The global oats and oatmeal markets are booming, with no signs of slowing down anytime soon. Boasting a plethora of delicious and nutritious benefits, hot oatmeal for breakfast is one of the hottest ticket items in today’s food industry, with all the major suppliers reporting unprecedented sales growth.
But that’s not all. Oats and oatmeal are appearing everywhere in the food-and-beverage space, including:
- Oat-based dishes for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks
- Dairy free, gluten-free oat milk, which food trend analysts predict is about to break away from the pack and experience its biggest year yet (be on the lookout for new oat milk varieties such as chocolate, vanilla, plain, and extra creamy plain)
- Oat flour, which has earned a reputation as one of the best gluten-free flours around
- Oat and oatmeal-based products proliferating grocery store shelves, securing a foothold on the palates of the growing number of health-conscious consumers (think oatmeal granola bars, oatmeal energy bars, instant oatmeal, rolled oats, oat bran, and more)
- Oat-milk based ice cream (for example, the sweet taste and tune of Brooklyn’s Van Leeuwen Ice Cream, where customers are lapping up flavors such as Chocolate Oat Milk Cookie Dough Chunk, Oat Milk Brown Sugar Chunk, Oat Milk Mocha Latte, and Oat Milk Caramel Cookie
- New coffee brews and blends such as oat milk espresso, oat milk latte, oat coffee creamers, and granola milk cortado made from oat milk steeped with granola flavors
- Spreadable oat cheese and dairy-free, gluten-free, vegan oat crème fraiche
Before we delve into the many health benefits of oats, let’s step back in time and explore when and how the grain first appeared. Despite its now widespread popularity, the much-acclaimed oat bears a most humble origin. The last of the major cereal grains to be domesticated, oats originated 3,000 years ago as weeds that grew within the cultivated fields of other crops. In fact, considered an inferior grain, they were typically fed to horses.
All that changed, however, at the turn of the 1st century, when the Scottish began to embrace oats for human consumption, where they became and still are a mainstay of the national diet. The very first oat bread and oat bread factory were established in Britain in 1899, and over time, their usage spread across the globe. Fast-forward to modern times, and oats currently rank sixth in the global production of cereals (after maize, rice, wheat, barley, and sorghum).
And for all the professional bakers among you, here is a tasty bite of historic oatmeal trivia: The modern oatmeal cookie evolved from the oat cakes (a plain flatbread) consumed by the Scots and the Brits many centuries ago. The first oatmeal cookie recipe on record appeared in the 1896 Boston Cooking-School Cookbook. Today’s common inclusion of raisins and nuts, in turn, is largely attributed to the first oatmeal raisin cookie recipe featured on Quaker Oats containers in the early 1900’s.
Oats and Oatmeal Health Benefits
Did you know that rulings by both the Food and Drug Administration and the European Food Safety Authority officially state that oatmeal and oat products can lower the risk of heart disease and effectively reduce blood cholesterol levels via their rare beta-glucan content.
And there is plenty more great health news when it comes to oat dishes. Hot oatmeal, for example, boasts a longstanding association with health. Packed with fiber, containing little or no sugar, and able to accommodate both sweet and savory flavors, the hot oatmeal breakfast market is soaring.
Moreover, the growing concern by consumers regarding the negative impacts of food additives and chemicals has further increased demand for oat-based products. At the same time, their busier, on-the-go lifestyles have boosted oats popularity as the most preferred ready-to-cook ingredient.
What else de we know about oat health benefits? A lot! Here are some oat and oatmeal wellness facts:
- One of the most nutrient-dense foods one can eat, oats boast the unique property of providing a complete nutritious meal without the addition of any other ingredients.
- 1/4 cup of oat flour contains: 75 calories, 0 grams sodium, 0 grams fat, 13.5 grams carbohydrates, 2 grams fiber, 2.5 grams protein, 0 grams cholesterol
- 1/2 cup of raw oats contains: 150 calories, 191% of the recommended daily intake (RDI) for manganese; 41% of the RDI for phosphorous; 34% of the RDI for magnesium; 24% of the RDI for copper; 20% of the RDI for iron; 20% of the RDI for zinc; 11% of the RDI for folate; 39% of the RDI for thiamin (Vitamin B1); 10% of the RDI for Vitamin B5; smaller amounts of vitamin B6, vitamin B3, calcium, and potassium
- Oats contain large amounts of a rare and important type of soluble fiber called beta-glucan. Beta-glucan is known to: help reduce LDL and total cholesterol levels; reduce blood sugar levels; and promote the growth of good bacteria in the gut/digestive tract.
- Due to their high soluble fiber content and viscosity, oats and oatmeal are also among the most filling food items around, acting as an aide for weight loss; moreover, compared to most cereals and grains, oats contain relatively few calories.
- Whole oats are notably rich in a unique group of antioxidants called avenanthramides, which are found almost exclusively in oats. The latter are said to help lower blood pressure levels, dilate blood vessels, and allow for a better blood flow.
- With their capacity to lower blood sugar levels and improve insulin sensitivity, oat products are recommended for people who are overweight or who have Type 2 diabetes.
- Some research indicates that oats fed to young infants may help prevent childhood asthma.
