and chocolate. [7] [9] [10] Oat milk may be consumed to replace dairy milk in vegan diets, or in cases of medical conditions where dairy is incompatible, such as lactose intolerance or an allergy to cow milk. [5] [11] Compared to dairy milk and other vegan milk products, oat milk has relatively low environmental impact due to its comparatively low land and water needs for production. [11] [12]



Soy milk predates all other alternative milks, including oat milk, both as a cultural and commercial product. [4] Since the early 20th century, soy milk made its way from Asia to European and American grocery stores, initially as a dairy substitute due to lactose intolerance. [2] The increase in consumption of soy milk since its global distribution created a large market for plant-based, non-dairy milks like oat milk. [1] The first example of an oat-based plant beverage was in the early 1990s, when Rickard Öste developed oat milk. [5] [6] Öste was working as a food scientist at Lund University in Lund, Sweden, researching lactose intolerance and sustainable food systems, when he invented the drink. [5] [6] Soon after, Öste founded Oatly, the first commercial manufacturer of oat milk. [5]

History of market expansion

The pioneer in commercial oat milk, Oatly, had its products in 7,000 coffee shops and grocery stores, as of 2019, [7] but was not the only prominent oat milk producer. [5] [13] Oat milk can be found under brand names Oatly (Sweden), Pureharvest (Australia), Alpro (UK), Bioavena (Italy), Simpli (Finland), Vitasoy (Hong Kong), and Pacific (USA), among others. [14] In 2018, global sales of plant milks, including oat milk, were US$1.6 billion, with a forecast of $41 billion by 2025. [3]

In 2018, there were numerous oat milk shortages from unprecedented demand in Europe and North America, highlighting the strong consumer demand for this product. [3] [15] To meet the American demand, Oatly opened a new factory in New Jersey in April 2019, producing 750,000 US gallons (2,800,000 l; 620,000 imp gal) per month of oat milk base, and announced plans for a Utah-based factory three times larger to open in early 2020. [7] In 2019, retail sales of oat milk in the United States were $29 million, up from $4.4 million in 2017. [7] During 2020, oat milk sales in the United States increased to $213 million, becoming the second most consumed plant milk after almond milk ($1.5 billion in 2020 sales). [8]

Oat milk desserts, such as ice cream, yogurts, and coffee creamers, were common in 2019, [7] with expanded uses in coffee shops, such as Starbucks, [3] [10] and growth into new markets, such as China. [16] Growth in the oat milk market is partly attributed to its relatively low environmental impact, low land and water needs, and rising vegan dietary practices in developed countries. [3] [7] [11]

From 2019 to 2020 in the United States, oat milk sales increased 303% to US$213 million, with refrigerated oat milk having nearly ten times the sales of shelf-stable oat milk. [8] Consumer analysis of the growth in oat milk consumption indicates its market growth derives from the dairy-like taste, health perception, and environmental sustainability, which contrasts with the high water demand of growing almonds. [9] [11] [12] Oat milk foams and mixes in other beverages, like coffee, in ways similar to dairy milk. [9] Over 2020-21, oat milk sales increased 151%, with it becoming the second-most consumed plant milk after almond milk. [17] On 20 May 2021, Oatly the world's largest oat milk manufacturer became a publicly traded company on the NASDAQ exchange, having a market value of US$13 billion on that day. [18]



The production of oat milk is similar to that of most other plant milks. [2] Unprocessed cereal grains, like oats, are indigestible due to their hard, outer hull; processing is also necessary to change the dry grains into a liquid. [7] [19] [lower-alpha 1]

The procedure starts by measuring and milling the oat grains to break apart their outer hull. Then the grains are stirred in warm water and ground into a slurry. [5] [7] The slurry is treated with enzymes and heat to create a thick liquid oat base. [7]

Soaking and subsequently extracting nutrients from the oats have the most direct implications on the final milk product. Increasing the yield in this step may be assisted by chemical catalysts, enzymes, or an increase in temperature, all in order to remove nutrient molecules from the solid byproduct and incorporate them into the liquid. [2] Chemical catalysts increase the pH of the mixture, enzymatic catalysts induce partial hydrolysis of proteins and polysaccharides, and higher temperatures increase reaction rates. [2] Separating the liquid from the solid byproduct is a simple step achieved through decanting, filtration, and spinning in a centrifuge. [2]

