The new toolbox provides insight into how to adjust sweetness, mouthfeel and nutrition, and optimize the production process, said market development manager Alessandro Palumbo.
“Our team of experts can work with brands at a very small scale so they can create samples and get feedback, then we can really help them scale up to an industrial scale,” he told FoodNavigator-USA.
While there are different ways to produce oatmilk (PepsiCo notably used oat bran as its starting material, whereas other brands tend to use oat flour or oat flakes), the best results are achieved by using heat-treated oat flour as the starting material and then using enzymes to break it down, claimed Palumbo.
“It’s still the beginning of the oat beverage era, but we’ve done multiple trials and the best results and the most consistent when it comes to sensory testing are always oatmilks made with heat treated oat flour, but we’re keeping an eye on new developments.”
How is oatmilk typically manufactured on a commercial scale?
Typically, enzymes are added at two different stages. In the initial liquefaction stage, enzymes break down gelatinized oat starch components - amylose and amylopectin – into dextrins, which reduces the viscosity of the oat flour/water blend and is essential to creating an appealing mouthfeel.
In the saccharification stage, the dextrins are broken down into simpler sugars, which is why oatmilk without added sucrose or other sweeteners still tastes sweet (and why the FDA says that firms making oatmilk via enzymatic hydrolysis of oats need to declare the sugars this creates as added sugar on the new look Nutrition Facts panel).
In both stages, selecting the right enzymes and combinations of enzymes can make a big difference when it comes to viscosity and mouthfeel, nutrition, and sweetness, said Palumbo. “How you combine raw materials, production parameters, and enzymes makes an enormous difference to the final product. How do you combine the enzymes? When do you inactivate them?”
However, Novozymes has also patented a solution enabling firms to adopt a one-step process so you don’t have to have the cooling step after liquefaction, which can save money, said Palumbo.
A tailored enzyme blend, meanwhile, can increase production yields, enabling firms to produce more oatmilk with the same amount of raw material, he added. “This synergistic effect makes it possible to raise the dry solids content by up to 10%. Output is then increased by the addition of extra water.”
The graph below shows the yield obtained using single alpha-amylase enzymes against the yield achieved when the enzymes are combined.
There is no standard oatmilk formula when it comes to sweetness and mouthfeel
When it comes to oatmilk formulations and consumer preferences, meanwhile, these can vary, said Palumbo.
“In North America we’re seeing a lot of interest in barista formulations, which are thicker, but it all depends what part of the market you are targeting. What are the taste and texture preferences of consumers in your market? Do consumers want a product that is similar to a dairy beverage or do they prefer a more cereal taste or a thicker texture?
“If you’re in the Nordic region of Europe, for example, this is likely to show a preference for low or no sweetness, while consumers further south typically enjoy a sweeter taste. Standard solutions or regulations don’t exist within the oat drink category, yet.”
All images in the body of this article are courtesy of Novozymes.
OATMILK BY NUMBERS: According to SPINS data supplied to FoodNavigator-USA covering the 52 weeks to October 6, 2019 in natural, specialty gourmet, and conventional multi-outlet food retailers in the US, sales of refrigerated oatmilk grew by 2094% to $48.5m, while sales of shelf-stable oatmilk rose 91% to $10.9m. The data does not include retailers such as Whole Foods, Trader Joe's or ALDI.
"While oat milks still make up just 2.7% of dollar volume in the refrigerated plant-based milk category, sales growth has been explosive with numerous strong contenders in the space," said SPINS Senior Manager of Natural Insights and Innovation Research, Jessica Hochman.
Oatly and some other oatmilk brands have confirmed that they will be changing the way they list sugars on their Nutrition Facts panels following conversations with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).