Oprah, Natalie Portman and Jay-Z Invest $200 Million in Oatly Oat Milk
Hollywood A-listers Oprah, Natalie Portman and Jay-Z have invested $200 million into Oatly, the popular Swedish vegan food brand. Oatly's creamy, delicious plant-based milk, creamers, and ice creams have quickly become a staple in every US household that is consuming plant-products, so perhaps this news is no surprise.
Oatly sold a $200 million stake to a group of high-profile investors that includes Oprah Winfrey, Natalie Portman, former CEO of Starbucks, Howard Schultz, as well as Jay-Z's entertainment company Roc Nation. The Blackstone Group, the private-equity firm, led this star-studded investment round.
Oatly, which came to America in 2016, is currently valued at an impressive $2 billion, and prior to this investment, the company had been backed by European and Chinese investors. "We have Asian owners and European owners and wanted to bring US owners into the company, too," Oatly's CEO Toni Petersson explained to The Wall Street Journal. This celebrity lineup is a great way for the company to raise awareness about its business with US investors in advance of a potential IPO.
Oatly is on track to go public within the next 12 to 18 months, The Journal reported sources saying. This successful fundraising round will allow Oatly to extend its supply network further into Europe, the US, and China according to the company. Oatly is working on expanding the distribution of its products, such as vegan yogurt, crème fraîche, and ice cream to more locations globally.
Founded by two brothers, Rickard and Björn Öste, the Swedish oat milk brand was a family-owned endeavor and the Ostes reinvested again in this recent fundraising round. The Öste brothers founded the dairy alternative brand in 1990 but their products only became available outside of Europe four years ago. Oatly sales doubled in 2019, growing from $100 to $200 million in less than a year, as more plant-based consumers expanded their tastes beyond soy, almond, and coconut milks. Oatly is widely credited with creating the demand for oat milk in America.
Oat milk makes it easier to ditch the real thing from your diet
Plant-based milk, specifically oat milk, continues to increase in popularity. Oat milk sales rose 686 percent over the past year. Oatly is one of the closest tasting plant milks to the real thing and consumers have adopted it because of this close semblance to dairy. Oat milk makes it easier to ditch milk from your diet, which is why Oatly is so popular. When The Beet taste-tested the Original Oatly in our dairy-free milk taste test, it was voted the top pick for its creamy, smooth texture that is great in coffee or cereal.
Oat milk is full of protein and has a low impact on the environment, and Oatly is known as one of the most environmentally-conscious companies: "Since we re-launched our brand in 2013, our focus has been to positively impact society by enabling people to change their lives with better, more environmentally responsible food choices," Petersson said in a statement. "In so doing, [Oatly hopes to] re-shape the food system to better contribute to the future of the planet."
Oatly is hoping to inspire others in the industry to follow its sustainable lead. In recent months, the company has made significant changes to its business model to help fight climate change, such as introducing electric trucks in Europe in order to cut down on its CO2 emissions, and hope to expand this program internationally.
Oprah Betting Big on Plant-Based
Oprah sat down with Suzy Cameron Amis last Fall to discuss the powerful impact one plant-based meal a day can have on the environment. According to Cameron Amis, “It saves 200,000 gallons of water, and is the equivalent of driving across the country from New York to LA." When Oprah took the challenge to switch to One Plant-Based Meal a Day for 30 Days and document it on her Instagram stories, the month of eating more plant-based food prompted Oprah to switch to a vegetarian diet.
Oprah's interest in helping the environment aligns with her recent investment in Oatly. She is only the most recent star to invest in plant-based based food companies. Snoop Dogg is an investor in Beyond Meat, as is Leonardo DiCaprio, Jessica Chastain, Common, and Alexis Ohanian (husband of Serena Williams). As stars continue to invest in the plant-based industry, more consumers will become aware of the positive impact plant-based foods have on human health, the environment, and factory-farmed animals.