Less than a year after launch, Quaker has discontinued its Oat Beverage product line. According to FoodNavigator, the product was made with oat bran concentrate and contained more fiber, less sugar, and fewer calories than competing oat milk brands.
We don’t know all of Quaker’s motivations for dropping their Oat Beverage line. Maybe the oat milk market was already too saturated. Maybe it was a miscalculation for Quaker to emphasize heart health, not taste — the number one purchasing motivator for younger consumers. Maybe consumers were already brand loyal to smaller companies like Oatly, which brought the oat milk craze to America.
Quaker is owned by PepsiCo, so it’s also possible that purchasers, especially younger demographics who are leading the plant-based dining movement, wanted to support smaller brands with stronger emphasis on the environment (like Oatly) instead of a gigantic food corporation. We’ve written about this conundrum — whether or not consumers will buy disruptive products from Big Food corporations — in terms of the plant-based meat space. But the issue is just as relevant for other animal alternatives like dairy.
There’s also a simpler explanation: maybe Quaker’s oat milk just didn’t taste that good. The Spoon’s Managing Editor Chris Albrecht tried the Quaker Oat Beverage earlier this year and said that the consistency was “super thin” and not as creamy as its competitor Oatly. At SKS 2019 (on a panel with Oatly’s Bjorn Oste!), Dr. P.K. Newby noted that taste is the “primary driver” for the success of a plant-based product, followed by brand authenticity.
Most likely, Quaker Oat Beverage’s fail was a result of all of the above. It goes to show that if Big Food creates fast-follower products to tap into disruptive trends, like plant-based dining, it’s got to be very strategic. It can’t just churn out a copycat product and call it a day. Consumers aren’t dumb and most of them will happily pay a few extra bucks or go out of their way to find their favorite brands if the ones from major CPG companies come up short in terms of taste.
If Big Food wants to attract buyers away from Oatly — or Beyond and Impossible, for that matter — they might consider putting more emphasis on sustainability, or just all-out purchasing smaller disrupter startups. Above all, they have to ensure that their offerings taste amazing. Otherwise there will be a lot more Big Food products joining Quaker Oat Beverage in the graveyard of plant-based fails.