Blue Bottle Coffee is shelving dairy milk and working to make oat milk the new standard across all its locations. Currently, the famous Oakland coffee chain is testing oat milk as the default option at two locations in California. This marks the first time a national coffee chain has decided to default on oat milk rather than either upcharge or let the customer decide. The company explained that the switch is due to consumer preference as well as a company-wide effort to promote sustainability.

The New Consumer reported that at the West Hollywood, Los Angeles location, the store posted a sign reading: "May we recommend oat milk? We are now serving oat milk as the default option in your coffee drinks because many of you prefer it and it steams into a beautiful, shiny micro-foam. Plus, oat milk creates fewer greenhouse gas emissions than dairy.”

Beyond the West Hollywood location, Blue Bottle also started its transition to oat milk priority at its Jackson Square, San Francisco location, according to the company’s iPhone app. The company has silently initiative this transition with no confirmation that the trial will expand to stores nationwide.

Blue Bottle’s decision to redesign its coffee menu comes following the spiking popularity of plant-based milk products. One report found that nearly 42 percent of global consumers would classify themselves as flexitarian. The number of plant-based consumers continues to significantly rise. Another report found that within the plant-based shift, milk alternatives have become the top vegan product that consumers are shopping for online.

A report from Market Research Future discovered that the oat milk market is growing quickly, becoming one of the most popular plant-based milk on the market. The rising demand is expected to push the oat milk market to $2.2 billion by 2026. The report goes on to say that the entire plant-based milk market could reach $40.6 billion by the same year. The rising popularity is part of a general shift towards plant-based interest stemming from concerns about health, the dangers of animal agriculture, and sustainability.

“I believe in the next few years more and more restaurant chains will start to offer plant-based dairy and meat as a default, with an option to swap for animal-based,” Investor and alternative protein expert Michal Klar says. “This will be a natural next phase in a gradual move away from animal-derived foods as prices of plant-based versions drop and consumer acceptance increases.”

The Oakland-based company is attempting to change coffee service globally with 99 locations located around the world. Blue Bottle Coffee can be found in Seoul, Tokyo, Hong Kong, and more with oat milk as an option at no extra cost. Rivaling coffee chains such as Costa and Starbucks typically add a surcharge to the oat milk alternative, propelling Blue Bottle to the front of the plant-based movement.
The plant-based milk campaign comes after oat milk’s breakthrough year. Last year, the oat milk sector rose 294 percent in enhanced retail channels and 345 percent in mainstream retailers, according to SPINS data. This data shows that consumers themselves are defaulting to the plant-based alternative, making it the next step for businesses to adapt to the shifting consumer behavior.

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