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By: Holly Kragiopoulos 09 August 2021
There is no doubting everyone had a lot on last year…! The daily trials and tribulations of operating in the height of the pandemic meant we only had so much headspace to dedicate to anything else. As we turn our attention to this next phase of opening up, we felt able to put the below together to summarise the situation surrounding the non-dairy brand Oatly, in the hope it can act as a resource for readers seeking out more information. We are still using Oatly in our own coffee shop but felt compelled to put together this info for our own review and also for others wanting to make ethical buying decisions.
In July 2020, news broke about Oatly’s newest investor Blackstone which has sparked much discussion by Oatly supporters, including the team here at North Star.
Oatly have released a statement through their website which addresses their reasonings for taking the investment and their approach to change. Through taking funding from Blackstone and a group of other high-profile investors, they believe this will enable them to grow as sustainably as possible while the demand for Oatly booms.
‘This money will allow us to build factories in Europe, the US and in Asia according to the same high standards as our existing production sites.’
It is Oatly’s view that with global private equity working toward a green future, we have a chance of creating maximum change to benefit the planet.
As the leader for plant-based milks and a firm favourite for those interested in a dairy-free diet, Oatly boasted incredible sustainable and ethical credentials. Therefore, it comes as no surprise that environmental activists have had plenty to say about the matter.
Hesitations around the Blackstone Investment group are down to two factors. Firstly, Blackstone has been targeted for investments in Hidrovas, a Brazilian infrastructure company, which has previously been accused of having links to deforestation in the Amazon rainforest. Blackstone has denied the accusation, saying in a statement “The erroneous claims and mischaracterizations were blatantly wrong and irresponsible.”
In addition to this, the CEO of Blackstone, Stephen Schwazman, donated millions of dollars to the Trump administration which has left Oatly under further scrutiny as donating to an administration who have various concerning environmental and ethical stances again moves away from this oat milk brand’s ethos.
The popularity of plant-based foods continues to grow, and specifically oat milk’s popularity is soaring – sales in US stores grew nearly 300% year-over-year to June, according to Nielsen data. Swedish company, Oatly only entered the market four years ago and seem to be seeing sales double year on year.
It is for this reason we were also fairly disappointed to see such an aggressive stance with family-run Glebe Farm who had named their oat milk ‘Pure Oaty’.
“We have had the threat of this court case – which has pitched our challenger brand against Oatly’s multinational business – looming over us for more than a year…
…You only need to look at the two products and packaging side by side to appreciate how different these brands are, and how unnecessary this legal action was.
…We greatly appreciate the huge support that PureOaty and Glebe Farm have received from around the world including 130,000 signatures on a change.org petition; and many comments online have described this as a true David and Goliath battle.
…Oatly has claimed that this legal action is just standard business practice. However, it was very clear to us that this was not the case. We decided it was time to stand up to this behaviour, and that in our view ‘corporate might does not make right’.” Phillip Rayner (owner)
Read the full article here
There is no doubting that this may deter more people from buying Oatly, there were many cases of boycotting the brand in support of Glebe Farm whilst the legal battle wore on. We have conducted a lot of research to get a feel for the alternatives out there and we hope the statement made by the judge in the Oatly vs Pure Oaty case acts as support for more brands to enter this sector.
We have always valued Oatly for the creaminess, sweetness and balance with coffee flavour but we would love to hear from any of you who have had similar success with other products. We have been trialling:
1. Minor figures
Minor Figures make plant-based, 100% vegan products to lift your coffee and your mind. They’re now Carbon Neutral because they believe in balancing their impact on the world.
2. Rude Health
Rude Health is a London based dairy-free drinks company best known for its breakfast cereals and alternative milk products. The business launched in 2005 by husband and wife team Nick and Camilla Barnard.
MOMA was started 15 years ago by in a railway arch in south east London – they’re still growing, independently owned and based in the Deptford arches where it all began.
It goes without saying that we are not overly thrilled with the choice of financial backing from Oatly, but we understand their wider goals to move global capital in a sustainable direction. We look forward to seeing if the impact made is a positive one and, in the meantime, support challenger brands coming into the sector.
Drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org to share your thoughts!