Oatly Now Valued Around $2 Billion
Balckstone lead a group of celebrities and Rabobank's investment group in a $200 million purchase of 10% of Oatly's equity. The company intents to use the cash to expand in its existing markets in Europe, the US and Asia to tap into the “growing community of health and environmentally conscious consumers worldwide”.
“It is my belief that capital has to turn green and do so for the right reasons,” Oatly CEO Toni Petersson said. Adding that support from Blackstone “is a clear indication of where the world is heading, which is in a new, more sustainable direction”.
Oatly was founded as early as the 1990s by two brothers at Lund University in Sweden who wanted to develop a plant-based alternative to cow’s milk. Their patented solution is used in the manufacturing of Oatly’s range of products. Petersson arrived as CEO in 2012 and re-launched the brand a year later. Last year, Oatly’s sales doubled and were approaching $200 million.
“Our authenticity shines through, especially with the Gen Z and Millennials," he said. “The plant-based dairy category was initially driven by lactose intolerance. What you see today is a conversion from cows' milk and interest in sustainability from passionate young people who want to change the world… We want to be one of the thought leaders in this global movement.”
Clément Pointillart, Executive Director at Oatly’s majority-owner Verlinvest, added: “When you talk about Oatly you talk about a 30-year overnight success. It has over a 50% market share in Sweden where it's been around for 30 years and where it has created and developed the dairy alternative market. For the last five years we've seen expansion into a global audience, but the success is also deeply rooted in the authenticity that it has created from a product standpoint and sustainability standpoint for those last decades in its own market. So this has been in the works for a very long time."
Pointillart believes the deal with Blackstone is proof that Oatly’s mission “is now being embraced by mainstream funds” that will continue to help bring it to a global audience.
***“***We were a challenger at the beginning of the oat milk category; then we became a challenger in the dairy alternative category. I think now the next challenge for us to be a disrupter and challenger in the overall dairy category and have an impact at a global scale in a much larger category. That's a very exciting mission."
That mindset is visible in its controversial guerrilla-style marketing.
“We made this ad look like street art so you would like it better than if it was just an ad,” is one eye-catching example that was emblazoned on the outside of a Berlin building.
It uses similar tactics in its labelling. Last year, it added a carbon footprint label to its products in Europe beside which read: “Hey, food industry: show us your numbers!”
The CEO spoke of Oatly's marketing and oaty products saying, "We couldn't have done one without the other. You can’t separate them."
"A brand needs to have voice. That's why we can have a conversation with our consumers in a different way. Sometimes it’s about really serious topics, sometimes it’s about pure nonsense - but it's a voice and you always recognise it. But it could never have happened without the product.”
"I don't fear it becoming a fad… young people in five years aren't going to say: ‘it doesn't matter anymore and let’s start to consume more meat-based or dairy products’."
According to Pointillart, the health benefits of oats are second to none. "Moving away from cow's milk, the only thing you give up is protein – and it so happens [people] have way too much protein intake but don’t eat enough fibre. Oatly has an amazing fibre and beta glucan content… we’re ideally positioned to grow from a nutritional standpoint.”