Press Releases

U of A researcher developing nutritious oat-based beverage to help people with diabetes manage their health

Edmonton, Alberta — Oats are enjoying another market and media moment. In 1997 oats made headlines as the first food to make a health claim for lowering cholesterol and preventing heart disease. Today, oat milk leads stories about plant-based dairy alternatives. Oat milk is the choice of consumers looking for a healthy, vegan and lactose-free drink produced through environmentally friendly and sustainable practices.

University of Alberta Oat researcher Dr. Lingyun Chen thinks that oat milk can be more than a great-tasting ingredient in lattes and specialty coffee. Dr. Chen is leading research to develop a new non-dairy oat milk recipe with an even better nutrient density with maximal protein content, high in dietary fibre, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, with the added benefit of lowering blood glucose and assisting people with diabetes to manage their health.

RDAR sees significant value and importance in Dr. Chen’s oat research and has supported her project with $150,000 in funding over the next two years. RDAR is driven to help Alberta oat producers positively affect and supply the global market with a healthy and high-quality milk alternative that consumers enjoy. Agriculture is critical to Alberta’s economy and funding producer-led research to make more beneficial oat products and expand global markets for value-added products.

“The oat milk trend is gaining a greater momentum by consumers looking for plant-based healthy options that include protein and fibre. Canadian oat industry is well-positioned to fulfill this promising opportunity. This research will lay the foundation to increase the demand for Canadian oats as a high-value crop for human consumption in the international market, thus increasing revenue return for oat growers.” — Dr. Lingyun Chen, Professor Faculty of Agricultural, Life and Environmental Science and Agriculture, University of Alberta

Canada is one of the world’s largest producers and exporters of oats, with approximately 90% of them grown in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba. The rise in popularity of oat milk could translate to a boom in oat production in Alberta and presents an opportunity to process more Alberta’s grain in the province.

“Outcomes from Dr. Chen’s research will significantly add value to oats as one of the major crops grown in Canada, increasing the competitiveness and profitability of Alberta’s agriculture industry.” — Clinton Dobson, Director of Research, RDAR

RDAR member organization, the Prairie Oat Growers Association (POGA), is always looking for ways to increase the competitiveness of Western Canadian oat producers.

Western Canadian oat growers are very interested in increasing value-added capacity for oats. More value-added processing in Western Canada will increase demand for domestic oats, keep the revenue local, and create a positive domino effect. Now is the opportune time to invest in oats and oat products.” — Brad Boettger, Vice-Chairman Prairie Oat Growers Association

The surging demand for oat milk led the Swedish creators of Oatly to build a new US manufacturing plant funded by a record $1.4B IPO on the NASDAQ stock exchange. For future market expansion, we know that ideally grain is processed, and products are manufactured close to the source – and that means Alberta!

From this RDAR funded research, Dr. Chen anticipates that there will be strengthened collaboration with oat industry partners and POGA. Dr. Chen’s work will help Alberta’s agriculture industry compete globally by developing a new and nutritious range of oat-based and beverages, producing positive health outcomes for Canadians, especially those with diabetes

Alberta oat producers will have access to the most recent oat research. POGA has substantially invested in research for varietal development and the best sustainable crop practices to grow and supply excellent quality oats which continues to benefit oat growers across all of Western Canada year after year.