Which oat milk is the best? I have been asked this very question with increasing frequency this year. Especially so after some news stories broke earlier this year linking a certain oat milk company to deforestation in the Amazon. There’s more on this deeper in the article, so do keep reading.
We made the switch to oat milk for all our dairy needs quite some years ago now. In our quest to find the best oat milk, we have tried just about every oat milk going.
In this article, let me run you through the eleven most widely-available oat milk brands. I’ll let you know what I think about the taste, and look into the ethics behind each brand, to help you decide which oat milk is the best.
Maybe grab a hot beverage, because it’s going to be a big one!
Why Oat Milk?
First off, you might be wondering why I’m focusing on oat milk and not other non-diary alternatives.
Whilst non-dairy alternatives can be made from a variety of crops, some are more problematic than others. Almond and rice are water-thirsty crops. Almonds alone require more water than any other dairy alternative, consuming 130 pints of water to produce a single glass of almond milk. Coconut milk also has its problems. As the demand for coconut milk has grown, this has led to deforestation and exploitation of workers.
Oats, on the other hand, tend to be grown in cooler climates such as the northern US, Canada, and Europe. Therefore, oats are not associated with deforestation in developing countries. Oats also requires considerably less water than almonds and rice to produce a glass of milk.
Oat Milks Rated
Now let’s focus on the oat milk brands. This list is in alphabetical order, rather than in order of best to worst. You’ll soon see why.
I have tried a few of Alpro’s oat milk offerings. Their regular oat milk (£1.80 for 1 litre) is too thin and too sweet for my taste. I can tolerate it in cereal or porridge, just about. However, in tea and coffee it’s a no-go for me. The Alpro barista oat milk (£1.90 for 1 litre) was way too sweet, and I definitely expected a lot more creaminess to it than what it offered.
In terms of ethics, Alpro is owned by Danone, one of the big dairy major players. Danone has a 26% share in the global fresh dairy products market. Their fresh dairy products account for €11bn of their total sales, whilst bottled water accounts for €4.7bn of their total sales. Let’s just say it’s an uncomfortable contradiction, buying oat milk (particularly if you are buying oat milk as an environmental choice) knowing that you are supporting big dairy AND bottled water.
Aldi’s Pro Nature Only Oat Milk (75p for 1 litre) is a basic oat milk – containing only oats and milk. It’s not fortified with any vitamins or minerals, like some of the other oat milk brands, which is something to bear in mind if fortification is important to you.
As you might expect from oat milk made from just oats and water, there isn’t a whole lot going on. It’s not sweet, just oaty, but I personally found this milk a bit too thin and watery for my tastes. However, in terms of price, it’s the cheapest oat milk I’ve found, and due to its low ingredient list, then it could be a great choice for those that are intolerant to some additives.
In terms of ethics, Aldi does not fare so well. It comes lowest in the list of Oxfam’s 2020 human rights ratings of UK supermarkets. In terms of the environment, it’s a little more positive, as they have a commitment to reduce the volume of plastic packaging used by 50% by 2025. However this is a non-binding commitment.
Asda own brand UHT oat milk (85p for 1 litre) is, for me, the best budget oat milk. Not too thick, not too thin, it has the perfect consistency for tea, coffee, and cereal. It has a great taste – not too sweet, and not too over-powering. What’s more, it’s fortified with calcium, vitamin D2, vitamin B12, and iodine.
Asda own brand fresh oat milk (85p for one litre), on the other hand, is a complete abomination. How they can get their UHT milk so right, but their fresh milk so wrong is beyond me. I think it tastes like wax crayon. Oat milk should never taste of wax crayon. Whoever has made it clearly hasn’t tasted it. Avoid at all costs.
In terms of ethics, Asda was owned by US behemoth Walmart for 21 years. In 2020, a majority stake was bought by UK-based Issa Brothers, the billionaire owners of the Lancashire-based petrol forecourt firm EG Group. Walmart retains a minority stake in the business.
Ethical Consumer has highlighted a number of issues under Walmart ownership. From slavery in the Walmart supply chain to accusations of discrimination by Asda employees. It will be interesting to see if things change under their new ownership.
What about Innocent’s oat milk (£2 for 750ml)? Well, the positive is that it comes in a plastic bottle, which is easier to recycle than the tetra-paks that all the other brands of oat milk come in. The negative is that Innocent oat milk does not taste good. It’s so thin and watery and, frankly, does a disservice to oats. I couldn’t even finish the carton.
In terms of how ethical Innocent is, it’s a dismal picture. Innocent is owned by Coca Cola. In 2009, they bought a 20% share in Innocent, and in 2013 they took full ownership.
Ethical Consumer Magazine’s research into Coca-Cola highlights several ethical issues. These include climate change, habitats & resources, palm oil, pollutions and toxics, human rights, workers’ rights, irresponsible marketing, animal rights, controversial technologies, anti-social finance, and political activities.
Lidl’s Just Free Unsweetened Oat Milk (89p for 1 litre) is similar to Aldi’s oat milk. Both in terms of minimal ingredients, and the fact it has no added vitamins or minerals.
The milk itself is thin and watery, and not particularly creamy. In terms of taste, it’s not sweet, which is a big plus point for me. It’s acceptable in tea. However, because of its thin consistency, it did not make for a pleasant cup of coffee or bowl of cereal.
If you are a tea drinker looking for basic milk at a more affordable price, then this is a good option, otherwise, I would avoid this one.
Ethics wise, Ethical Consumer Magazine research has highlighted several ethical issues with Lidl. These include climate change, habitats & resources, pollution, human rights, workers’ rights, anti-social finance, animal rights, controversial technologies, political activities, anti-social finance, and factory farming.
