The spring of 2018 was a bad time for baristas across the U.S. The year’s great oat milk shortage had hit its peak, sending caffeine addicts out the door of their favorite cafes in search of any place that could satisfy their fix.
The diehards “are very particular,” says Naomi Morales, the manager of the Upper East Side location of New York City chain Jack’s Stir Brew. They like the creaminess of oat milk—made by blending oats with water, adding enzymes, cooking the mix, then removing the fibers—and claim it has a similar mouthfeel to cow’s milk, but without all the animal welfare and environmental concerns. Almond milk wouldn’t cut it. Soy milk is passé.
Fifteen months later, the dark days have brightened—for baristas, coffee lovers, and especially Oatly AB. In April, the Swedish company widely credited with creating the oat milk category opened a $15 million U.S. processing plant in Millville, N.J.—the first outside Europe. The factory produces about 750,000 gallons of oat base—a thick, lightly sweet liquid that’s the main ingredient in all Oatly products—on a monthly basis, according to the company (it won’t disclose total volume).
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