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Oat becomes the UK’s preferred dairy alternative in coffee shops

New World Coffee Portal survey shows oat has overtaken coconut as UK consumers’ preferred dairy alternative in coffee shops – but dairy milk still rules the roost when it comes to pairing with coffee

Oat has overtaken coconut as UK consumers' preferred dairy alternative in coffee shops | Photo credit: Cottonbro

Oat has unseated coconut as UK consumers’ preferred dairy alternative in coffee shops. In a survey of more than 50,000 UK consumers conducted by World Coffee Portal, 16% indicated they had tried oat milk in a coffee shop over the last 12 months, ahead of coconut and almond at 12%, and soya at 9%.  
Oat has enjoyed a rapid ascendance in the UK. A consumer poll conducted by World Coffee Portal in 2019 placed oat as consumers’ fourth preferred dairy alternative, behind coconut, almond and soy.  
However, since 2020 World Coffee Portal research shows oat’s popularity in UK coffee shops has risen 6% while almond grew 1% coconut fell 1%, and soya was down 0.5% compared to last year.  
Oat has long been revered by specialty coffee professionals as the optimum replacement for dairy milk in coffee beverages. Notably, its creamy mouth feel, neutral taste, and thicker texture make it ideal for milk-based beverages such as lattes, flat whites, and cappuccinos. 
Oat now appears to be firmly ensconced in the mainstream, with the UK’s three largest coffee chains, Costa Coffee, Starbucks and Caffè Nero all offering the dairy alternative in-store.  
Oat’s rapid ascendence has also been bolstered by the success of brands such as Sweden-based, Oatly, and Belgium-based Alpro, both of which have launched barista-formulated versions of their oat drinks.
In 2021, Oatly, which supplies Starbucks stores worldwide, launched a $13bn IPO, significantly ramped up global production and signed major distribution partnerships with 7 Eleven, McDonald’s, KFC and Walmart. 
However, despite the soaring popularity of oat and other dairy alternatives in coffee shops, dairy milk remains the firm favourite among UK coffee shop consumers surveyed. Sixty percent said they had tried semi-skimmed milk in a coffee shop over the last 12 months, with 33% opting for whole milk and 27% trying skimmed milk.  
Commenting on the survey findings, Allegra Group CEO and Founder Jeffrey Young said:
“It is clear that oat has become an important part of the plant-based offer within UK coffee shops. A significant proportion of British consumers appreciate the neutral taste of oat milk, but increasingly a whole array of alternative milk solutions. We expect to see further penetration of plant-based products in UK coffee shops in the coming year.”

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