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Research from Glebe Farm and The Grocer reveals broad adoption of plant-based drinks

Glebe Farm Foods has worked with leading industry publication The Grocer to commission research into customer sentiment and behaviour towards plant-based alternatives to dairy milk.

The report was built from the responses of over 2000 UK adults surveyed research agency Harris Interactive in October 2020 and it reveals some of the key dynamics influencing this growing sector.

Highlights of the study include:

  • 62% of adults report they have now bought plant-based milks at least once, and the rate of trial is highest amongst 25-34yr olds (81%)
  • Taste is one of the primary drivers of plant-based milk purchase (43%), but environmental concerns are considered almost as important (41%)
  • Over half (52%) of plant-based shoppers prefer the taste of plant-based drinks over dairy milk – they are not seen as a ‘poor relation’
  • Having a simple, ‘clean’ ingredient deck is seen as important by all age groups

The research indicates the plant-based drinks category is maturing at speed and the public are becoming more familiar with the options and benefits on offer. What’s more, over 40% of plant-based milk customers are making regular purchases which suggests these milk alternatives are becoming part of their routine grocery shopping habits.

In 2019 Glebe Farm built the UK’s only largescale oat plat in order to cater to growing demand for non-dairy options. Oats have become the fastest growing segment by volume, and Glebe Farm’s PureOaty Barista Oat Drink is the only option available to the market that is made from exclusively British Gluten Free oats. It is also never made from concentrate, a practice employed by many brands.

You can view the full research here.

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Independent & Family run: it’s good business

There has been lots of discussion in the media recently about plant-based milks; how they are made, their environmental credentials and the scale of the business behind them etc.

From our side, we can proudly say that Glebe Farm is a family run business based in Cambridgeshire in the UK. All our oats are grown within 75 miles of the farm, and we use solar power and biomass generators to keep our carbon impact to a minimum – plus our PureOaty is never made from concentrate which also lowers environmental impact.

We see this as good business, as well as feeling like the right way to work.

Oat milk has been proven to be one of the most environmental non-dairy options and, since we built our own oat milk plant on site this year, PureOaty has an unbeatably low environmental impact for the category.

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Glebe Farm bulks up for Oat Drink Sales

Our PureOaty oat drink is now available in a 1,000 litre pallecon format for manufacturers and caterers looking for a professional grade oat drink at high volume.

As the movement towards plant-based alternatives to dairy gathers pace and Brexit once again looms on our horizon, we are now able to supply our gluten free oat drink in bulk, ideal for those wanting to take a slice of the oat market.

“With the opening of the new oat drink plant at our farm in Cambridgeshire, we have set ourselves up for future growth in this area. This is the first and only oat drink plant of this scale in the UK and so the next step was always going to be to provide a bulk delivery service for other businesses to profit from. The 1,000lt pallecon format is the most efficient and sustainable method for us to do this.

We’re seeing new oat based products launching every week, from yoghurt to ice cream and even oat based cheese, so offering this British-made product made with only 4 natural ingredients taps into all the trends that we see in the industry – and it has the added benefit of being gluten free too”

Rebecca Rayner, Managing Director of Glebe Farm Foods outlines the reasons behind the scale up

In addition to the expansion in the plant based market, the trends of clean eating and buying British continue to permeate Brits’ purchasing habits and the Glebe Farm Foods oat drink ticks all of these boxes. Only four ingredients are used in the recipe; British gluten free oats, water, sunflower oil and a pinch of salt. The oat drink is never made from concentrate and doesn’t contain any preservatives or other ingredients to bulk out the formulation – plus, the oats are milled on the farm in Cambridgeshire. The pallecons are aimed at food manufacturers, bakeries, caterers etc. looking for bulk supply. Additionally, to tap into the organic trend, there is a gluten free organic oat drink in development that will also be available in pallecons or standard 1 litre Tetra Paks. The oat drink complements Glebe Farm’s range of granola and porridge flakes that are also available in bulk and supplied to cereal brands and retailers seeking gluten free peace of mind.