Once the liquid product is separated, adding other ingredients, such as fortifying vitamins and minerals, or sweeteners, flavorings, salts, oils, and similar ingredients, forms the final product. [2] [lower-alpha 2] Since unfortified oat milk is lower in calcium, iron, and vitamin A than dairy milk, these nutrients must be added in order for the end product to be a nutritional substitute of dairy milk. [2] Homogenization and heat-treatments such as pasteurization or ultra-high temperature (UHT) treatments are used to extend the product's shelf life. [2]

Mean water footprint for one glass (200 g) of different milks [11]
Milk typesWater use (L per 200 g)
Cow's milk
Almond milk
Rice milk
Oat milk
Soy milk
Mean greenhouse gas emissions for one glass (200 g) of different milks [11]
Milk typesGreenhouse gas emissions (kg CO2-Ceqv per 200 g)
Cow's milk
Rice milk
Soy milk
Oat milk
Almond milk

Challenges to processing

Because oat milk is produced by the disintegration of plant materials, the resulting particle sizes are not as uniform as bovine milk. [20] This variation in particle size is due to the vastly different lipid and protein molecules. [2] Decreasing particle size, improving particle solubility, and using hydrocolloids and emulsifiers are common ways to improve product quality via homogenization. [2] [20]

Another problem posed by the natural composition of oats is their high starch content. The starch content (50–60%) is challenging during UHT treatments because of starch's relatively low gelatinization temperature. [1] [14] To overcome this, producers use an enzymatic hydrolysis of starch by alpha- and beta-amylase, producing maltodextrins which gelatinize at higher, more suitable temperatures. [1] [14]

Fortifying oat milk with essential nutrients may include vitamin D, vitamin A, vitamin B12, riboflavin, calcium, and protein. [21]

Veganism and environmental impact

Since around 2015, interest for plant-based foods, in combination with concerns for animal welfare and low environmental impact, propelled consumption of oat milk. [3] [7] [10] [11] Compared to dairy milk and other plant-based milks, the oat milk manufacturing process produces small amounts of carbon dioxide and no methane (low greenhouse gas emissions), and requires relatively low use of water and land. [11] Oat milk production requires 1/15th the amount of water of dairy milk and 1/8th the water of almond milk. [11]

  1. As of 2019, Oatly obtained oats exclusively from Canada to supply its factory in New Jersey. [7]
  2. In the United States, Oatly ships the treated oat base liquid to a subcontractor for processing into the final oat milk product. [7]

Nutritional composition

Nutritional content of fortified cow, soy, almond and oat milks
Nutrient value
per 250 mL cup
Cow milk
(whole) [22]
Soy milk
(unsweetened) [23]
Almond milk
(unsweetened) [24]
Oat milk
(unsweetened) [25]
Energy, kJ (kcal)620 (149)330 (80)160 (39)500 (120)
Protein (g)7.696.951.553
Fat (g)7.933.912.885
Saturated fat (g)4.550.500.5
Carbohydrate (g)11.714.231.5216
Fiber (g)01.202
Sugars (g)12.32107
Calcium (mg) [lower-alpha 1] 276301516350
Potassium (mg)322292176390
Sodium (mg)10590186140
Vitamin B12 (µg)1.102.7001.2
Vitamin A (IU) [lower-alpha 1] [lower-alpha 2] 395503372267
Vitamin D (IU) [lower-alpha 1] [lower-alpha 3] 124119110144
Cholesterol (mg)24000
  1. 1 2 3 Commonly added to plant milks, which do not naturally contain significant levels of the nutrient. Added to all three plant milks presented in this table.
  2. Vitamin A fortification is only required for skimmed milk in the US.
  3. Vitamin D fortification for dairy milk is mandatory in the US.

In comparison to cow's milk, oat milk is similar in total calories per liquid volume (per cup serving, 120 vs 149 calories for cow's milk), has half the protein content, somewhat less total fat, but only about 10% of the saturated fat content, and about 1.5 times the total carbohydrate (although simple sugars are half that of cow's milk). Cow's milk has no fiber, but oat milk has 2 g dietary fiber per serving. Calcium and potassium contents are comparable, although oat milk – as for all plant-based milks – may be fortified with specific nutrients during manufacturing. [21] See the article Plant milk for details. It has a glycemic index of 69. [26]


Oat milk is used as a substitute for dairy milk in custom coffee preparation [3] [7] [10] and in fermented dairy products, such as yogurt and kefir. [10] [27] [28] Baristas claim that oat milk needs less steam than cow milk, froths favorably, is tasteful, rich, and creamy like cow milk, and effectively balances the acidity of espresso coffee. [3] [5] [10] [21] [29] It has growing applications in coffee preparation at major coffee shops. [10] Like other non-dairy milks, oat milk may be used as a substitute for dairy milks when cooking or baking. [21]


