Starbucks launches oat milk drink to court vegans

January 08, 2020 09:36
Starbucks is tapping into the growing demand for vegan alternatives to dairy. Photo: Bloomberg

Starbucks Corp. has added an oat milk beverage to its menu as the coffee chain taps into the growing demand for vegan alternatives to dairy, Reuters reports.

The new beverage is available at 1,300 locations in the US Midwest, the Seattle-based company said on Tuesday.

It also launched new beverages made with coconut and almond milk in the United States and Canada. It has previously sold menu items made with those kinds of milk.

Plant-based milk's popularity comes as more consumers shun cow’s milk, citing health and environmental reasons. Dairy sales have fallen for the past four years, and some of the largest US dairy producers have filed for bankruptcy.

The alternative milk category stands at US$1.8 billion, with sales of oat milk jumping over sevenfold to US$53 million over the past year. Cow’s milk sales came in at US$12 billion for 52 weeks ending Oct. 26, according to Nielsen’s data, down from US$15 billion in 2015.

Market research firm Mintel projects sales of nondairy milk products to reach US$3.1 billion by 2023.

Sweden-based Oatly, which supplies oat milk to Starbucks in the Midwest, started production in the US about three years ago and has partnered with several cafés in the country, including New York-based bubble tea café Boba Guys and Chicago-based Intelligentsia.

The trend mirrors the popularity of plant-based meat substitutes, with Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods adding their vegan patties and sausages to menus at fast-food and fine-dining restaurants.

Starbucks has sold lattes and coffees with oat milk in Europe since 2018 and at a few of its upscale Reserve locations in the US since last year.

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