Arla oat drink launch prompts mixed farmer reaction

Farmer-owned dairy co-operative Arla Foods has produced an organic oat drink in a bid to capitalise on the plant-based food market.

The product, called JORD, will be launched in Denmark this spring, and in the UK later in 2020.

There are three versions with slightly different ingredients:

  • A straight organic oat-based drink
  • Oat sweetened with added barley
  • Oat and hemp to mimic a nut flavour.

Arla says the three drinks contain up to 50% more oats compared with competing products, and less than half the number of ingredients.

See also: The new crops that could soon profit UK farmers 

Arla Foods UK managing director Ash Amirahmadi admitted that the move into the plant-based sector by a dairy farmer-owned company would be seen as unexpected.

‘Not a milk substitute’

However, he said: “We do not consider plant-based drinks to be substitutes for milk.

“Many people consuming these drinks also include milk and other dairy products in their diets.”

Mr Amirahmadi added that the plant-based market had captured the imagination of people looking for different tastes and flavours.

“As food choices become increasingly diverse and experimental, it’s a business opportunity for farmers.”

While 99.8% of UK households bought dairy products last year, the interest in plant-based foods brings a new way for Arla to increase opportunities for people to enjoy dairy and alternatives, Mr Amirahmadi insisted.

“Dairy will always be the core of Arla’s business driving sustainable growth for our farmer owners. As Britain’s leading dairy company, it is natural for us to enter this category and contribute to the development of it with new products and flavours.” 

Mixed reaction

Reaction to the launch among dairy farmers was mixed with some taking to Twitter to express disappointment.

One large-scale organic dairy farmer said he was saddened by the news and felt the new drink sent mixed messages about milk to producers and consumers.

But long-time dairy sector commentator Chris Walkland responded philosophically.

“Arla needs to learn how to market dairy alongside plant-based companion products. Not competitors. If it makes farmers money, what’s the problem?” Mr Walkland tweeted.

Others agreed with Mr Walkland.

“It’s a growing market and thus a growing threat. A good defence is to get involved,” another farmer tweeted.