| UK

Cups overflow for MOMA in the UK

MOMA has been making porridge and muesli since 2006 and in 2020 began innovating its oat drink portfolio with science-backed research in collaboration with the UK specialty coffee community. Pip O’Neill, Brand Manager, and Nicole Chan, Barista Market Activator, at MOMA speak to World Coffee Portal about the benefits of the brand’s 100-mile supply chain, working with British farmers and why oat is becoming much more than just another dairy alternative in UK coffee shops

Photo credit: MOMA

World Coffee Portal data shows oat is the UK’s favourite non-dairy coffee pairing – what’s behind oat’s success?

Pip O’Neill (PO) – A lot of consumers are switching over from dairy to plant-based milks, whether for environmental reasons, dietary or just because they feel like it has a superior taste, particularly in coffee. Even if they’re consuming dairy elsewhere, many prefer the taste of oat in coffee.

A huge part of this is also taste and versatility. Oat has a creamy mouthfeel and slightly malty taste, but is more neutral than other plant-based alternatives, making it the perfect alternative to dairy in coffee. Oat drink also steams really well. Our MOMA Barista Professional has a delicious micro foam, perfect for cappuccinos and flat whites. There is a natural sweetness to oat that complements coffee notes.

Oat is also one of the major food groups produced in the UK, with 1.1 million tonnes grown in 2021. This is such a huge positive for consumers. A lot of people switch to plant-based milks for the environment, so switching to a UK-grown product is a far better alternative to imported products and we are really proud to support oats that are grown in the UK.

What makes MOMA different from other plant-based milks?

PO – We’ve been working with only oats for 18 years, selecting the very best varieties and turning them into deliciously creamy porridges and oat drinks.

MOMA has an in-house oat scientist who tested over 250 recipes before settling on our signature barista recipe. There is a huge element of artistry, as well as science, in creating a good oat drink. It isn’t just about it being thick and creamy enough to foam well on espresso machines, it’s about creating a great tasting product that works really well in your hot chocolate, matcha, chai and tea.

Our Barista Professional is gluten-free and vegan, meaning it can be enjoyed by everyone. We are also proudly made in the UK, with under 100 miles from our fields to our factory where our products are produced.

How do you see oat evolving in specialty coffee?

Nicole Chan (NC) – We see a growing number of people enjoying oat in their coffee. Within retail, oat is the largest and fastest-growing plant-based milk by value, growing 12% in the last year, and we don’t think that the popularity of oat is going to slow down anytime soon.

We work closely with a number of specialty roasters and coffee shops. London-based PRESS Coffee say that after whole and semi-skimmed dairy oat is by far the most requested at their three stores, making up a whopping 75% of their plant-based coffees.

As oat continues to grow in retail, it’s safe to say that it will become more established within specialty. This is the first year that the SCA are allowing plant-based milks to be used by competitors in the barista championships.

MOMA’s oats are milled, produced and packed within a 100-mile radius – have you been able to quantify carbon savings compared to dairy and other plant-based brands?

PO – We are also at the final stages of working with Carbon Cloud to establish a baseline footprint for our oat milk portfolio. This relationship will allow us to get down to the specifics of how our processes and supply chain affect our carbon footprint.

There are only a few oat drink competitors, and even less in dairy, talking about their footprint, so it’s really exciting for us to be able to talk about this soon and share the environmental factors within our oat processes.

We’re also working closely with our farmers to understand the agricultural practices they have in place and get a clearer picture of our complete supply chain. Ideally, we’d love to work in collaboration with our farmers on sustainable projects that are mutually beneficial.

“As oat continues to grow in retail, it’s safe to say that it will become more established within specialty”

Why is it important to work with British farmers?

PO – For us, it’s about three things: relationships, transparency and supporting the UK economy. Being so much closer to where our oats are grown gives us much more meaningful relationships with our farmers. We can pop in to see them, understand the challenges of day-to-day oat farming, and offer our support in a more concrete way. This also helps us understand the agricultural principles around what makes a really great-tasting oat.

Taking the facelessness out of business allows us to innovate better with our farmers, talk through issues quicker, and establish new processes and initiatives that benefit everyone. It’s also really important to us to support our local UK economy, and we appreciate how integral British farming is to that.

Tell us more about MOMA’s mission to become an ambassador for the oat category in the UK

NC – We’re serious about research and improvement. Our in-house oat scientist works full-time, pioneering new research into oats, and the way that oat drinks are formulated. Just as the specialty coffee industry is constantly evolving with new technology, brewing coffee and even discovering new coffee varietals/ cultivars, the oat industry is evolving too.

At MOMA we recognise these changes, and we’re working hard to develop oat products that complement the ever-evolving nature of the specialty industry and deliver top quality into cup.

We care about the coffee community, from the baristas up. We want to learn at a barista-to-customer relationship what goes into making an excellent oat coffee. Learning from those at the very forefront of the industry will not only improve our products, but also build our connections within the industry.

For us, connections are more than throwing a latte art throwdown every few months or sending free samples and merch. Instead, we work together to understand how our milk and their coffee could come together to create a good tasting cup for our customer.

We want to educate the specialty industry on the science behind making great tasting oat drinks, and how these best pair with different coffees.

We aren’t anti-dairy. This isn’t about choosing oat over dairy, but understanding how coffee can work beautifully with both.

MOMA has been working with only oats for 18 years | Photo credit: MOMA

Tell us about MOMA’s recent supply partnership with Gail’s.

PO – MOMA Barista Professional launched at all GAIL’s sites on 10 January and the partnership was four years and over 250 recipes in the making. Our MOMA Barista Professional is gluten-free and made in the UK. It is crafted using the finest quality British oats, which are milled, produced and packed all within a 100-mile radius.

GAIL’s prides itself on working with partners who support the brand’s mission to have a positive environmental impact. Gail’s has collaborated with MOMA to bring a sustainable craft oat drink to specialty coffee and tea drinkers, served by Gail’s coffee experts.

How did your partnership with London’s PRESS come about and what has it enabled you to achieve?

NC – PRESS have been long-time friends of MOMA and were early adopters of our Barista oat drink.

We know that roasters typically profile their coffees to work perfectly with dairy. With oat-based coffees continuing to grow in popularity we wanted to start a conversation on whether roasters could profile for oat as well.

This isn’t about excluding dairy or insisting that coffee shops have bespoke profiles for oat, but discussing whether roasters might consider profiling beans that take into account the acidity and tasting notes that work for both.

We have spent 18 years understanding the science behind oats and we wanted to think about how that expertise might translate across to specialty coffee. We approached PRESS, and when we explained what we wanted to do, they were willing to try the experiment with us.

Taking on this task meant taking on extra work for the PRESS team but they have been very supportive of the project, and made time for me to come down to their roastery and cup different coffees.

We are currently working with PRESS to build a profile that pairs really well with our Barista Professional oat drink, and we’re thrilled to announce that we will be launching this at The London Coffee Festival. 

This article was first published in Issue 18 of 5THWAVE magazine.

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