- Danone's Silk brand is rolling out Oat Yeah, an oat-based beverage product, Food Navigator reported. Oat Yeah will be available this month in plain, vanilla and chocolate varieties.
- Silk's Oat Yeah is set to join the brand's soy milk, cashew milk, almond milk, coconut milk and blended varieties at a suggested retail price of $4.49 per half-gallon carton.
- Silk is owned by Danone North America. Two years ago, the company announced a $60 million expansion of its plant-based beverage production facility to manufacture products like Oat Yeah.
This debut comes as soy milk sales have been falling and oat milk has been trending upward as a plant-based alternative. Soy milk sales have dropped nearly 8% for the year ending Aug. 25, according to Nielsen data, and a FreshDirect report declared that oat milk is replacing nut-based milk in consumer popularity.
This new product seems like a smart move for Danone since oat-based beverages are clearly resonating with consumers who may be growing tired of drinks made from soy, almonds or other nuts. Nielsen found that plant-based blends showed 45.4% growth for the year ending Aug. 25, followed by oat milk with 32.5%, almond milk at 11.5% and coconut milk at just 1%.
But Danone isn't the only company adjusting to this trend. Other companies have recently introduced oat beverages, including Sweden's Oatly brand, Planet Oat, Elmhurst, Thrive Market, Pacific Foods and Happy Planet. There are also other oat-based products appearing in the marketplace, such as Hälsa's vegan drinkable "oatgurt" that debuted at Wegmans last summer.
Perhaps most influential to the trend will be PepsiCo's Quaker Oat Beverage, which is also debuting this month. According to The New York Times, Quaker hopes PepsiCo's distribution system will give it a leg up in the burgeoning sector. Quaker is also avoiding the contentious term "milk" that has the dairy industry up in arms — and the Food and Drug Administration assessing the meaning of the term — when it comes to plant-based alternatives.
Adding to the product's appeal is a sustainability factor because oats don't require as much water to produce as nuts, according to a report from UNESCO-IHE's Institute for Water Education. Oats are relatively plentiful and cheap. Oat milk products may also resonate with those who have nut allergies, are lactose-intolerant or gluten-free.
The grain's nutritional profile could also prove to be an asset. Elmhurst is betting on it, partnering with a Canadian producer on a "high quality and nutritionally robust oat" for its Milked Oats product. Elmhurst said the production process doesn't need industrial chemicals or thickeners and allows for "more nuts and grains per glass" than competitors. The product will also foam — an important consideration when it comes to coffee applications, Elmhurst pointed out.
As for Danone, the company has been on the plant-based bandwagon for some time — having purchased dairy-free giant WhiteWave for $12.5 billion in 2017 — and will likely continue to take advantage of the sector's ongoing popularity. According to Mintel, sales of plant-based products jumped 61% from 2012 to 2017, reaching a value of more than $2 billion.
The French company will likely need to win over consumers fast and beat out competition, since Danone is banking on the future of the sector with its recent pledge to triple global plant-based sales from $1.9 billion to approximately $5.7 billion by 2025.