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State of Oat Milk Prices: Wholesale Restaurant Food Cost Trends

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Justin GuinnAuthor

Oat milk prices are likely getting a close look by restaurateurs these days — as more and more coffee shops and cafes are stocking the non-dairy milk alternative to satisfy customer demand.

Oat milk and other such plant-based milk options have grown increasingly more popular in recent years. 

These alternatives can come at a steep cost, which is why operators may consider tracking wholesale oat milk prices and heeding any milk market trends and factors that impact wholesale prices — especially for coffee shops and cafes.

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We're able to calculate the average monthly prices that coffee shops, cafes, and other restaurants pay for oat milk by using proprietary data from xtraCHEF by Toast, our invoice automation and recipe costing tool.

The average national price that restaurants paid for a gallon of oat milk is $6.97 in July.

Here's a breakdown of historical data on wholesale restaurant oat milk prices over the last year:

Restaurant oat milk prices have been highly volatile over the past year — ranging from a low price of $6.69 in September 2022 to a high of $8.18 in January 2023.

Here's a breakdown of recent month-over-month fluctuation in wholesale restaurant oat milk prices:

Oat milk prices have calmed down since April, fluctuating by 3% or less MoM since then.

Commodities experts weigh in on almond milk prices

We were able to speak with some experts in the food commodities space to understand their analysis on almond milk price trends and the impacts on restaurants. 

Question

What’s driving the volatility in almond, oat, and coconut milk prices — and how may coffee shops and cafe owners expect almond, oat, and coconut milk to trend in the future?

As inflationary pressures have eased, volume recovery has been mixed across different alternative milk products. Coconut and oat milk volume are experiencing a faster recovery than almond. Alternative milk products continue to be popular with consumers, but the increased number of product choices is dividing the market share within the industry. Oat milk has been a high growth product in recent years, but growth appears to be slowing. Almond milk remains the market leader of alternative milks, but trendy, new products could continue to erode its market share.

Courtney Schmidt
Courtney Schmidt
Wells Fargo Agri-Food Institute

Importance of offering dairy-free milk options for today's customers

Guest preferences have made it increasingly important for cafes, coffee shops, and restaurant operators to offer non-dairy types of milk — driven by more health-conscious customers and dietary restrictions.

Popular dairy-free milk options can include rice milk, almond milk, soy milk, oat milk, cashew milk, hazelnut milk, and coconut milk. Restaurant operators can try stocking any or a few of these options to help satisfy guest demands and cater to those customers who are lactose intolerant.

The need for alternative milk options is especially important for restaurants serving coffee drinks, teas, smoothies, and other menu items — just ask your baristas. It’s possible that not offering these milks can turn off customers and negatively impact loyalty.

Uses of oat milk and other milk substitutes

Restaurant operators are increasingly seeking out alternatives to traditional cow’s milk.

Oat milk has emerged as a popular choice. It can offer a multitude of uses in restaurants, from hot beverages to baked goods, and even savory dishes.

One of the key reasons for its popularity over other alternative milk products is its creamy texture and ability to froth, making it an excellent option for lattes, cappuccinos, and other American espresso-based drinks. Its mild and slightly sweet flavor also complements the natural taste of coffee and tea, enhancing the overall drinking experience for customers.

In addition to beverages, oat milk can be used as a substitute for dairy milk in various culinary creations. It can be incorporated into recipes for smoothies, ice cream, milkshakes, and other desserts. Chefs can also experiment by using oat milk in savory dishes such as creamy soups, sauces, and even plant-based cheese alternatives. Oat milk’s versatility and ability to mimic the texture and taste of dairy milk make it an ideal choice for those seeking to cater to a range of dietary preferences and restrictions.

Oat milk's use as a dairy substitute aligns with the growing demand for plant-based and sustainable options. By incorporating oat milk into their menus, restaurant operators can attract a larger clientele, including those who follow vegan or lactose-free diets. This versatile milk substitute offers a way to cater to the needs of a diverse customer base, without sacrificing taste or the overall dining experience.

Exploring different types of oat milk

As the demand for oat milk continues to rise, so does the variety of oat milk options available in the market. Restaurant operators have the opportunity to explore and experiment with different types of oat milk to find the one that best suits their menu and customer preferences.

One popular type of oat milk is the original unsweetened variety, which provides a neutral base without any added sugars. This type of oat milk is versatile and can be incorporated into both sweet and savory dishes without altering the original taste profiles.

For those looking for a slightly sweeter option, flavored oat milk varieties are available, such as vanilla or chocolate. These options can be used to create signature beverages or add a hint of sweetness to dishes like pancakes, French toast, or even oatmeal. Flavored oat milk can also be an excellent alternative for creating unique milkshakes or smoothies.

Additionally, restaurant operators can choose from different consistencies of oat milk, ranging from full-fat or whole oat milk to lighter versions. This variety allows for customization depending on the desired richness or thickness required for specific dishes.

When deciding which type of oat milk to use in their restaurants, operators should consider factors such as taste, consistency, and overall compatibility with their menu offerings. By exploring the different types of oat milk available, restaurant operators can offer their customers a diverse range of plant-based alternatives, all while keeping up with evolving consumer preferences and dietary needs.

How and where oat milk is made

American oat milk is gaining popularity as a dairy alternative, and it is produced in various regions across the country. The process of making oat milk involves soaking and blending oats with water, followed by straining to extract the liquid. This liquid can then be fortified with essential nutrients like calcium and vitamin D to match the nutritional profile of traditional dairy milk.

Some of the leading oat milk brands in the American market produce their products in New York and California. These states are known for their strong agricultural industries and are home to oat farms and processing facilities. This allows for the sourcing of high-quality oats, a crucial factor in creating a premium oat milk product. The production facilities also adhere to strict regulations and standards set by the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) to ensure that the manufacturing process meets the required health and safety guidelines.

American oat milk is widely available in grocery stores, both in the refrigerated and shelf-stable sections. Customers can find a variety of brands and flavors to suit their preferences. Many oat milk options are gluten-free, making them suitable for individuals with gluten sensitivities or celiac disease. The addition of calcium in oat milk helps provide a good source of this essential mineral, which is beneficial for bone health.

Moreover, American oat milk is not limited to beverages. It is also used in the production of oat milk ice cream, providing a creamy and dairy-free alternative for dessert lovers. The convenience of shelf-stable oat milk also allows for easy storage and distribution, making it a versatile option for both consumers and restaurant operators alike.

Start tracking oat milk prices today

Oat milk can be a solid dairy alternative for your coffee shop, cafe, and bakery — which is why tracking oat milk costs is critical. That’s why restaurant operators should consider having a strong back-of-house foundation built on invoice automation.

Invoices are the single source of truth for restaurant costs — pinpointing prices and fluctuations for individual ingredients as well as paper goods, non-alcoholic beverages, and more.

With accurate and up-to-date ingredient prices from invoices, operators can start calculating plate costs. Plate costing is a detailed exercise that zooms into the recipes and/or individual ingredients that make up a dish — requiring detailed recipe costs and portion costs for ingredients.

Costing exercises can help show how each component is contributing to the overall profitability of a dish or drink. And recipe costing software can help make it easier to calculate and achieve an ideal balance between portions and profits.


Methodology

Toast analyzed monthly invoice items for oat milk from restaurants using xtraCHEF by Toast. Items are weighted by the frequency of orders, not quantity. A standard unit of measure is determined so that an average price can be calculated across all invoice inclusions of the ingredient.

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