Speaking to FoodNavigator-USA ahead of the launch of Planet Oat at Kroger, Shaw’s, Amazon Fresh, and other major retailers (MSRP $3.99), Chris Ross, VP of Marketing at HP Hood (a leading provider of dairy products), said:
"Just because they compete for the same occasion doesn’t mean that they have to be identical. Plant-based products have to stand on their own two feet. They’re different products. If you’re trying to mimic another product you will fail.
“Today’s consumer expects great tasting products and they expect you to be engaging, to tell a story, and to be transparent. They also understand that these are different products that can live using the same nomenclature [eg. oat ‘milk’] without causing any confusion. Consumers are not the ones asking all these questions [about terminology].”
Consumers are not all looking for the same attributes from plant-based milks
As the plant-based dairy category expands, consumers are trying new products and finding a variety of options that work for them in terms of taste, usage occasions and nutrition, he said, and many shoppers have more than one plant-based milk alongside dairy milk in the fridge at any given time.
“Look in someone’s fridge today and they might have three or four different types of ‘milks’ in there. Some people are looking for protein, some are more focused on low fat, some are looking for low calories, and some are looking for vitamins and minerals,” said Ross, who said Planet Oat original has 2g fiber, 2g protein, 4g sugar (naturally occurring), 90 calories/serving and no added sugar.
It is also fortified with vitamins and minerals, and has slightly more protein than almond milk but less than soy or pea milk.
While oatmilk has garnered a sizeable chunk of the plant-based milk market in some European markets, it’s new to many consumers in the US, where there has been a flurry of recent launches from Oatly, Planet Oat, Elmhurst, Thrive Market, Pacific Foods, Happy Planet, and Quaker [coming in January], coupled with thicker products such as ‘oatgurt’ from Hälsa.
Oatmilk has significant market potential
What really sets oatmilk apart – and what motivated HP Hood to make its plant-based debut with oatmilk as opposed to other plants – is the taste, he said.
“One of the benefits of oats is that they are naturally creamy and satisfying and deliver a full bodied taste without added sugar. Oatmilk is also well balanced calorie-rise.
“We benchmarked against other competitors and the consumer validated that we have a superior product. We’ve been watching the broader milk space and doing a lot of work with consumers to see what they would respond to and oats seemed like a right opportunity for us, and we feel that we have the right product, positioning and brand to succeed. It’s a highly satisfying, highly versatile product.”
Oatmilk is a highly satisfying, highly versatile product
Planet Oat is perfect for drinking as a standalone beverage, but also works well in cereal, and is great for cooking, said Ross, who said a ‘barista’ version designed for optimal performance in hot beverages, is coming soon.
“Retailers have been really excited [about Planet Oat], although we know it’s going to be a very competitive space. Kroger, which has one of the most robust natural food sections of any grocery chain in the country, was one of the first chains to come on board nationally for us, so that was a big win, and a lot of other strong players are also on board.”
The size of the prize?
So could oatmilk be as big as almondmilk? And will it bring incremental growth to the plant-based milk category?
Yes and yes, said Ross, who argued that almondmilk still has significant growth potential, and that the whole category is in its “relative infancy.”
“Oat is an ‘and,’ not an ‘or.’ I think more trial will come from traditional dairy and people that have still not tried plant-based milks, as well as people already in the category looking for more variety and choice.”
Ingredients list, Planet Oat (original): Oatmilk (filtered water, oats), sunflower oil, calcium carbonate, dipotassium phosphate, guar gum, sea salt, sunflower lecithin, gellan gum, vitamin A, vitamin D2, riboflavin, vitamin B12
Each 240ml serving has 2g fiber, 2g protein, 4g sugar (no added sugar) and 90 calories. The extra creamy version has 3g fiber, 2g protein, 5g sugar (no added sugar), and 120 calories.
US retail sales of shelf-stable plant-based beverages grew 13.2% in the year to October 7, 2018, while sales of refrigerated plant-based beverages rose 9.8%, Andrew Henkel at SPINS told delegates at BevNET Live last week.
Nielsen also records significant growth in sales of non-dairy milks in 52 weeks to August 25, 2018 (all outlets combined), with plant-based blends the top performing products (+45.4%), followed by oat milk (+35.5%), almondmilk (+11.5%), coconutmilk (+1%). However, dollar sales of ricemilk were down -2.3% and soymilk sales slumped -7.9%.