The Rise Of Oatly

Work & Business

The Rise Of Oatly

Since 2015, annual sales of cow’s milk in the United States have fallen by more than $3 billion according to CNN Business.  As traditional milk sales have dropped, alternative milk sales – almond, oat, soy, coconut and others – continues to rise.

Oatly, the Swedish oat milk company we introduced to our readers in April 2018, has made quite the splash in the United States and now has its sights on China, according to various reports. CNBC reports that it’s gone from 650 locations (mostly high-end coffee shops) in 2017 to 7,000 shops and 5,000 grocery stores as of October 2019. Its worldwide sales topped $100 million in 2018 and the firm was expecting to reach $230 million in 2019.

How did Oatly get here?

It starts with an idea, and in this case, Rickard Öste’s idea to develop oat milk. According to the New Yorker, Öste was a food scientist at Lund University and started Oatly in 1994 based on research on lactose intolerance and sustainable food systems.

“Nobody wanted it,” Oatly CEO Toni Petersson told the New Yorker.

But as more alternative milk options were coming to market, Petersson, who arrived as CEO in 2012, revamped Oatly’s marketing and set his vision on the United States. Oatly arrived in the United States in late 2016 and began spreading from coffee shop to coffee shop across the country.

Consumers drank it up. Not only was it new, but Oatly also tasted great (Epicurious just ranked it as the best-tasting oat milk).

Oatly’s growth has been impressive. It has contributed to U.S. sales of oat milk going from $6 million in 2018 to about $40 million in 2019. The company opened a manufacturing plant in Millville, N.J., in April 2019, and it’s planning another one in Ogden, Utah in 2020.

What’s next?

Oatly kicked off 2020 by being chosen by Starbucks to supply oat milk to about 1,300 locations in the Midwest. It plans on following its United States rollout in China. And according to Mergermarket, it is beginning to look at an IPO, which could take place in by 2022.


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