Oatly is well known by conscious consumers worldwide, both for its oat milk in supermarkets and trendy coffee bars, and from their eye-catching advertisements. What many people don't realize is that the Swedish company has actually been around for over 30 years. We spoke with Executive Director Martin Ringqvist and Head of Sustainability Shaunagh Duncan.

Origin of the oat milk producer

The first Oatly products have been available in supermarkets in Sweden since 1994. The original products were developed in collaboration with the University of Lund in Sweden with the goal to create a plant-based dairy alternative for people who are lactose intolerant. The proposed alternative was based on oats, a raw material found in abundance in Sweden. The company succeeded in this mission, growing to be the largest supplier of oat milk in Scandinavian countries.

“The goal now is to produce products with maximum nutritional value and minimal environmental impact”

Pivot to a lifestyle brand

In 2013, the Oatly team decided to pivot. Before 2013, Oatly’s target audience mainly consisted of individuals who were lactose intolerant. The management team recognized that sustainability was becoming increasingly important, and saw an opportunity in rebranding Oatly to focus on all environmentally conscious consumers. The plant-based dairy producer was transformed. Not only did they target a broader audience, they also changed their visual identity and hired a new set of 20 employees. The only thing that remained unchanged was the product. Lactose intolerant or not, with their oat milk, Oatly aims to serve the globe while encouraging people to make sustainable choices.

Oatly as an example for start-ups

According to a recent study conducted by Oatly in conjunction with Blonk Consultants, cow milk has 2.5 times more impact on the climate than Oatly's oat milk. Duncan: "We want to change the status quo. We do that with our brand and our products." They are succeeding. The brand represents a conscious and sustainable lifestyle in countries where it is active. In part because of their sustainable mission, Oatly is also incredibly popular, and their popularity exists among more than vegan consumers. Many start-up entrepreneurs express their desire to become the new Oatly, and to emulate its popularity with a generation who strive to live with sustainability in mind.

700 million dollars revenue

Martin Ringqvist, Executive Director, and Shaunagh Duncan, Head of Sustainability: "Compared to large dairy companies, we are small. But our ambitions are huge." According to the Executive Director, people love small brands. But Oatly is no longer a tiny brand. The company is now active in 20 countries with approximately 1,800 employees worldwide. There are factories in Sweden, The Netherlands, United States, China, and Singapore, with a factory in the United Kingdom currently under construction. Revenue in 2022 amounted to over 700 million dollars, with Rabobank and VIPs like Oprah Winfrey, Natalie Portman, and Jay-Z investing in the enterprise.