In today’s world, there are many, many different kinds of alternatives to milk. There are plenty of reasons why there are alternatives to your standard dairy milk as well. For some people, it is a matter of health in the form of intolerance to lactose or an allergy to dairy.
For other people, it might be a conscious effort to stay away from saturated fats and aim more toward plant-based proteins. And for some people, it may simply be to see what all the fuss is about when it comes to alternative milks.
No matter what your reasons might be for investigating alternative milks, you will find that there are countless types to choose from. With all the derivatives of nut milk to other plant-based milks and even soy milk, you will surely be able to find one that works for your needs and tastes.
With that being said though, there are some types of alternative milks that cost considerably more than others for reasons that can be hard to determine.
For example, consider almond milk compared to oat milk. Almond milk tends to be a little bit more expensive than dairy milk, which is to be expected given that it is a diet-specialty alternative, but then there’s oat milk.
Oat milk is considerably similar to almond milk in terms of quality and taste, yet it tends to be a fair bit more expensive. While this might not mean much when it is a single dollar at a time, when you are purchasing it at least twice a week for a full year, that’s already over $100 lost on purchasing oat milk in particular.
So, what is it about oat milk that makes it so much more special than other types of alternative milks? Is it the way that it is processed and distributed across the country, or is it a matter of the ingredients needed to make the milk what it is?
The reason why oat milk is so expensive is a little bit hard to unravel at first. On one hand, it has a fair bit to do with supply and demand, and on the other hand, the way that it is processed also makes a massive difference.
Before you can begin to understand why oat milk is as expensive as it is, you will first need to understand how it is produced on a commercial basis.
From here, you will then need to learn the history of oat milk’s popularity and how it became as big a trend as it is currently. Then you will be able to form a good sense of why oat milk is the way that it is.
How Is Oat Milk Made?
At its core, the process of making oat milk isn’t that expensive, but the equipment used can get complicated and expensive to maintain. What’s needed to make the oat milk isn’t that expensive either, but the efforts needed to prepare and distribute it play a massive role in the overall pricing of it.
To begin with, oat milk is made from oats and water. That’s all there is to it. Certainly, once the milk is almost done being produced and is almost ready to be sent out to distributors and stores, preservatives and additives are put into it to make it more consumer-friendly, but its core ingredients are just oats and water.
Depending on the facility, the oats may arrive needing to be milled. This means that the oats arrived at the processing facility with their hard outer hull still on them, which is indigestible in the human stomach.
Naturally, this will need to be removed. Some processing facilities may purchase their oats already processed so that this step doesn’t need to be factored into the production costs.
From here, the oats are then stirred into warm water and subsequently broken down in a massive vat. This creates a ground oat slurry that will become the basis for the oat milk.
Both the warm water and the physical act of crushing the oats helps to break them down as small as they can get so that as much milk can be extracted from them as possible. Once the oats have become a slurry, the slurry will then be treated with enzymes and heated up to create an even thicker oat base.
This oat base will then be strained through a cheesecloth or a similar straining material to ensure that all of the oat-soaked water can be extracted from them. This oat-water will then become the milk that people enjoy as much as they do.
With the molecular parts of the oats still in the water, one can get all of the nutrients from them that oat milk provides, without any of the oat pulp remaining. Depending on the company’s production requirements, the oats may be strained multiple times to get the proper thickness and taste of the milk.
Finally, on a commercial level, the oat milk will be treated with additives such as vitamins, minerals, and so on as well as preservatives as oat milk has an infamously short shelf-life once it has been opened.
Again, this is only on a commercial level of production, so if you are planning to make oat milk at home, you won’t need to worry about this step.
None of this process is complex, as you can even make oat milk yourself without any of this equipment. However, it is time-consuming and delicate work, with the machinery being specialty and not very common throughout the country.
This means that the production needs to be handled by specialists, which will further increase the cost of production, and higher prices on the milk itself.
When you combine this fact in with the fact that there are only a handful of production companies that handle oat milk, and that oat milk can only last about a week, there is an incredible demand for the milk without there being an equal supply for it.
This, through the supply and demand aspect of economics, makes the price of oat milk considerably more expensive than it would be if the price was on the cost of ingredients and the cost of labor alone.
Supply and Demand
There is no denying that oat milk is popular, increasingly so. Unfortunately, it is not easy to produce quickly, nor is it easy to get it to certain parts of the country where distribution might be a problem when considering the milk’s short shelf life.
This means that while there is a high demand for the milk, the supply of it remains somewhat strained despite the actual production of it being straightforward enough.
This means that in areas of the country where oat milk is immensely popular, the prices of it are going to be higher than a smaller area where oat milk is really only there for people who need it rather than it being a regular alternative.
There can easily be a several-dollar difference between cities when it comes to the prices of oat milk because of the concept of supply and demand. When there is a supply of the milk but a lower demand, the prices are going to be lower as well.
This is another reason why oat milk tends to be as expensive as it is. In short, oat milk’s price reflects the high demand for it as well as the production process not being as efficient as other plant-based milks, such as almond milk.
With the prices of oat milk being what they are, you might begin to wonder if there is anything that you could do to find a less expensive alternative to the milk. The truth is that yes, there absolutely is, but the alternative that works for you depends entirely on why you are looking for oat milk in particular.
Finding an Alternative That Works for Your Needs
If you are looking into purchasing oat milk because you cannot handle standard dairy milk, there are other, much less expensive alternatives to consider turning to oat milk.
Almond milk is considered to be oat milk’s number one contender. It is similar in nutrition to oat milk, it has a similar flavor, and it has similar texture to oat milk while being a noticeably lower price.
If you are looking for a plant-based milk alternative that works for your dietary needs, almond milk should be one of the first choices you turn to.
If it is oat milk that you are looking for so that you can have that unique texture in your drink, your solution is not going to be so much changing the type of milk you get as much as it will be changing your method of obtaining it.
It is considerably less expensive to make your own oat milk, as long as you own a blender and will be able to make use of the milk within three day’s time (as its shelf life will be even lower without preservatives added).
As long as you can do this, you can keep consuming oat milk without having to worry about the price of production as you will be the one producing the milk.
I have a bachelor’s degree in construction engineering. When I’m not constructing or remodeling X-Ray Rooms, Cardiovascular Labs, and Pharmacies…I’m at home with my wife, two daughters and a dog. Outside of family, I love grilling and barbequing on my Big Green Egg and working on projects around the house.