To learn more about the thinking behind the new Quaker Oat Beverage, which hit the market nationwide in early February and is currently in more stores than any other chilled or ambient oat-based beverage, FoodNavigator-USA (FNU) caught up with Koen Burghouts (KB), global VP, nutrition group, at PepsiCo.
FNU: Why did you decide to use the term ‘oat beverage’ instead of oatmilk?
KB: We took a bit of a conservative approach to make sure we are differentiating ourselves versus dairy. We’re offering choice and this is a different product to dairy.
FNU: How does the formulation of Quaker Oat Beverage compare to rival products?
KB: We built this product around oat bran concentrate, which is high in [the soluble fiber] beta glucan. Each serving contains 0.75 grams of beta glucan, which may reduce the risk of heart disease as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol, and that’s our unique proposition.
FNU: How does using oat bran concentrate instead of whole oats impact sugar levels?
KB: We have less sugar and fewer calories than other brands* [such as Oatly, for example, which adds natural enzymes to its oat base that break oat starch down into smaller components, primarily maltose (malt sugar), which sweetens its products naturally).
We also have more fiber: 4g per serving versus most other brands, which have 2g/serving.
FNU: Why did you decide to position oatmilk on a heart health platform?
KB: It’s an unmet need in the marketplace. All the research shows that consumers are more and more looking for functional benefits from their foods and beverages, including dairy alternatives, and that's why we're so excited about oats, because they inherently deliver so many benefits. It also makes sense for the brand as Quaker has a 140 year history with oats.
FNU: Do you think that plant-based milks should match dairy from a nutritional perspective and if not, which nutrients are you most focused on and why?
KB: Dairy alternatives are different products, so our oat beverages don’t have as much protein as dairy milk, for example, but consumers do have some expectations of the category, so we did decide to add calcium and vitamin D.
On fiber, it’s recommended that we get 28-35g a day, but the average US consumer only gets 16g a day, so it’s a key nutritional gap and [the higher fiber content in Quaker Oat Beverage] resonated well in consumer testing.
FNU: How does the taste and texture compare to rival products?
KB: We tested this product multiple times with consumers for taste and texture and they are very satisfied with the smoothness and overall texture in all usage occasions.
FNU: What’s the channel strategy for Quaker Oat Beverage? Are you planning to target coffee shops as well as grocery retail?
KB: We haven’t developed a barista blend, but the [core] product [line] works very well in coffee and we tested many different usage occasions.
FNU: What’s the size of the oatmilk prize, and how well is the product performing so far?
KB: Oats are extremely consumer relevant so we have very high expectations; consumers were also asking for us to move into this platform. We already see that there are spikes in google searches both for Quaker and for oat beverages in general, and we are very proud and satisfied about where we are at this stage.
FNU: Who is your target consumer for Quaker Oat Beverage?
KB: The penetration of dairy alternative milks is 60% in the US, and almost 40% of the population are trying to increase plant-based eating, so this is a very broad proposition.
*Quaker Oat Beverage Original has just 50 calories per serving, while the unsweetened version has 30 calories per serving. By comparison, Oatly original has 120 calories per serving; Califia Farms' barista blend oatmilk has 130 calories/serving while its soon-to-launch unsweetened oatmilk has 100 calories/serving. HP Hood's new Planet Oat oatmilk (original - with no added sugar) has 120 calories per serving.
QUAKER OAT BEVERAGE ORIGINAL INGREDIENTS: Water, oat bran, chicory root extract, sunflower oil, sugar, calcium carbonate, gum Arabic, natural flavor, salt, gellan gum, vitamin A, vitamin D
Each 240ml serving has 4g fiber, <1g protein, 5g sugar, and 50 calories
OATLY ORIGINAL INGREDIENTS: water, oats, rapeseed oil, dipotassium phosphate, calcium carbonate, tricalcium phosphate, sea salt, dicalcium phosphate, riboflavin, vitamin A, vitamin D2, vitamin B12.
Each 240ml serving has 2g fiber, 3g protein, 7g sugar, and 120 calories