Back in the old days, the lactose-intolerant among us were lucky if coffee shops served soy milk as an alternative to the dairy version. Then came almond milk, followed by coconut milk, pea milk for the brave, and hemp milk for the hemp enthusiasts.
Now it’s oat milk’s turn to shine. Led by the Swedish company Oatly, oat milk has slowly usurped soy milk’s place in the nondairy slot at coffee shops like Blue Bottle and Toby’s Estate. Baristas like oat milk because it can be frothed into pretty patterns; eco-minded coffee lovers like it because it has a smaller environmental impact than almond milk; and lactose-intolerant latte drinkers are just happy to have the option.
Oatly, though, may be struggling to keep up with the public’s overwhelming thirst for oat milk. According to Bloomberg, coffeeshops have started running out of the product, and the distributor warned “that shortages could continue over the next month.”
The plant-based beverage industry is booming right now: What was a $9.8 billion market just a few years ago is expected to hit over $16 billion in 2018, according to Innova Market Insights. As cow milk has been losing market share to nondairy alternatives, some dairies have innovated to stay in the game, while others are fighting back by lobbying regulators to prevent plant-based beverages from using the word “milk.”