Confined to his home during a Covid lockdown in 2020, Singapore financial whiz Benedict Lim started experimenting in his kitchen with different flavours and extraction processes for oat milk. Now launched under the brand name Oatside, his creation is already winning the hearts and tastebuds of consumers across four Asian countries.
A self-professed “control freak”, Lim and his team have retained full jurisdiction over the entire production process of Oatside, from ingredient sourcing to oat extraction to filling, making the alt-milk “one of the first ‘full-stack’ oat-milk brands to originate from Asia”.
The result, he says, is a plant-based milk for Asia that doesn’t feel like a compromise on quality, taste or texture.
“We hope to contribute to a growing stable of plant-based products where picking the sustainable option no longer tastes of ‘doing your part’.”
Oatside’s launch has ramped up an already competitive oat-milk category in Singapore. World-leading brand Oatly in December launched a joint venture manufacturing agreement with local food company Yeo Hiap Seng – best known as Yeo’s – to supply multiple Asian markets.
Lim, formerly CFO at Kraft Heinz Indonesia, is well aware of how crowded the plant-based alt-milk space is. “We know what you’re thinking, “do we really need another plant milk?” and our answer is heck yes, because Oatside is creamier and maltier than the plant milks you’re used to.”
Promising consumers they would be able to “pronounce every word on our ingredient list” Lim created Oatside free from “all the nasties” like artificial flavours, gums, emulsifiers, preservatives or colouring, and focusing on sourcing the highest-quality ingredients.
Made from oats, which contain beta-glucans, Oatside is recommended as good for heart health by reducing cholesterol and boosting immunity.
“We know that taste is often a barrier to people adopting sustainable milks, so our goal was to develop an oat milk that could overcome these perceptions,” explains Lim. “It was a challenge developing the right product with existing setups at contract manufacturers in the early days, so we took the longer approach of building out our own production line that allowed us more customisation and control over the oat extraction process.”
Available to Singapore consumers online from Redmart and Shopee in three variants – Barista Blend, Chocolate and Chocolate Hazelnut – the alt-milk has a recommended retail price of $6 (about US$4.50). It is also stocked in Singapore by artisan food store Baker & Cook, specialist coffee retailer PPP Coffee, and served up at the Chye Seng Huat Hardware cafe, and The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf outlets.
Beyond Singapore, it is available in Indonesia, Malaysia and Taiwan, and will launch in South Korea later this month.
Sustainability is core to the vision for Oatside – oat-milk production requires 90-per-cent less land and water and produces 70-per-cent fewer emissions compared with cow’s milk.
“Plant-based milk is the sustainable future of milk and we believe will be one of the key drivers of the category in Asia with best-in-class taste,” said Tai Lin, managing partner of Proterra Asia Investment Partners, the private-equity firm which led a $22 million pre-series A funding round for Oatside in December 2020.
“We are excited to be a part of the Oatside journey.”