Morrisons own brand oat milk (85p for 1 litre) is high up there in my opinion. It’s got a good creaminess to it and the perfect consistency. It’s not too sweet, and it’s enriched with calcium, Vitamin E, Vitamin B12, Vitamin B2, and Vitamin D.
As far as supermarkets go, I quite like Morrisons. They seem quite progressive when it comes to plastic packaging, and in’ tackling food waste. Last year it was was named the UK’s most environmentally responsible retailer. However, in the same year, Oxfam alleged human rights abuse in Morrisons supply chain, so it’s clear they have some way to go.
Minor Figures Barista Oat Milk* (£2 for 1 litre) is the latest oat milk that I have tried in my quest for the best oat milk.
I do like this one. It doesn’t separate in coffee. It’s got a good consistency. It’s got a good taste, and it is enriched with calcium. The only thing I don’t find stands up is the claim from Minor Figures that it is foamable. The milk just does not give a good foam compared to Oatly Barista – it’s a much thinner milk.
With regards to ethics, in 2019 Minor Figures sold a near 20% stake in their company to an anonymous US-based private investment fund. Who this private investment is from, Minor Figures are staying tight-lipped about it, other than the fact that the investor has a number of investments in the plant-based space. What they may also invest in is unknown.
Oatly has a few different types of oat milk available. In my opinion, the best one is Oatly Barista (£1.80 for 1 litre). A nice creamy milk, I find I need to use a lot less of this milk in my beverages to get them to the desired colour. Oatly Barista also makes a mean frothy coffee.
Ethics wise, it’s complicated. In 2020, Oatly sold a stake of the company to Blackstone, a private equity group. However, Less Waste Laura linked Blackstone to a controversial Brazilian infrastructure investment that has been accused of contributing to deforestation in the Amazon.
Blackstone has denied having all links to deforestation. However, notwithstanding that accusation, Blackstone’s CEO Stephen Schwarzman has been a prominent Wall Street supporter of Donald Trump, donating $3m to support the president’s re-election. It certainly leaves a bad taste in your mouth.
Provamel milk* (£2.09 for 1 litre) is not my milk of choice. Weak and watery, it makes a pretty insipid cup of tea and did not fare well in coffee either.
Whilst all of Provamel’s products are organic and GMO free, Provamel, has since 2016 been owned by Danone. This ownership is troubling. Read more in the Alpro section of this guide to best oat milk, if you want to know more about Danone.
I bought a carton of Provitamil (£1.59 for one litre) when the local shop was all out of all other brands of oat milk. This should really have been a sign that maybe this brand of oat milk was not up to scratch. But what can I say, when the choice was this or black tea then there are always tough decisions to be made.
I found Provitamil watery and weak. You could pour in a quarter of a carton and it wouldn’t change the colour of the tea. I switched to mint tea during this sad time, because I could not bear this milk.
Provitamil is made in the UK and is part of the Drinks Brokers Ltd portfolio of brands. Within Drinks Brokers Ltd portfolio is their own brand cows milk and Springwise Bottled Water. If you’re looking for vegan milk that doesn’t support the dairy industry, or the bottled water industry, then I’m afraid it’s not this one.
Rude Health Oat Milk (£2.29 for 1 litre) is another oat milk that I struggle with the texture and consistency. It’s just too thin and takes a lot of milk to get my tea to the desired colour. I seem to go through a lot more milk when I use this brand. This isn’t great when it’s one of the most expensive oat milks around.
In 2019 PepsiCo acquired a minority 9% stake in Rude Health. Whilst this minority share means they won’t have much sway in Rude Health’s operations, Pepsico has in the past been accused of humans rights violations.
What Are the Other Options?
If you want to opt out of buying pre-made oat milk, one option would be to make your own oat milk. Personally, I’ve not had much success in doing so. It’s a bit of a faff, and can be a bit slimy, but once I find a good technique I’ll be sure to share it here on the blog.
Another option, if it is available to you, is to support local producers making and selling their own oat milk.
One example of this is The Butterfly Effect in Insch, Aberdeenshire. Their milk comes in glass bottles, which you can return for a refill, making it a more circular option. I think this would be a wonderful step forward for our local economies, and something that I hope really catches on around the country.
Is Any Oat Milk Ethical?
From big dairy to big investors with dubious portfolios, to anonymous investors, and big supermarket chains with dubious supply chains, it’s really tough to say which is the most ethical oat milk. Each brand has its own issues.
Personally? I would buy whatever oat milk is easily available to you at the price point you can afford, and the taste you enjoy. Why do I think this? Well, what I think this article highlights is the limitation of green consumerism.
More people are switching from dairy to non-dairy alternatives because of concerns about climate change. And yes, this undoubtedly helps the environment. However, green consumerism on its own won’t save us from climate change. When a green product that we buy is used to possibly help fund the dairy industry, other non-green investments, or to line the pockets of shareholders then green consumerism cannot be the answer to climate change.
This is not to say that I don’t think that green consumerism doesn’t work at all. I just think it needs to be coupled with green activism to bring about systems change.
Elizabeth Cline addresses this extensively in this article for Atmos – where she writes: “We must not mistake Ethical Consumption—a private act—for political power or organized, collective social change that benefits everyone. When we retreat into our Ethical Consumer bubbles, some of the most powerful institutions in our society get a free pass to run roughshod over people who don’t have the market choices we do“.
So drink oat milk, but also, where you can, also campaign for better policies and regulations that align with your ethics. I’m reading my way through this book* at the moment to help me understand more about effective activism.