China Food

After only four years in China, why has oatly become synonymous with oat milk?


China’s localization layout has been comprehensively accelerated, and oatly has entered the consumer Expo again.


Recently, at the second China International Consumer Goods Expo (hereinafter referred to as the consumer goods Expo) held in Haikou, oatly lived up to the expectations of the public. It not only brought a full range of products such as coffee masters, tea masters, 250ml portable packaging, but also presented the latest product passion fruit soft ice. The audience can also try DIY and mix and match it with oatmeal lattes that are free to drink on site to make afcado.


OATLY亮相第二届中国国际消费品博览会


In recent years, Chinese consumers have been very familiar with oatly. At present, oatly has become a synonym and representative brand of oat milk. Such mature consumer cultivation is reflected in brand performance, which is the strong “gold absorption” ability and strong growth space of the Asian market represented by China. According to the financial report data of oatly, its Asian business revenue in 2021 was US $127million (about RMB 803million), an increase of 136% year-on-year.


What many people don’t know is that this year is only the fourth year for oatly to enter the Chinese market. So, as a “young” Swedish brand, what moving footnotes have oatly’s Chinese story in the past four years? How does it focus on product power, channel power and innovation power?


Next, let’s have a look.


Oat Milk benchmark


Oatmeal latte is one of the regular menus in coffee shops today. Many coffee lovers jokingly say that “a coffee shop without Oatmeal Milk is incomplete”. Oatly milk and coffee have become flavor CP, largely due to oatly’s credit.


Oatly’s success in China began with its deep binding with coffee products. In the early stage, by targeting boutique coffee shops and chain coffee brands, oatly quickly spread from Shanghai to China’s first and second tier cities, and its “coffee master” products successfully “broke the circle”. It is no exaggeration to say that almost all the Oatmeal Milk in the first oatmeal latte that people drank at that time came from oatly. This is also the first step for oatly to bring the “oat milk” category into the vision of Chinese consumers.


Oatly coffee master


Although there are many “rising stars” in the market after seeing the broad market prospect of oat milk in the future, oatly still firmly occupies the leading position, among which the technical advantage is indispensable. As a brand born in the laboratory, oatly has its own unique enzymatic hydrolysis technology, which can better retain the natural soluble dietary fiber in oats—— β- Dextran. At the same time, enzymatic hydrolysis technology makes oat milk taste richer and smoother, and tastes more mellow. It brings natural sweetness, which can be drunk directly or with coffee and tea.


To understand the influence and uniqueness of oatly flavor, evaluation and imitation in the industry is the best way. It is understood that at present, many people in the industry judge whether oat milk products are “delicious” by testing whether the taste is close to oatly. If it is close to the “standard” taste, it is judged to have potential and have the opportunity to harvest the catering service market. It can be said that oatly has become the benchmark of oat milk flavor.



Besides products, another barrier of oatly lies in its strong brand symbol cognition and brand image. Oat Milk’s unique health and environmental protection attributes enable oatly to have a strong sustainable gene, continue to empower the channel, cooperate with the channel for win-win results, and actively promote the realization of the double carbon goal together.


Comprehensively “taste” the young generation


So far, oatly has become more and more “existential” in consumers’ daily life. It can be instant oatmeal milk at breakfast, oatmeal latte or oatmeal milk tea at noon, or oatmeal ice cream after dinner… We can find that although oatly’s product diversification has taken greater steps, consumers’ enthusiasm remains unchanged, Continuously contributing to the consumption of oatly is the most real expression of brand loyalty.


In recent years, the overall catering service channels have been affected by the epidemic, but oatly has shown strong resilience and adaptability. Taking Shanghai as an example, its products entered nearly 2000 communities through community group purchase.



Consumers’ love for oatly is also reflected in the growth of retail data. According to Euromonitor International data, the share of oat milk in retail channels has continued to rise in the past three years, accounting for 3.4% of the plant-based market by 2021.


In retail, oatly’s strong emphasis is on ready to drink beverages and ice products. In the first quarter of this year, oatly launched four flavors of 250ml portable Oatmeal Milk, hoping to fully integrate into consumers’ daily life scenes such as breakfast, office and afternoon tea in the form of direct drinking products, emphasizing the concept of all-weather enjoyment.



In May this year, oatly launched the “wheat light snow series” oatmeal ice cream, including four flavors of cup oatmeal ice cream and three flavors of stick oatmeal ice cream. Previously, it also tried to cooperate with HEMA to launch plant-based ice cream based on HEMA’s iconic brand pattern. Because of its lovely shape and pleasing flavor, it quickly occupied social platforms such as xiaohongshu and circle of friends as soon as it was listed.


In terms of e-commerce channels, oatly’s performance in the same category can be described as “a unique ride”. According to the data disclosed by oatly, in 618 this year, the omni channel sales of oatly exceeded 53million, with a year-on-year increase of more than 150%. On tmall, Maochao and jd.com platforms, oatly ranks first in vegetable protein drinks.


Among them, in tmall, oatly ranked second in the beverage category, up 2 places from the same period last year, and entered the top 10 of tmall ice cream category for the first time. Oatly coffee master 1L is still very popular, and the new products also have good performance. The 250ml portable new series has achieved the sales of more than 1million bottles during 618 only two months after it was launched, which has driven the growth of the whole plant base category. In addition, the sales of oat ice cream exceeded 400000 pieces.



From entering China to taking root in China, the Chinese story of international brands is like a game to break through customs. David Zhang, President of oatly Asia, once concluded, “in China, in the field of food and beverage, about 5 of the 100 imported brands that have entered the market in recent years can finally survive, and only 1-2 of them can be called successful. Therefore, the probability of doing this is less than 1%.” Oatly itself, in just four years, successfully created a category, launched a rich product line, and entered more scenes and channels.


From the initial experience of oat milk to the current consumption cognition of “all things can have oat milk”, oatly has undoubtedly become the “originator” and promoter of oat milk in the Chinese market. In the future, we believe that oatly will create more possibilities and bring more wonderful experiences to Chinese consumers.


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