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From London to Wall Street, the oat milk boom

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LONDON – “Oat decaf flat white”. If you enter one of the many Italian-style cafes in London, from Starbucks to Caffè Nero, from Costa Cafè to Pret a Manger, this is one of the most frequent orders you will ever hear. Behind the apparently arcane formula for initiates lies one of the many variations of coffee and cappuccino that have become fashionable especially among Millennials: it means a micro foam with decaffeinated espresso on oat milk. It is worth paying special attention to the latter. Oat milk is experiencing a prodigious boom.

Witness the success of Oatly, one of its most established brands, until recently a niche product of a small Swedish food company. Last February he surprised American consumers with a commercial during the intermission of the Super Bowl, the final of the professional football championship, the most watched television event of the year in the US and the one with the most expensive commercial breaks: “wow , no cow ”, no cows, sang its managing director in the short advertisement, playing the piano in a field devoid of cattle. In the coming months it will present itself to a different but no less important audience, with a listing on the Wall Street stock exchange that could give it a value of 10 billion dollars.

Clearly, Oatly is no longer a niche brand. In 2021, despite the pandemic, it expects to double its turnover compared to the previous year, closing at 800 million dollars. And its CEO Toni Petersson tells the Financial Times that this is only the “very first phase of the rise of the curve”: within five years he expects even more substantial growth. Oatly is already the best-selling oat milk in the United States, Britain, Sweden and Germany, and has helped oat milk in general, including other brands, overtake soy milk as the second type of milk. made from plants best-selling in the US after almond milk.

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The phenomenon has a similar development in Europe and here too we can cite a London case: during the lockdown, many restaurants on Upper Street, in the Islington district of the capital, began giving away food to those who buy (the only one allowed). during the restrictions against Covid) packs of pistachio mousse from Alpro, a brand of oat milk owned by the Danone food group, which is itself rapidly conquering large slices of the market.

After all, for some time now in the UK supermarkets you can buy a great variety of “alternative milk”: made from oats, soy, almond, coconut, rice, nuts and even peas. In the last twenty years, consumption of cow’s milk has fallen by 30 per cent among British consumers, and among young people between 16 and 28 now about half prefer milk made from plant derivatives.

In the past, for more than a century, cow’s milk was given to children at school to drink to supplement nutritional support. The shift towards plant-derived milk in the last decade has various reasons: some drink it to protect the environment, given the damage caused by cattle farms; others choose it because of allergies and intolerances to cow’s milk; still others in response to the movement in favor of products with less animal fat.

The American Academy of Pediatrics, an association that brings together pediatric doctors from the United States, says that most children under the age of five should drink cow’s milk, because the milk obtained from plants does not have the nutrients necessary for development. with the exception of soy milk, which contains all essential amino acids and almost the same amount of protein. The competition between the two types of milk, animal and vegetable, is however transforming both sectors. Cattle farms have begun to adopt better conditions for cows and to consider ways to limit environmental damage. The cow’s milk industry pays more attention to animal fats, offering more and more “low fat” formulas, with a low rate of fat. On the other hand, many plant-based milk brands fortify their products to offer more calcium.

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In general, nutritionists remember that: soy milk is an excellent alternative for proteins; coconut contains saturated fats considered beneficial; and oatmeal can help lower cholesterol. Whatever it is, when you return to travel after the pandemic and return to London, remember what an “oat decaf flat white” is when you walk into a café.


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