Similar to other plant-based milks, oat milk is made by blending together the grain with water, before the liquid is filtered out. But, unlike traditional dairy products or almond milk, oat milk uses a lot less water.

Helping speed the adoption is oat milk’s similarity to traditional cow’s milk, such as in its ability to replicate froth, says Sherry Frey, a wellness analyst at Nielsen. From 2016 to 2021, global sales for milk alternatives grew 23% from $14.4 billion to $17.7 billion, according to data from Euromonitor, a London-based market research firm.

Though alternative milk represents only 15% of total US milk sales, it is further ahead than other plant-based categories like artificial meat or cheese, according to Frey.

Rising oat prices in the background

But as oat milk becomes more accessible, the grain is also getting more expensive.

In 2021, oat prices reached an all-time high. As of Thursday, Jan. 6, oat futures prices hit $6.85, nearly double what it was this time last year, driven by extended droughts.

While most of the global oat crop goes to feed livestock, the higher prices are showing up in oat milk products as well. Oatly, the world’s largest oat milk company, said in a November call with analysts it will raise the prices of its products to help offset commodity prices. Similarly, Starbucks said commodity prices are expected to have an impact on its business this year. That may damper the growing movement to giving more milk variety to your coffee.

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