Why has the US gone crazy for oat milk? Starbucks customers report shortages

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In March Starbucks started the national rollout of Oatly oat milk to its stores across the US.

One month on and it is apparently running out – with some customers complaining that they are unable to order their favourite drinks.

A Starbucks representative told CNN on Tuesday that some locations were out of oat milk but didn’t specify how widespread the problem was.

So what’s the story behind the headlines? Why has the US suddenly gone oat milk crazy?

  • Part of the scarcity might be to the surge in profile in Oatly, The Swedish company has been focusing on the US in recent times and is on the verge of going public by listing on the NYSE. US oat milk sales grew 138% over the past year, according to Nielsen data. Oatly may also be having trouble keeping up with demand. Supply chains already stretched by Covid19 may not be in a position to cope with the surge.
  • Others have cited the popularity of the iced brown sugar shaken espresso, made with oat milk, which has amassed its own fans online.
  • Another trend could be the shift away from not just cow’s milk, but also milks with higher carbon emission ratings like almond which has traditionally been the number one nut milk in the US.

“Due to high demand, some customers may experience a temporary shortage of oat milk at their store,” a Starbucks spokesperson told CNN Business on Tuesday, adding that customers can expect oat milk to be back “soon” without offering a specific time frame. In the meantime, they might consider swapping in soy milk, almond milk or coconut milk instead, the company suggested.

“Probably the most dominant shift in consumer behavior is this whole shift to plant-based,” said Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson during a January call with analysts. “This is why we’ve introduced all the alternative milks, whether it’s almond milk, soy milk [or]oat milk,” he said.

Photo by Toa Heftiba Şinca from Pexels


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