Types of Oats
Every good chef should know his/her ingredients, and if you own a restaurant or run a catering business, you also know that education is one of the keys to success. So, let’s begin our ‘Foodservice Oats Tutorial,’ which will give you the 411 you need when ordering or purchasing oats.
Based on the product type, oats are available as rolled oats, oat groats (divided into whole oats and steel-cut oats), and oat flour. Oatmeal, in turn, is a coarse flour made from groats that have been rolled, steel-cut, or ground/milled. The milled versions can produce fine, medium, or coarse oatmeal.
Breaking the categories down even further, rolled oats in their essence are steamed and flattened whole oat groats that are rolled thinly or thickly. The thin version, most often referred to as ‘quick’ or ‘instant,’ speeds up cooking times. Slow-cooking oats, on the other hand, also referred to as ‘old-fashioned,’ take longer to cook. Finally, there are now pre-cooked oats, to which enzymes are sometimes added. A classic example are the popular instant oatmeal packets, where the grain is precooked and dried, often with the addition of a sweetener (i.e. sugar or honey) and flavorings.
Finally, not to be left off your ingredient list is oat bran. Particularly high in insoluble fiber and made from the outer layer of the hulled oat kernel, oat bran adds a unique texture when sprinkled on cold cereal and when added to baking recipes, including quick breads, pancakes, and casseroles. It can also be prepared as tasty, filling, hot cereal variety of its own.
Ways to Add Oats and Oatmeal to Your Restaurant’s Menu
If you are looking for ideas on how to add oats to your customers’ favorite recipes and dishes, you have come to the right place! Of course, the simplest and most obvious option is to offer a variety of flavorful hot oatmeal cereals to your breakfast and brunch menus. Better yet, cater to the growing number of on-the-go consumers by offering portable, single-serving cups or bowls of hot cereal that they can eat in transit or at their work desk.
And if you make your own basic hot oatmeal recipe, your chefs can have a field day adding their own signature flavors and ingredients (think fruits, berries, nuts, seeds, cinnamon, yogurt, sweet or savory seasonings, and beyond….). To top it off and add another crown to your chefs’ caps and to your business’s image, remember to post Instagram-worthy photos of your oats creations online where they can go viral in an instant, inviting teems of hungry consumers to your establishment.
What else is on the oat’s menu these days? From salads and side dishes to main courses and desserts, take inspiration from the following ideas:
- Toss a handful of oats into your meat or vegan burger mixture where they act as a binder, adding a unique texture and helping form a less crumbly patty
- Add 1-2 tablespoons of whole or ground oats or some oat flour to thicken stews, sauces, chili, and salsa
- Make gluten-free oat tortillas
- Add some fiber-packed bulk to your smoothies with the addition of a spoonful or two of raw oats. For example, blend 1 frozen banana with 2 tablespoons of oats, add a splash of cold, nondairy milk, a small amount of nut butter (optional), and a handful of seasonal berries
- Use oats to make the ultimate homemade granola. To cater to your vegan customers, you can replace honey in recipes with pure maple syrup or agave
- Did you know that you can use oats as a cake bottom or pie crust base, for example to make classic apple pie or cheesecake? Here are two ways to do so: 1) Spread a handful of toasted oats on the bottom of your cake or pie pan; pour your batter overtop, bake, and voila! 2) Mix 1 cup of oats with 3 tablespoons of coconut oil or melted margarine; press into the bottom of your cake or pie pan; bake at 400 F for 10 minutes.
- Keep a steady supply of rolled oats in your pantry so your customers can enjoy a fresh batch of no-bake cookies every day
- Add oats or oatmeal to a wide array of salads, including fresh greens, chickpea salad, fruit salad, Waldorf salad, pilaf, Quaker Oat’s recipe for Cranberry Apple and Pecan Oat Salad, and more
Baking with Oat Flour
Last and by no means least, baking with oat flour allows your chefs maximum versatility as they cater to the palates of all your customers and their special dietary needs. Use to replace part or all the flour called for in most recipes, oat flour is gluten free, more flavorful than regular all-purpose or wheat flour, and gives rise to a chewier and crumblier texture. Its nutty flavor harmonizes deliciously with vanilla, honey, cinnamon, and nutmeg.
In addition to making pancakes, waffles, breads, and muffins from oat flour, there are endless oat-based baking recipes out there to experiment with. From classic banana oatmeal muffins and oatmeal raisin cookies to newer creations such as oatmeal applesauce bread, strawberry oatmeal dessert bars, banana zucchini oatmeal cupcakes, no-bake oat cinnamon buns, oatmeal pumpkin pie, holiday gingerbread oatmeal, raspberry rhubarb oatmeal pie, oatmeal spice cake with cream cheese topping, and even oatmeal cream pies.
Oats and oatmeal sale projections for the foreseeable future are not only promising, they are victorious. If you work in foodservice, now is the time to cash in on the lucrative playing field and become a major player in the industry by adding oat-based dishes and beverages to all of your menus – breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks. Finally, if you own a bar or sell alcoholic drinks, be sure to check out the Oatmeal Cookie Cocktail, the taste of which is described to be quite like a good ol’ oatmeal cookie…