Midlands farmer launches oat drink to challenge leading brands
Oat in the City drinks retain oats’ natural beta glucans, fibre, and protein, are gluten-free, low in natural sugars, and have no added sugars
20 May 2021 | 0
A Tullamore farmer has set his sights on milking the Irish market for non-dairy milk sales, which in 2020 amounted to €68 million. The global market for plant milks is estimated to be worth $2.2 billion by 2024, with sales growing 20% every year.
Liam Lynam this week launched his Oat in the City real oat drink, made from Irish oats, locally grown in the midlands. The natural milked oat drink is fresh, creamy and gluten and dairy-free, delivering an authentic taste by retaining all the oats’ natural fibre and goodness.
Lynam, who worked in the food sector for twenty years before returning to run the family farm, says many leading oat milk brands contain little or no naturally occurring oat fibre and are essentially sweetened water made from concentrate or syrup.
“Our oat milk retains the oats’ natural beta glucans, fibre and protein, and is low in natural sugars, with no added sugar. Most commercial oat drinks are made by stripping away the parts that have the fibre and protein, so you’re mostly getting oat sugar.”
Over 200 retail and hospitality outlets in the midlands including SuperValu stores, independent retailers and coffee shops are already stocking the premium oat drink.
Oat in the City was also selected as one of 50 local Irish producers to be stocked in all Aldi stores countrywide, in a special promotion in June, as part of the Grow with Aldi programme.
The range includes an Original Oat Milk and a Barista variety for coffee making, as well as a dairy-free chocolate flavoured oat drink, retailing at €2.80 for 750ml.
The food sector executive, turned farmer, has worked with the Kepak Food Group and with UK retailer, Somerfield, spending most of his career in FMCG market development across Europe, with multinational retailers including Carrefour, Delhaize, Metro, Tesco and Coop Italia.
In Ireland, non-dairy milk sales of €68 million were recorded last year, while in the UK over the last 12 months oat milk sales alone have doubled to €94.3 million.
The Oat in the City food start-up currently employs three people with a target of creating 10 jobs in the next three years and growing turnover to over €5 million.
Initial expansion into Northern Ireland and the UK is planned in year one and Europe-wide supply is targeted within three years. Development of private label and own-brand ranges for major retailers is also a market plan and a longer-life Barista range will be further developed for the foodservice category.
As well as being 100% Irish developed and made, Oat in the City is a fresh product, from the chilled cabinet, while most oat drinks are UHT. And, while generic oat milk brands will have up to 5g of sugar, Oat in the City has just 0.4g of natural sugar from the cereal, alongside fibre and protein for healthy nutrition and a slow energy release.
Food provenance is important to consumers, as is sustainable food production, Liam Lynam explains, adding that using all the oats equates to true sustainability, as food waste is one of the leading causes of climate change.
Coffee shops, restaurants and the food services sector are expected to offer the natural oat milk alternative as a welcome option for health-conscious consumers.
The Lynam family farm is on the border of Westmeath and Offaly. On returning to Ireland to run the farm, Liam Lynam wanted to merge his childhood interest in farming and food production with his academic qualifications and work experience to do something sustainable and innovative in the food industry, he says.
“We switched from intensive commercial farming to low input, sustainable oat crops and, during lockdown, focussed on the creation of a truly authentic brand with real nutritional value that could compete on the Irish and world stage”.
Market research in developing the new oat milk drink showed that over 3 in 5 people worry about having too much sugar in their diet, while Gen Z and Millennials are concerned about too much dairy.
A more allergen conscious market, interested in dairy free, gluten free, low-sugar and lactose intolerances was identified as a key opportunity. Dairy free milk consumers are more likely to be aged 25-34 and living in Dublin or urban communities, while oat milk consumers were more likely to be female.
Over half of all adults claim to consume dairy free milks; rising to over 7 in 10 amongst Gen Z and Millennials. Adding dairy free milk to breakfast cereal or porridge is the most common use (56%), followed by adding it to tea or coffee (47%). Three in 10 claim to consume dairy free milk on a daily basis, with highest everyday consumption among younger people and young parents.
Oat in the City is now available in the chilled cabinet in SuperValu stores nationwide as well independent retailers, including Nolan’s of Clontarf and Donnybrook Fair, and Aldi stores nationwide from June.