Swedish food and beverage brand attains significant investment as the popularity of plant-based products in coffee shops, particularly oat milk, shows no sign of slowing
Younger consumers, particularly those under the age of 35, are driving the popularity of plant-based milks globally | Photo: Madalyn Cox
Oatly has sold a $200m minority stake in its business to expand production globally. Led by investment firm Blackstone Group, the eclectic group of investors is reported to include former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz, and celebrities Oprah Winfrey and Natalie Portman. Other investors included Rapper Jay-Z’s Roc Nation entertainment company, US private investment firm Orkila Capital and an investment arm of Netherlands-based Rabobank.
In February 2020 Oatly was reportedly aiming to operate five factories, two in the US and one each in Sweden, the Netherlands and Singapore, by the end of 2021. The new investment brings it a step closer to fulfilling that ambition, with the Sweden-based company confirming its intention to facilitate further expansion across Europe, the US and Asia.
“Our new partners’ commitment to supporting us and furthering of our mission is a clear indication of where the world is heading, which is in a new, more sustainable direction,” said Oatly CEO, Toni Petersson.
World Coffee portal research shows oat milk is the fastest growing new category of plant-based dairy alternatives among coffee shops globally. Oatly’s products have enjoyed significant mainstream success in recent years, with US specialty coffee chain Intelligentsia becoming the first major US café to stock its oat dairy alternative products in 2016. More recently, Oatly has embarked on a partnership with Starbucks in the US, which was extended across the coffee giant’s Chinese stores in April 2020.
Oatly’s new investment also underlines the significant commercial potential
of plant-based products globally as consumers, particularly those under the age of 35, seek to reduce their environmental impact and opt for healthier products.
Ethical consumerism was cited by US industry leaders surveyed by World Coffee Portal in 2019 as the second most consumer trend affecting the US coffee shop market in 2019, behind growth in specialty coffee.
In the UK
, nearly one-fifth of consumers surveyed by World Coffee Portal in 2019 frequently requested dairy-alternative milk with their coffee shop beverage. In March 2020, 35% of UK consumers surveyed
indicated they believed plant-based milks were better for the environment than dairy milk, with the proportion rising to 56% among under-35s.
Oatly’s new investment follows $225m raised
by fellow plant-based milk brand Califia Farms in January 2020 from a group international investors including Singapore-based Temasek Holdings, which supported vegan plant-based burger Beyond Meat in 2019.