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Oat Drink vs. Oat Milk

Why we don’t ‘fortify’

When designing our new PureOaty oat drink, our philosophy was to create something really pure and simple, with as few unnecessary extras as possible. That’s how it ended up with just four simple ingredients: gluten free oats, water, sunflower oil and a touch of salt.

We were uncompromising in keeping to a short list of ingredients, but that doesn’t mean we had to make compromises in the end result: PureOaty is a plant-based alternative to dairy milk which has a creamy flavour, a mild natural sweetness (with no added sugar) and the ability to create a stable microfoam for frothy barista style coffee.

It’s exactly what we set out to do. And all achieved with no added sugar and no gums or other additives thrown into the mix. Rather than adding in all these ‘extras’ the trick was in refining the process till we got it right.

Nonetheless, one big question we had to consider along the way was whether we should ‘fortify’ our oat drink to mimic the nutritional profile of traditional dairy milk.

Dairy milk is high in specific proteins, animal lipids and calcium and this has led many manufacturers of plant-based alternatives to attempt to mirror the perceived benefits of these nutrients by adding to their ingredients list.
One common approach, for example, is to add calcium carbonate (that’s chalk to you and me) in order to tick the calcium box.

Yet the detail is important here. Calcium in this form is not readily absorbed by the body – unless, that is, other exotic ingredients are then also added into the mix to help it pass from the gut into the bloodstream.

That’s the thing about food fortification: one thing tends to lead to another and the consumer can quickly end up with a long list of ingredients on the side of pack which can sound mysterious, or even disquieting.

Ultimately, it is our belief that the well-informed consumer will pick up the nutrients they need through a varied and balanced diet. The food industry has an obligation to be transparent about the genuine nutritional qualities their products offer and the general public can then make informed choices. Trust is key, and simplicity helps support this.

This is particularly true in the case of plant-based consumers, who tend to think very carefully about the food they eat and are well-informed about balanced nutrition.

That’s why we took the call not to fortify PureOaty, and instead developed a product that is as simple as possible. Furthermore we already know that oats are blessed with their own nutritional benefits – being rich in fibre, slow release energy and heart-protecting beta glucan.

So we aren’t pretending to be milk and nor do we want to be. We’re confident in presenting something purely and simply different. And that’s PureOaty.

Don’t use the M word!

Glebe Farm Gluten Free Oat Drink 1l

Plant based alternatives to dairy milk are growing in popularity with oat variants in particular winning many loyal supporters. This is particularly the case amongst the most discerning of audiences: the coffee-lover.
In comparison to other non-dairy alternatives, oats do not separate when added to hot beverages and have a milder, creamy flavour that complements coffee – rather than overpowering it, which can be the case with other alternatives such as soy and coconut.

We are particularly delighted that, after many months experimenting with the production process, our new PureOaty froths in seconds to create a stable microfoam that doesn’t split and that works perfectly in coffee. All this without us adding sugars, gums or extra nasties. It’s purely British gluten free oats, water, sunflower oil and a trace of salt.

But is it milk? Can we say we’ve created an ‘oat milk’?

Well, EU and UK trading authorities are pretty clear on that front: milk comes from cows and other mammals, and so anything that isn’t derived from animals cannot be labelled as such. What’s more, dairy milk has a pretty unique nutritional profile designed to sustain young mammals through their first weeks on the planet – and we don’t want to add extra things into our PureOaty in an attempt to try and mimic this (see recent article ‘Why we don’t ‘fortify”).
So we won’t be referring to it as milk, and we won’t be pretending it’s the same as traditional dairy by calling it ‘mylk’, ‘m*lk’ or any other variant of the original M-word. It’s PureOaty oat drink – pure and simple. However, you can use it in exactly the same way you would milk. It works a treat in coffee, as well as smoothies, on cereals, and in cooking. It’s also vegan and gluten free which adds to its versatility.

We hope you like it – please let us know what you think