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How Swedish oat milk exploded into a $15 million business last year

How Swedish oat milk exploded into a $15 million business last year
[Illustration: Fabrizio Morra]





One of the buzziest food products of 2018? A milk alternative made of pulverized oats. Founded in 1994, Swedish company Oatly was the first manufacturer to commercialize oat milk, but it was only after launching in the U.S. in 2016 that the product became a sensation, at one point last year selling for $200 per case online. CEO Toni Petersson set out to make Oatly a cult product in the U.S. by tapping about 10 high-end coffee shops in major cities to be its exclusive retailers. “Coffee shops influence other coffee shops,” he says. After baristas were impressed by the milk alternative’s neutral flavor and ability to foam, demand quickly exploded: 2,500 coffee shops and 1,500 grocery stores now carry Oatly, including Whole Foods and Wegmans, where its cartoonish, witty aesthetic stands out among both dairy and nondairy beverages. Between 2017 and 2018, the company’s revenue grew from $1.5 million to more than $15 million, and it estimates sales will double in the next year. As its availability expands to 5,000 grocery stores in 2019, Oatly is building four new commercial plants to keep up.

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