down,” the coffee executive has written.
“Brother. No exaggeration—the lead barista
and trainers all agree–Cho by a mile.”
“So sold?! :)” Ulukaya has replied.
Chobani could be the company that popularizes oat-milk products, but it certainly
didn’t invent them. It’s playing catch-up to
other players in the alt-milk space, including the sorts of inventive upstarts that Chobani once was. Sweden-based Oatly, most
notably, arrived in the United States in late
2016 and began persuading high-end coffee
shops to use its oat milks. The company was
founded by Rickard Oste, a researcher with
Stockholm’s Lund University who saw the
world’s growing milk sensitivity as an opportunity to reboot the food system. After
studying the alternatives, he came up with a
process to mill and liquefy easy-to-cultivate
oats into a nutritionally rich solution and began selling Oatly in Sweden in the early ’90s.
Oat milk now accounts for nearly two-thirds of the alt-milk category in Sweden,
where Oatly offers a cream-cheese-like
spread, yogurts, and frozen treats. But when
Oatly decided to enter the States, oat milk was
still just a “rounding error” here, says Mike
Messersmith, the company’s U.S. general
manager. Oat milk is made with a special
blend of enzymes that converts starches
into sugars during water-based hydrolysis.
When strained—in this case industrially, in a
centrifuge—the resulting product gains a natural s weetness and a “micro-foamability” that
rivals milk, making it perfect for cutting the
bitterness of espresso and creating latte art.
Oatly’s coffee-shop-focused approach to
entering the U. S. market worked a bit too well.
Several months after its playfully packaged
products finally hit grocery stores, in 2018,
the company couldn’t keep up with demand.
(The shortages fueled a ridiculous aftermar-ket on the internet, where prices reached
around $20 per carton.) Whole Foods now carries Oatly and several other brands, including oat milk from Califia Farms, cofounded
by Odwalla founder Greg Steltenpohl. The
grocer’s selection and volume of oat-based
products is set to increase even further in
2020, according to Parker Brody, a senior
global buyer for Whole Foods.
Ulukaya intends to lead the U.S. expansion. More than half of the country’s grocery
and convenience stores already carry Chobani. The company (Continued on page 125)
Are plant-based drinks
better for the environment?
Here’s a look at what it
takes to produce 1 liter of
different kinds of milk.