With oat milk leading the ever-expanding plant-based milk market, and forecasts showing it to continue its growth strongly this year, East London oat drink specialist Minor Figures is seeing success across the UK as well as its new markets in the US and Asia.
Founded in 2015 by three friends, the oat-based brand has cornered the specialist coffee market, recently adding its Barista Light Oat to its carbon-neutral portfolio. We had the opportunity to chat with Ben Vear, EMEA General Manager at Minor Figures, about this rapidly-growing plant-based brand.
What is the origin story behind Minor Figures?
After founding KeepCup, playing trumpet in Joss Stone’s band, selling skateboard gear, and even writing a novel, Stu, Will & Jono came together to create Minor Figures.
It all started with a chat on a rooftop in 2014, experimenting with roasting coffee in a kitchen, and seeing how far a shared love of coffee would take them, somehow we’ve ended up running a global brand with over 100 team members slinging coffee supplies and showing off their latte art skills in over 40 countries!
We’re based out of three offices; London, Melbourne and Los Angeles.
What are your bestsellers and how many units are you selling?
Minor Figures Barista Oat is our global bestseller, we sell millions of cartons every month worldwide and in 2023 will top over 100 million litres.
Last year saw Minor Figures expand into the US market, what has been the reception to the launch?
It’s been amazing! We’ve loved seeing the response from US customers and growing our team across the East and West coast. We’re big on specialty coffee and connecting with people at the centre of the coffee scene – independent roasters, distributors, baristas, you name it – has been how we’ve found our people. It played a huge role in raising our brand awareness from the earliest days of MF in both the UK and Australia too
In which other markets and retail channels are your products currently available?
Our brand is available in over 40 countries across retail and coffee shops. In the UK as well as ordering online at the Minor Figures website, you can get your hands on our products in Waitrose, Morrisons, Holland & Barrett, independent grocers and from late March across Tesco stores nationwide too.
Our Barista Oat is served at thousands of indie cafes all over the country too, so be sure to keep an eye out for us behind the counter at your favourite local cafe! You can also find our Oat M*lk Refill Stations in over 120 zero-waste & package-free stores too.
How much does sustainability play a role in the Minor Figures ethos?
The entire MF ethos is guided by our desire to leave the planet a better place than we found it. We initially decided to commit to being a plant-based company because one of our earliest employees was so passionate about it, but our commitment to sustainability has only snowballed from there, becoming a central part of who we are. We’re 100% carbon neutral, meaning that we invest into carbon offset initiatives around the world and by April 2022 will have offset over 11,000 tonnes of CO2.
“It’s amazing to see buying behaviour shifting away from meat and dairy”
What directions and trends do you predict for the plant-based category in 2022?
As more consumers continue to shift away from animal-based products we’re confident that the plant-based category will continue to grow at a pace rarely seen in the wider Food & Drink category, with more and more consumers seeking out our aisle! It’s amazing to see buying behaviour shifting away from meat and dairy and to see so many people becoming increasingly more open to welcoming plant-based foods into their lives.
It’ll be fascinating to see what direction more traditional brands take to keep up with the times. We’re predicting big things in the space and there’s a lot of room for innovation, especially across dairy alternatives, ferments and nootropics.
You recently launched a new Barista Light Oat milk, what other product innovations and market expansions do you have planned for 2022?
Barista Light joins our lineup of oat milks providing consumers with an option that is lower in fat and sugar content without compromising on barista standard quality. We’ve got plenty more in the pipeline but can’t spill all our secrets.
In 2022 we’ll be launching into the chilled category (keep your eyes peeled for two new products coming soon) and we’ll also be expanding our coffee offering in the US. Beyond that, you’ll just have to wait and see!