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Helping develop sustainable dairy alternatives

January 16, 2023

MOMA Foods, one of the UK’s foremost producers of oat milk, is working with Teesside University to ensure its products lead the way on taste and sustainability. The company is working with scientists from Teesside University’s National Horizons Centre on cutting-edge research to optimize its oat milk and explore the potential for new product lines.

To achieve this, MOMA is helping fund a PhD studentship to work alongside Professor John S. Young from the National Horizons Centre, Teesside University’s national centre of excellence for bioscience. The project aims to develop new methods of testing the quality of oat milk on site through the development of a new monitoring tool which will analyse fat and protein content. It will also work with suppliers to optimise ingredients and look at ways of developing new strains of enzymes to break down the oats.

MOMA was founded by Tom Mercer in 2006, initially selling breakfast pots from a converted filing cabinet in Waterloo Station. Since then, it has grown rapidly to become one of the UK’s fastest-growing health food brands and in 2020 launched its first range of oat milk which is stocked by a number of leading supermarkets.

MOMA was supported in the development of the oat milk range thanks to a Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) carried out in conjunction with Portsmouth and Teesside Universities.

This project, part-funded by Innovate UK, saw academics work with MOMA to develop its oat milk; helping to refine ingredients to ensure the right combination of enzymes were being used to break down the starch in the oats and result in a product that was foamable and did not split when added to hot liquid.

As a result of the successful partnership, oat milk has now overtaken porridge as MOMA’s core product.

The milk has also received several plaudits including a Great Taste Award and ranks the highest for flavour compared to its competitors on Amazon.

The company now hopes to continue this successful partnership through the PhD studentship with Teesside University.

“Prior to embarking on the KTP we’d never really used an external resource," Mercer said. “However, by working with a university we were able to gain that depth of academic knowledge, helping to understand on a molecular level what it was we are trying to achieve. We’re hoping to take this even further though the PhD.

“Oat milk has the potential to be an incredibly sustainable alternative to dairy products; helping cut greenhouse gas emissions by reducing methane from dairy herds and using ingredients which can be easily grown in this country. However, it’s still a nascent industry and we want to be at the forefront of knowledge and work with our farmers and suppliers to understand exactly what delivers the best product. To do this it’s vitally important that we bring academic knowledge into the industry and don’t operate in a silo and working with Teesside University will help us to achieve this.”

“At Teesside University, a key pillar of our research strategy is forging a smarter, greener economy through novel and disruptive technologies," Professor Young added. “Our ongoing relationship with MOMA has already delivered real impact by helping the company develop an innovative product which is not only creating jobs and new markets for the business but could have a real impact in reducing global emissions. We’re really excited about this next stage of our partnership and working with MOMA to explore the possibilities for this product.”

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