Oatly has sold a minority $200m (£157m) stake to a group of high-profile investors that includes Oprah Winfrey and Jay-Z in a deal that values the fashionable Swedish alt-milk brand at $2bn.
The American private equity firm Blackstone, Jay-Z’s entertainment company Roc Nation, Natalie Portman and former Starbucks chief executive Howard Schultz are among its new shareholders, the company said.
While demand for traditional cows’ milk is falling, sales of alt-milk, made from oats, almonds or coconuts, are growing fast, particularly among under-40s, who are willing to spend more on sustainable products that are also deemed healthy.
The company says its mission is to turn what people eat and drink into “moments of healthy joy without recklessly taxing the planet’s resources”. It has certainly turned consumers on to oat milk with sales almost doubling to $200m last year, aided by new products including ice-cream and yoghurt.
Oatly chief executive Toni Petersson said: “I understand that it may sound naive to actually believe Oatly can change the world – that the impact of what we do can inspire others to make changes that will lead to a global behavioural shift among consumers – but that’s fine.”
The cash would be used to fund expansion, including new production plants, and to create jobs in Europe, the US and Asia, he said.
Although cows’ milk is still a far bigger market, worth more than £3bn a year in the UK, Britons are buying fewer pints of it than their parents. What was once touted as a one-stop source of health is slipping out of fashion; the average person’s milk consumption in the UK has halved since the 1950s.
However, last year UK sales of oat milk more than doubled to £74m, according to the research firm Mintel.
The $200m investment represents about a 10% stake in Oatly, putting the firm’s value at about $2bn, according to the Wall Street Journal, which first reported the story. The move is being billed as a prelude to a possible stock market listing.
Petersson added that getting a major investor such as Blackstone on board was a clear indication that the world is heading in a “new, more sustainable direction”.
He said: “Investments from firms like Blackstone in companies like Oatly are a critical step in securing a future of focused green investment … and focuses on urgent, systemic efforts to address the climate crisis.”
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