As tastemakers go they don’t get a lot greater than superstar energy couple the Carters, with Jay-Z’s funding in the Oatly drinks model sprinkling stardust on the booming alt-milk trade.
Last week, the Swedish oat milk-maker was valued at $2bn (£1.56bn) after it sold a 10% stake to a star-studded forged of buyers that included Oprah Winfrey, Jay-Z’s leisure firm Roc Nation, Natalie Portman and US non-public fairness agency Blackstone.
“We are a grassroots brand and wanted to bring in people who are generational voices,” says the Oatly chief govt, Toni Petersson. Jay-Z and Beyoncé have encouraged fans to try plant-based meals as has Winfrey, whereas Portman is a high-profile advocate of veganism.
The $200m-share sale is a massive second for the meals enterprise, which, after a number of many years in the Swedish wilderness, is having fun with stratospheric progress due to a mixture of guerrilla advertising and marketing and good timing. When one first-time drinker declared “it tastes like shit!” the firm printed the view on its cartons.
Petersson, who claims to hate the limelight, has additionally featured in its adverts, i memorably the place he’s standing alone in a discipline with a synthesiser, singing “Wow, no cow!” time and again. “I hate being in any commercial but I also understand the company is its people,” he says. “It’s not a logo.”
Sustainability experiences are sometimes a dry affair however Oatly’s lower to the chase, providing a no-nonsense translation of what its promise to be “a good company” means. In quick: “Don’t be evil fucks!”
This irreverent model has made oats horny to under-40s attempting to make extra sustainable meals decisions. Oatly’s gross sales practically doubled to $200m in 2019 and Petersson sees related progress this yr albeit with a coronavirus-sized caveat.
Petersson, who’s half Japanese and didn’t eat dairy merchandise as a little one, says: “It’s about getting a lot of people to make small changes, and by doing that, creating a shift on a massive scale rather than try to turn everybody vegan.”
The money injection will probably be used to construct a international community of factories. With The US now its greatest market. a second web site is being inbuilt Utah whereas a plant in Singapore will assist its push into Asian markets. “Beyond that we need more factories and, the final decision has not been made, but it will probably be the UK because it’s going to be such a massive market for us,” he says.
Although based in the early 1990s, Oatly was little recognized outdoors Sweden till the arrival of the arrival of Petersson in 2012. The entrepreneur has made the model stand out by hammering residence the message that oat milk is better for the planet than producing cow’s milk, which generates larger greenhouse gasoline emissions.
“I’m doing this because I have kids,” says Petersson of his motivation, which was knowledgeable by a five-year sabbatical spent residing in Costa Rica. “When you’re there you’re so in tune with nature and you see climate change first-hand. You see extreme drought and extreme rainfall and what that does to people. I realised that when I move back to Sweden I wanted to do something that mattered.”
Oatly has come a great distance from the labs of Lund University the place in the early 90s Prof Rickard Öste – who co-founded the firm along with his brother Björn – got down to develop a plant-based various to cow’s milk. Öste’s patents underpin the manufacturing course of and the tutorial stays the firm’s head of science.
The firm is being tipped for a inventory market itemizing though Petersson is tightlipped about what the future might maintain. Big buyers have been pouring cash into plant-based meals firms such as Beyond Meat, playing that the quantity of folks embracing vegan and vegetarian diets or changing into flexitarian (lowering their meat consumption) will proceed to develop.
It has taken a hit from the lockdowns, which have crippled the espresso store commerce that was key to creating demand for various milks with their Instagrammable oat chilly brews and coconut milk lattes.
But grocery market information, for the UK anyway, factors to supermarkets choosing up the slack. Faced with naked cabinets, many shoppers have tried for the first time plant-based milks, which have the additional benefit of a longer shelf life. In the 12 weeks to 16 May, Oatly’s gross sales jumped 123% to £21m, in keeping with market researcher Nielsen, whereas market chief Alpro had progress of 25%, taking its gross sales to £64m.
Alex Beckett, an analyst at Mintel, suggests the pattern is proof of folks’s need to make a distinction: “Even before Covid-19, we were seeing a growing interest in plant-based food and drink. It may well be the pandemic is accelerating this trend.”
The naysayers nonetheless, say we’re lower than 5 years away from peak plant milk. While oat milk gross sales are booming, the demand for soy and almond milks has already plateaued in the UK. But Petersson bats away options that oat milk is a fad, insisting the market is barely in its infancy.
“Ten years from now, when generation Z and millennials have the strongest spending power globally I don’t think anybody is going to say sustainability and health don’t matter anymore – ‘why don’t we start consuming more animal-based products?’. It is inevitable that [the shift to plant-based foods] will happen. The question is how fast.”