    Related Research Articles

    Milk White liquid produced by the mammary glands of mammals

    Milk is a nutrient-rich liquid food produced by the mammary glands of mammals. It is the primary source of nutrition for young mammals, including breastfed human infants before they are able to digest solid food. Early-lactation milk is called colostrum, which contains antibodies that strengthen the immune system and thus reduces the risk of many diseases. It holds many other nutrients, including protein and lactose. Interspecies consumption of milk is not uncommon, particularly among humans, many of whom consume the milk of other mammals.

    Vegetarian cuisine Food not including meat

    Vegetarian cuisine is based on food that meets vegetarian standards by not including meat and animal tissue products. Lacto-ovo vegetarianism includes eggs and dairy products. Lacto vegetarianism includes dairy products but not eggs, and ovo vegetarianism encompasses eggs but not dairy products. The strictest form of vegetarianism is veganism, which excludes all animal products, including dairy, honey, and some refined sugars if filtered and whitened with bone char. There are also partial vegetarians, such as pescetarians who eat fish but avoid other types of meat.

    Ultra-high-temperature processing food sterilization process

    Ultra-high temperature processing (UHT), ultra-heat treatment, or ultra-pasteurization is a food processing technology that almost sterilizes liquid food by heating it above 135 °C (275 °F) – the temperature required to kill many bacterial endospores – for 2 to 5 seconds. UHT is most commonly used in milk production, but the process is also used for fruit juices, cream, soy milk, yogurt, wine, soups, honey, and stews. UHT milk was first developed in the 1960s and became generally available for consumption in the 1970s.

    Flavored milk

    Flavored milk is a sweetened dairy drink made with milk, sugar, flavorings, and sometimes food colorings. It may be sold as a pasteurized, refrigerated product; or as an ultra-high-temperature (UHT) treated product not requiring refrigeration. It may also be made in restaurants or homes by mixing flavorings into milk.

    Soy milk Beverage made from soybeans

    Soy milk, also known as soya milk or soymilk, is a plant-based drink produced by soaking and grinding soybeans, boiling the mixture, and filtering out remaining particulates. It is a stable emulsion of oil, water, and protein. Its original form is an intermediate product of the manufacture of tofu. Originating in East Asia, it became a common beverage in Europe and North America in the latter half of the 20th century, especially as production techniques were developed to give it a taste and consistency more closely resembling that of dairy milk. Soy milk may be used as a substitute for dairy milk by individuals who are vegan or lactose intolerant.

    Rice milk

    Rice milk is a plant milk made from rice. Commercial rice milk is typically manufactured using brown rice and brown rice syrup, and may be sweetened using sugar or sugar substitutes, and flavored by common ingredients, such as vanilla. It is commonly fortified with protein and micronutrients, such as vitamin B12, calcium, iron, or vitamin D.

    Almond milk plant milk manufactured from almonds

    Almond milk is a plant milk manufactured from almonds with a creamy texture and nutty flavor, although some types or brands are flavored in imitation of dairy milk. It does not contain cholesterol, saturated fat or lactose, and is often consumed by those who are lactose-intolerant and others, such as vegans, who avoid dairy products. Commercial almond milk comes in sweetened, unsweetened, vanilla and chocolate flavors, and is usually fortified with micronutrients. It can also be made at home using a blender, almonds and water.

    Plant milk a milk-like drink made from plant-based ingredients

    Plant milk is a plant juice that resembles the color of milk and refers to manufactured, nondairy beverages made from a water-based plant extract for flavoring and aroma. Plant milks are vegan beverages consumed as plant-based alternatives to dairy milk, and often provide a creamy mouthfeel. For commerce, plant-based liquids are typically packaged in containers similar and competitive to those used for dairy milk, but cannot be labeled as "milk" within the European Union. In 2018, among the roughly 20 plants used to manufacture plant milk, almond, soy, and coconut were the highest-selling plant milks worldwide. The global plant milk market was estimated at US$16 billion in 2018.

    Milk substitute

    A milk substitute is any substance that resembles milk and can be used in the same ways as milk. Such substances may be variously known as non-dairy beverage, nut milk, grain milk, legume milk and alternative milk.

    Silk (brand)

    Silk is an American brand of dairy-substitute products owned by Danone North America.

