The plant-based alternative made from gluten-free oats and water may be pulling another marketing tactic — to come to World Dairy Expo 2022, the world’s largest dairy-focused trade show in Madison, Wisconsin.
World Dairy Expo is a way for dairy farmers to connect with the community that values the industry as well as educate audiences who are wanting to know more information. Oatly, however, claims it is wanting to come to the event to produce a “documentary” based on what a plant-based company can learn at a dairy event and what the future looks like for the industry.
Seriously? Is that their intent, or is it a way to anger farmers to twist words like they did in their 2021 campaign in the United Kingdom?
Oatly sent a message inviting Derrick Josi, the man behind the TDF Honest Farming channel, to have a conversation about the industry. Josi posted the request on Twitter. Tara Vanderdussen, formerly the New Mexico Milkmaid, verified Oatly was attending the event as well posting a PSA.
In January 2021, Oatly was criticized for their marketing claim that stated, “Climate experts say cutting dairy and meat products from our diets is the single biggest lifestyle change we can make to reduce our environmental impact.” The U.K.’s Advertising Standards Authority corrected Oatly, noting that this wasn’t the opinion of multiple climate experts, but rather that of a single climate expert who had published a meta-analysis on the environmental impact of various food production systems.
Additionally, Oatly’s ads used the slogan, “Need help talking to dad about milk?”
They sure know how to make dads feel bad about themselves. Oatly’s website said to “help dad” but reinforced the idea that “Dads are the best, except when it comes to eating and drinking sustainably, in which case, dads are the worst. But there is help!”
Dairy farmers are sustainable. When comparing greenhouse gas emissions rate to other industries, dairy cattle are responsible for only 1.3 percent of the U.S. total emissions. Byproducts from the oat-based items are even sold to animal agriculture as feed. Cattle — and other livestock — can actually help companies if food is expired by ending up in diets for a cattle energy supplement.
The root of the problem is Oatly’s marketing materials across their website. Now they’re wanting to come to World Dairy Expo to harass dairy farmers?
Instead of coming to a celebration for dairy farmers, maybe Oatly should focus on their large marketing budget to their audience. This new tactic reeks of desperation, as the milk-alternative company has seen its stock plummet more than 80 percent since summer 2021, partly because of its phony U.K. marketing claim as much as due to the juvenile and obnoxious Super Bowl ad its CEO released that turned many people off from the brand.
When addressing concerns in a U.K. court about their marketing, Oatly spokesman Tim Knight said in an article, “We’re a science-based company and take pride in being precise, but we could have been clearer.”
Misleading consumers with their campaigns, and let alone through a confusing website, has led the company to not be as healthy as consumers may perceive plant-based milk like. Oatly is highly processed alongside other milk alternatives, and they have oil or a thickener to give off a better texture. The oat drink alternatives may also contain high amounts of sugar and preservatives. Additionally, it has more calories and carbohydrates. It’s also not as nutrient dense as other milk products, hence why it may not be the best options for kid’s growing bones.
Oatly’s large marketing budget may have to think twice before attempting to come to a dairy-specific event and instead should focus its own attention on their own farmers. Who knows, maybe they’ll now want to create real milk from dairy cows.
Michelle Miller, the “Farm Babe,” is an internationally recognized keynote speaker, writer, and social media influencer and travels full time to advocate for agriculture. She comes from an Iowa-based row crop and livestock farming background and now resides on a timber farm in North Central Florida.