UNP Grocer 43570 Phil Rayner Glebe Farm028

When it sued the little guy

Date: 2021


Oatly took Glebe Farm to court last year, claiming its PureOaty drink took “unfair advantage” of its own brand. Oatly’s lawyers said the farm had infringed five of the company’s trademarks with both the name of the drink, as well as its packaging, and aimed to ‘pass off’ its product as Oatly’s. It lost that argument in August 2021 though, with a High Court judge ruling that it did not see “any risk of injury to the distinctive character” of the Oatly brand.

The backlash:  In speaking openly about the court case, Glebe Farm successfully won over plenty of new shoppers, many of whom saw it as a David and Goliath corporate battle. In fact, 130,000 signed a petition calling on Oatly to drop the case. 


When it accepted cash from a Trump supporter

When: July 2020

What: Along with Oprah Winfrey and Jay-Z, private equity firm Blackstone formed part of a $200m investment round in 2020, in a deal that valued Oatly at $2bn.

The backlash: News of the deal stirred up calls for a boycott of the brand after Blackstone was linked to both support for Donald Trump and a controversial Brazilian infrastructure investment accused of contributing to Amazon deforestation (a claim that Blackstone has strongly denied). Oatly defended its decision in a blog post titled ‘Change isn’t Easy’. Oatly wrote: “We thought that if we could convince them that it’s as profitable… then all the other private equity firms of the world would look, listen and start to steer their collective worth of 4 trillion US dollars into green investments.” 

Oatly: is the plucky alt-milk challenger brand plucked?



Source: Oatly

When its eco claims were false

When: January 2022

What: Oatly advertisements comparing the carbon footprint of its oat milk with dairy milk were banned by the Advertising Standards Authority for making “unsubstantiated environmental claims”.

The backlash: The ads attracted 109 separate complaints to the ASA with allegations they’d failed to back up claims directly comparing carbon footprint. The ads featured a man sneaking into his home and putting a bottle of traditional milk in the fridge. He was interrupted by his son, questioning his choice of milk. Text on screen said: “Oatly generates 73% less CO2e vs milk, calculated from grower to grocer.” This was misleading, said the ASA, as the stat related to just one of Oatly’s products, not its full range.  

Oatly barista blend

When fears of contamination triggered a product recall

When: July 2022

What: US-based supplier Lyons Magnus, an Oatly co-packer, issued a voluntary recall earlier this year amid fears products had been exposed to microbial bacteria that can cause deadly infections in infants and the immunocompromised. 

The backlash: Though Oatly insisted that it had not shipped a product with the US firm since April, it instructed Lyons Magnus to dispose of its 32oz Oat Milk Barista edition drinks nevertheless “out of an abundance of caution”. The following month the recall was expanded to variants of the brand’s standard oat milk and chocolate oat milk too. “Oatly has terminated all future business with Lyons Magnus and they will no longer formulate and fill products under the Oatly name,” it said.

Oatly: is the plucky alt-milk challenger brand plucked?