Vegetable milk is on the rise. This week, the Swedish oat drink manufacturer Oatly announced the opening of a factory in Vlissingen. They are not the only ones who benefit from the popularity of oats.

"The demand for oats has increased enormously. Our production has quadrupled in a few years. The machine runs ten hours a day," says Bert-Jan van Dinter, director of the largest (and only) Dutch processing company of gluten-free oats Vandinter Semo .

A few years ago Van Dinter himself was also busy with "the oat milk trend", but at that time the market was still too small. "It was mainly people with a gluten allergy who bought oat products. We wondered: 'will vegetable milk be the future?" and I didn't think so. I don't know if you've ever drank oat milk, but it really has a different taste than animal milk. You really have to get used to that. "

In the meantime, vegetable milk is clearly the future. "Young people in particular eat a lot of oats," says Van Dinter. "It contains more nutritional value than wheat and (usually) contains no gluten."

Delivery problems due to high demand

It is the reason that oat-drinking company Oatly opens its first European factory outside Sweden in the Netherlands. "We have seen the demand for our products grow in the Netherlands and the surrounding regions," says Frederik Gustavsson of Oatly. The demand for oat milk is so great that the company in the Netherlands was struggling with delivery problems for a while.

The new Oatly plant will produce 120 million liters of oats per year for the European market. In comparison: dairy-loving Dutch people still bought 1133 million liters of animal milk in 2012, by 2018 this had fallen by 14 percent to 975 million liters, according to research agency IRI. At the Coffee Company, one in five coffees with milk is already drunk with vegetable milk, according to Het Parool . The most popular: oat milk.

Van Dinter is not really awake because of the missed opportunity: his oats are used for breakfast cereals, cereal bars, bread and pasta. According to him, making his own oat milk has quite a few feet in the ground. "The point is that you need a very soft oat grain to squeeze milk out of it. To do this, I have to build a new machine, harvest a non-ripe crop and store it with the right technology - which I don't yet have -."

No rising prices

In 2014 he already had a special peeling machine built so that his oats do not get 'contaminated' with other, lost grains. This means he can use the gluten-free predicate. When he started his new machine, he worked with five growers. In the meantime, that has grown to 26 growers who together grow around 15 hectares of oats. According to him, the increased demand for oats has no influence on the price for the time being.

Oatly says he gets his oats from Sweden and Finland. If they also want to use Dutch oats, then Van Dinter is open to that. He hasn't received a call from them yet.