    Okara (food)

    Okara, soy pulp, or tofu dregs is a pulp consisting of insoluble parts of the soybean that remain after pureed soybeans are filtered in the production of soy milk and tofu. It is generally white or yellowish in color. It is part of the traditional cuisines of Japan, Korea, and China. Since the 20th century, it has been used in the vegetarian cuisines of Western nations.

    Non-dairy creamer

    A non-dairy creamer, commonly called tea whitener or coffee whitener, is a liquid or granular substance intended to substitute for milk or cream as an additive to coffee, tea, hot chocolate or other beverages. They do not contain lactose and therefore are commonly described as being non-dairy products, although many contain casein, a milk-derived protein. Dry granular products do not need to be refrigerated and can be used and stored in locations which do not have a refrigerator. Liquid non-dairy creamers should be tightly capped and refrigerated after opening. Some non-dairy creamers contain sweeteners and flavors, such as vanilla, hazelnut or Irish cream. As with other processed food products, low calorie and low fat versions are available for non-dairy creamers.


    Coffee-mate is a coffee whitener lactose-free creamer manufactured by Nestlé, available in powdered, liquid and concentrated liquid forms. It was introduced in 1961 by Carnation.

    Soy yogurt yogurt prepared with soy milk

    Soy yogurt, also referred to as Soya yogurt, Soygurt or Yofu, is yogurt prepared with soy milk.

    Plant cream

    Plant cream is an imitation of dairy cream made without dairy products, and thus vegan. It is typically produced by grinding plant material into a thick liquid to which gums are added to imitate the viscosity and mouthfeel of cream. Common varieties are soy cream, coconut cream, and cashew cream. It is used as a dessert topping and in many other dishes and beverages.

    Vegan cheese Cheese-like substance made without animal products

    Vegan cheese is a category of non-dairy, plant-based cheese analogues. Vegan cheeses range from soft fresh cheeses to aged and cultured hard grateable cheeses like plant-based Parmesan. The defining characteristic of vegan cheese is the exclusion of all animal products.

    Pea milk

    Pea milk is a type of plant milk made using pea protein, which is made of yellow peas water, sunflower oil, gums as thickeners, Tricalcium Phosphate, vitamins, and Dipotassium Phosphate. Commercial pea milk typically comes in sweetened, unsweetened, vanilla and chocolate flavours, and is usually enriched with vitamins. It is marketed as a more environmentally-friendly alternative to almond milk and a non-GMO alternative to soy milk. The two largest brands of pea milk are Ripple Foods and Bolthouse Farms. Pea milk is a plant-based alternative to dairy milk. It is available in several countries including the US, UK and Australia and is vegan, nut free and lactose free. Pea milk is a part of plant milks, which are gaining in popularity due to increased lactose intolerance among consumers and demand for environmentally sustainable products. The plant-based milk industry as per 2019 estimates is worth approximately US$5 billion and will reach a value of US$26 billion in 5 years. There has been research in the role of pea proteins in preparing infant formula, yoghurt and calf mixtures. The colour is off-white and pea milk is made through crushing yellow split peas and mixing the soluble components with water. Pea milk may also be prepared at home. It is perceived to be environmentally sustainable and requires less water than the production of dairy milk. There is limited information on the total carbon emissions and water consumption of producing ready to drink pea milk.

    Elmhurst 1925

    Elmhurst 1925 is a plant-based food and beverage company located in Elma, New York. The company manufactures and sells non-dairy, plant-based milks made from nuts, grains, and seeds. The first four nutmilks – almond, cashew, hazelnut, and walnut – debuted at Natural Products Expo West in March 2017. A number of additional products have launched since, including their line of unsweetened plant milks] made with just 2 to 3 ingredients, award winning barista editions, dairy-free creamers, and single serve ready-to-drink options.

    Oatly Swedish vegan food brand

    Oatly Group AB is a Swedish food company that produces alternatives to dairy products from oats. A liter of Oatly product consumed in place of cow's milk results in around 80% less greenhouse gas emissions, 79% less land usage and 60% less energy consumption. Oatly was formed in the 1990s using research from Lund University. Oatly has headquarters in Malmö and a production and development center in Landskrona. Oatly's key markets are Sweden, Germany and the U.K., and its products were available in 60,000 retail stores and 32,200 coffee shops around the world as of 31 December 2020. Oatly can also be found in 11,000 coffee and tea shops in China, and at more than 6,000 retail and specialty shops across the country, including thousands of Starbucks locations.


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