Investors’ love affair with new, plant-based alternatives to animal products continues as Blackstone Growth, a (newish) investment vehicle from one of the world’s largest financial services firms, said it led a $200 million investment into the colossus of oat-milk brands, Oatly.
The Malmö-based company also attracted some of the biggest names in entertainment, consumer business and international finance as Oprah Winfrey, Roc Nation, Natalie Portman, former Starbucks chairman and chief executive Howard Schultz, Orkila Capital and Rabo Corporate Investments, the investment arm of Rabobank, joined in to finance the company’s latest round.
For Blackstone’s newly minted head of growth investments, Jon Korngold, the deal for Oatly is representative of the types of commitments his firm will make into growth companies. It’s a company that has proven to be a leader in its category; there’s very little technology risk left in the business, but Oatly can benefit from the network of logistics, supply chain and consumer companies that the investment firm owns.
It’s also a company whose mass adoption can potentially help move the needle on reducing greenhouse gas emissions. “Oatly is one of those companies that does well by doing good,” said Korngold in an interview.
While the same can’t be said for all of Blackstone’s investments (Blackstone was criticized by former presidential candidate Senator Elizabeth Warren for its stake in Hidrovias do Brasil, an infrastructure company reportedly linked to deforestation in the rain forest), Oatly does have significant environmental benefits. The company’s product makes for a more environmentally friendly milk substitute than almond milk (almonds are a hugely water-intensive crop) and aren’t processed like the genetically modified milk replacements coming to market. Oats also require less fertilizer, which has ancillary benefits for the water table and other forms of pollution.
With the Oatly investment, Blackstone Growth is riding a wave of investor support for the creation of an alternative, more sustainable food system driven by increasing consumer demand for these more sustainable goods. One investor has called the coming tidal wave of innovation around changing food production the biggest entrepreneurial opportunity in a generation.