jean christophe flatin toni petersson Oatly

Source: Oatly

New CEO Jean-Christophe Flatin (left) and Toni Petersson

Oatly has revealed a new CEO to take over from long-serving boss Toni Petersson following a difficult two years since the alternative milk brand’s IPO.

Global president Jean-Christophe Flatin will start his new role on 1 June, while Petersson transitions to become co-chairman of the board.

Flatin joined Oatly a year ago, leading several initiatives to improve the company’s performance and supply chain, including simplifying the group structure, driving cost efficiencies and putting in place a new operating model as a platform for future profitable growth.

Petersson, who has served as CEO since 2012 and spearheaded the blockbuster $10bn IPO in 2021, said Flatin was “the ideal person to help usher Oatly in our next phase”.

“He has already strengthened our company for the better by putting our supply chain back on firmer footing, renewing our focus on innovation, and enabling our organisation to go on offence to drive profitable growth,” he added.

“I’m incredibly proud of what Oatly has accomplished as a company over the last decade – building an entirely new category, growing our portfolio of innovative products, and establishing a global brand with a singularly unique identity and voice. I look forward to continuing to work with Jean-Christophe, the board, and the entire Oatly team, to realise our long-term mission to make it easier for people to live healthier lives without recklessly taxing the planet’s resources.”

Flatin, who joined Oatly with more than 30 years of experience at Mars, said he was “humbled and honoured” by the opportunity to lead the business.

“Oatly is a once-in-a-generation company with the teams, purpose, and products that are second to none,” he added. “We have all the elements in place to strengthen our leadership position in multiple markets and fuel the societal shift to a more sustainable plant-based food system.

“I’m excited to continue to partner with our entire leadership team to unlock Oatly’s full potential and drive long-term shareholder value.”

In his role as co-chairman, Petersson will provide support to the new CEO during the transition period and focus on strategic initiatives, including advising on Oatly’s China business and championing the “unique company culture and vision”. Eric Melloul will also continue in his role as co-chairman.

Oatly also today revealed improved profitability following a “solid start” to the financial year.

Revenues increased 17.7% to $195.6m in the first quarter of 2023 thanks to price increases and volume growth, while net losses came in at $75.6m, an improvement on the $87.5m loss a year ago.

EBITDA losses of $59.3m also improved by $21.5m year on year and by $10.6m on the fourth quarter.

Petersson said: “We delivered a solid start to the year, with an acceleration of growth, sequential gross margin expansion, and an improvement in profitability.

“Importantly, the supply chain has continued to perform well. This strong supply chain performance has enabled us to make progress against our 2023 priorities and start playing offence again.”

He added: “Looking ahead, we remain focused on our 2023 priorities of accelerating top-line growth, continuous improvement in the supply chain, and driving towards positive adjusted EBITDA in 2024.

“In the upcoming quarters, we plan to increase our investments in exciting demand-generating initiatives to ensure that we maintain our momentum in the marketplace.”

Oatly also reiterated its 2023 forecasts for revenue growth of 23% to 28% and a gross margin improvement.

The group has experienced significant growth in recent years, with revenues more than tripling since 2019.

However, it has endured a torrid time since floating on the NASDAQ Exchange in New York in May 2021 at a valuation of $10bn, with the share price collapsing from highs of $29 a share to a low of $1.36 in December 2022.

Investor confidence has been shattered in the group following a string of disastrous trading updates, ballooning losses, growth downgrades and supply chain problems in its US factories.

Oatly has worked to restore shareholder faith by slashing employee headcount as part of a package of cost-cutting measures and simplifying its structure, including striking partnerships with outside manufacturers to create a “hybrid production network”.

Shares reacted well to better-than-expected annual figures released in March, as well as promises of a future profit and $425m of new financing.

The stock is up 2.3% to $2.15 in pre-market trading today on news of the CEO appointment.