If you’ve been to any specialty coffee shops in the last few years, you may have noticed a gradual trending away from dated dairy alternatives like soy milk to the now more popular almond and oat milks. (If you’re a coffee shop owner or who hasn’t yet made the jump from soy milk, to newer, more on-trend dairy alternatives, it is definitely the time to do so!)
Dairy alternatives like soy, almond, and coconut milk have been on a constant rise on coffee shop menus in recent decades. What may have started as a niche trend has become mainstream–even the “everyman” coffee shop chains have an assortment on their menus. Customers in every demographic are more open to trying a milk alternative than they have been in the past. And now, oat milk is projected to outpace other dairy alternatives as the category leader!
Are you ready to start using oat milk in your coffee shop menu? We’re discussing oat milk’s huge jump in popularity, its benefits, and how to incorporate it across your menu.
The Rising Demand for Oat Milk in Coffee Shops:
Oat milk is the fastest growing milk alternative with a 4-year growth rate of 832%. (All plant-based options are on the rise on menus with a 4-year growth of 2,462%.) While almond is currently the most requested non-dairy milk requested at coffee shops, oat milk is on pace to move into first place in the next 12 to 18 months.*
Research by Chobani, who makes our favorite non-dairy oat milk, Chobani® Oat Barista Edition, reports 36% of consumers are likely to try oat beverages at a restaurant.** And, that number is constantly rising. As a coffee shop owner or barista, you’ve probably already noticed that not only are consumers more likely to try a new oat-based drink on the menu, they’re also more likely to request it.
There are many reasons why milk alternatives are on the rise. Part of it’s due to a cultural change of culinary taste–with each generation drinking less dairy than the one before it. Lactose intolerance, health and diet trends, and plant-based lifestyles all contribute as well. However, the rise of oat milk specifically in coffee shops may be because of some of its unique benefits within the category.
Benefits of Oat Milk (Compared to Other Milk Alternatives):
For coffee shops, there are many benefits of oat milk compared to other non-dairy alternatives. We’ll cover just a few:
We conduct our own classroom experiments with oat milk in our coffee business and barista training courses. Our students consistently prefer the taste of oat milk to other milk alternative drinks. Many have told us they think it’s taste in lattes or other drinks is most similar to using traditional milk. This makes oat milk approachable to the everyday coffee consumer. It’s much less of a jump than other abstract non-dairy swaps, like pistachio, flax, or hemp milk. And it helps that it’s nut free, dairy free, gluten free, and vegan. Oat milk tastes similar to dairy and accommodates various diets.
One of our favorite attributes of Chobani “Barista Edition” non-dairy oat milk (and why we chose to use it in our program) is the way it froths and textures when steaming on the steam wand of an espresso machine. It performs (and behaves) nearly identical to dairy whole milk and is just as easy for pouring latte art. If you’ve ever tried using soy, almond, or some of the other dairy alternatives, (even the “barista series” versions) you will likely know how frustrating it can be to get it to proper latte art texture. You will also be familiar with how bad it typically looks in the cup compared to latte art poured with dairy milk. We’ve found that Chobani® Oat Barista Edition non-dairy oat milk is a simpler learning curve for baristas and home enthusiasts, and it looks and tastes great too. (Win win win!)
As a crop, oats have a smaller water footprint than almonds, rice, soybeans, or coconuts. They are also a low-till crop, meaning there’s less topsoil erosion and long-term soil productivity. This will be important to consumers as they become more conscious about retailers’ commitment to sustainability (and as droughts and fires threaten crops like almonds).
How to Use Oat Milk In Your Coffee Shop Menu:
In our 3-Day Coffee Business Master Class, we help our students design profitable, innovative menus. One part of managing your Cost of Goods Sold is to be efficient with ingredients and to use them across multiple menu items. Chobani® Oat Barista Edition, our preferred non-dairy oat milk, is a product we recommend incorporating throughout your menu. These recipes from Chobani are a great place to start:
Caramel Oat Milk Latte:
- 12 oz Chobani® Oat Barista Edition
- 1 ½ oz caramel syrup
- 2 oz espresso
Add caramel syrup and espresso to a cup. Top with oat milk steamed to a microfoam (similar in texture to heavy whipping cream).
Iced Oat Milk Matcha Latte:
- 12 oz Chobani® Oat Barista Edition
- 2 tsp matcha powder
- 1 oz vanilla syrup
- 4-5 oz ice
Add matcha powder and vanilla syrup into cup, stir to combine. Add oat milk and top with ice to serve.
Mixed Berry Oat and Acai Bowl
- 1 cup Chobani® Oat Barista Edition
- 1 frozen banana
- ⅓ cup each frozen blueberries, raspberries, and strawberries
- 1 tbsp acai powder
- 1 tbsp agave syrup
- ½ cup granola
- ¼ cup fresh blueberries
- ¼ cup fresh raspberries
- 2 tsp toasted pumpkin seeds
- ½ tsp chia seeds
Combine oat milk, banana, frozen berries, acai powder, and agave syrup in a blender. Blend until smooth and divide evenly into two bowls. Garnish each bowl with ¼ cup granola, 2 tbsp blueberries, 2 tbsp raspberries, 1 tsp pumpkin seeds, and ¼ tsp chia seeds. Serve immediately.
Cold Brew Oat Smoothie
- ¼ cup Chobani® Oat Barista Edition
- ¾ cup cold brew
- 1 frozen banana
- ¼ rolled oats
- 1 tsp almond butter
Combine all ingredients in a blender. Blend until smooth and serve immediately.
Looking for more coffee shop menu strategies?
We offer the most up-to-date, comprehensive coffee business education in the nation in our 3-Day Coffee Business Master Class. The course includes hands-on barista training, management strategies, and everything you need to open a coffee shop, start to finish. Not the class for you? See our full list of coffee education and barista training courses here.
*Datassential SNAP, 2020
**Datassential Oat Milk, 2019