Interviews

Oatly: “We Measure Ourselves as a Company by How Many Litres of Cow’s Milk We Can Replace with Oat Drink”

With the appointment of Roland Griesebner and Svenja Fritz as new managing directors for DACH & Poland, Oatly aims to continue its success story and drive both growth and innovation. Together, Griesebner and Fritz aim to accelerate the company’s expansion, strengthen relationships with retail partners, expand food service and out-of-home partnerships, and further strengthen the brand in DACH and Poland.

Oatly is focusing on a sustainable growth strategy to strengthen its leading position in the DACH markets and Poland. Under the new management of Griesebner and Fritz, the company plans to further expand its presence in the region and develop new product categories. A special focus will also be placed on integrating the core business and sustainability goals in order to advance not only the company itself, but also the entire industry.

In this interview, we talk to Roland Griesebner and Svenja Fritz about Oatly’s goals and strategies for 2024 and the company’s latest product innovations to consolidate its position as market leader in the oat milk category.

Oatly creamers
© Oatly

With your appointment as the new Managing Director for Oatly DACH & Poland, you are facing the exciting challenge of leading the company into the future. Can you give us an insight into whether and what strategic changes can be expected under your leadership?
Roland Griesebner: Our aim is to build on Oatly’s success of recent years. I will be responsible for sales, product portfolio, supply chain, business analyses and finance. My main task will be to ensure that Oatly is available wherever people want to switch to oat drinks.

Svenja Fritz: I’m in charge of Brand, Communications/Public Affairs, Barista Market Development, OOH Sales and People & Culture. The aim is to continue to give Oatly great visibility, a distinctive voice and to drive forward our sustainability ambitions, such as our CO2e labelling initiative.

Oatly recently announced the launch of new product innovations and the entry into a new category. Could you tell us more about this new product and the specific category and what Oatly’s long-term vision is behind it?
Roland Griesebner: This month we are finally launching Oatgurt in Germany – with a completely new recipe. We are thus expanding our product portfolio to include another category. Oatgurt is an innovative, completely plant-based yogurt alternative based on oats and, like the cow’s milk variant, comes with yogurt cultures that provide the typical tart, fresh note. It is available in a total of five flavours: Natural Unsweetened, Vanilla, Blueberry, Strawberry and Mango Peach Passion Fruit.

Oatly Oatgurt range
© Oatly

Svenja Fritz: We are responding to the demand for really good vegan yogurt made from oats. It was the next logical step for us, as the potential of this popular breakfast classic is high in German-speaking countries. One in five Germans eats yogurt every day and almost one in two several times a week.

“We are responding to the demand for really good vegan yogurt made from oats”

Although yogurt is the second strongest segment in the entire plant-based category, growth is declining compared to the other plant-based segments. We are here to change this and offer everyone a more climate-friendly option. We are particularly proud of the fresh flavour profile and creamy texture.

Oatly has the ambitious goal of becoming the market leader in the oat milk category in all DACH markets and in Poland. What specific strategies and measures are you planning to achieve these goals?
Svenja Fritz:
We are already the market leader in the oat drink category in the DACH markets. Having already achieved market leadership in Austria and Switzerland within the plant-based drinks category, we are now aiming for Germany to follow suit. Our strategy is geared towards differentiating ourselves from the competition and at the same time strengthening the entire category.

A central aspect of our strategy is the integration of core business and sustainability goals. At Oatly, we see these as inextricably linked. For example, we have been labelling the product-related CO2e footprint on our packaging for several years. We have aligned our sustainability goals with the 1.5-degree target: By 2029, we want to reduce our corporate climate footprint per litre of Oatly produced by 70%. We will also continue to use our voice to draw attention to the political disadvantage of the plant-based sector, where we are calling for urgent adjustments to taxes and nutritional guidelines. Our aim is to support the shift towards sustainable nutrition and away from climate-damaging production and eating habits.

Oatly super basic
© Oatly

Roland Griesebner: We continue to focus on product innovation and entering new categories in order to fulfil our customers’ needs and expand our product portfolio. To strengthen the barista category, we recently launched a new organic barista oat drink and offer special formats for the food service sector. Our aim is to better meet the needs of the catering industry and strengthen our position in this important market segment. By expanding our distribution channels and entering into new co-operations, we are opening up new sales opportunities and reaching even more consumers.

What challenges do you face in maintaining your leading position, especially in the face of competition from often cheaper private labels?
Svenja Fritz
: Oatly impresses above all with its quality, flavour and unique brand voice; our aim is to continue to stand out in these areas in particular.

A key challenge continues to be the political framework for more climate-friendly eating habits. Our food system still clearly favours animal products through high subsidies for the dairy industry, special tax treatment and attempts to tighten labelling protection for plant-based foods. However, fair competition between cow’s milk and plant-based drinks is essential in order to do justice to consumers and companies that want to act in the interests of sustainability.

Oatly chocolate milk
© Oatly

Roland Griesebner: Our aim is to promote the switch to a more plant-based diet – which is why we think it is right and important that there are many different suppliers and brands. The more varied and extensive the range, the more consumers will be inspired to try plant-based products.

Retailers play a crucial role in the success of branded products. How does Oatly specifically support its retail partners? Are there any special POS campaigns that you are planning or have already successfully implemented to increase the visibility and sales of your products?
Roland Griesebner:
We continue to attach great importance to our presence at the POS and are continuously expanding this with the help of our Field Force team. We ensure that our products are presented in the best possible way and provide our retail partners with the best possible support.

“Our aim is to promote the switch to a more plant-based diet”

By introducing new products, we can address additional target groups and increase the diversity of our range. Our new barista oat drink in organic quality is one of the products most frequently requested by our consumers and therefore helps to increase the appeal of our range at the POS.

In addition, we rely on joint campaigns with our retail partners to raise awareness of our products and promote sales, but also to jointly advocate for political necessities. One example of this is the successful campaign to reduce VAT in collaboration with Knuspr/Gurkerl.

How do you assess the role of the out-of-home market in the DACH countries and Poland for Oatly’s growth targets? What strategies are you pursuing to increase your presence in cafés, restaurants and other catering establishments?
Svenja Fritz: The presence in cafés is extremely important for Oatly and is always part of our market entry strategy. We have our own team of baristas who are solely responsible for identifying the speciality cafés that are relevant to us and building and expanding relationships in this area.

However, the other areas of the out-of-home market have also become extremely important to us in recent years – we are particularly proud of our partnerships with Deutsche Bahn, Swiss Air, Coffee Fellows, Aral and McDonald’s Austria, for example. We want everyone to always have the option of switching to Oatly wherever they consume cow’s milk. Ultimately, we measure ourselves as a company by how many litres of cow’s milk we can replace with oat drink.

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