Plant-based eating is here to stay. U.S. retail sales of plant-based foods increased 11% in 2019, bringing its total market value to $4.5 billion, according to the Plant Based Foods Association. And it is not only vegans and vegetarians driving this eating evolution. Nestlé reported 87% of Americans are now incorporating plant-based proteins into their diets and nearly two-thirds are doing so one or more times weekly.
Beverage manufacturers are responding to this demand by rolling out new plant-based beverages using grain-based ingredients to achieve optimal taste, texture and nutrition. In the coming years, expect to see more dairy-free milk alternatives using oats, brown rice and quinoa. As consumer interest in digestive health continues to rise, look for more prebiotic fiber options extracted from grains driving category growth as well.
Plant-based beverage sales have been on the upswing for the last decade, fueled predominately by consumer desire for dairy-free milk alternatives. The International Food Information Council (IFIC) 2020 Food & Health Survey found almost one-fourth (24%) of consumers are eating more plant-based dairy. Dairy-free milk alternatives beyond soy and nut-based beverages are especially taking off as health-conscious consumers look for novel options.
Oat milk—which is made by soaking oats in water—first gained popularity in trendy coffee shops such as Chicago-based Intelligentsia and San Francisco-based Philz Coffee. While once a niche milk alternative, it has since become ubiquitous, with Starbucks and Dunkin’ both adding it to their menus in 2020.
Oat milk’s popularity can largely be attributed to its rich, neutral taste and smooth texture that froths like cow’s milk. Its taste and flavor profile makes it an excellent alternative for dairy milk, especially in coffee drinks. Oat milk is also environmentally friendly, as it requires less water than other alternatives to produce—one-eighth the amount of almond milk—and produces relatively few greenhouse gases. BBC News’ environmental impact calculator ranks it as the most sustainable milk option alongside soy milk.
Plant-based foods sales are projected to continue to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 11.9% from 2020 to 2027. Given the wide diversity of grains available and new advances in production technology, expect to see more of these grain-based ingredients driving this plant-based market growth.
To read this article in its entirety, check out the Grains redefined: Formulating for healthy products – digital magazine.
Loula Merkel, vice president of business development at Comet Bio, has over 15 years of experience in agribusiness and energy industries. Previously the director of project development at Coskata, she was responsible for the development and financing of commercial projects. Merkel also spent eight years at McKinsey & Co., serving clients at the intersection of chemicals and agribusiness industries