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Wednesday, September 7th, 2022 3:23 PM

Oatly and Our Fiber Residues

When we produce our oat drink, it’s not possible to make use of every part of the raw oats in the final product. This means we’re left with a separated portion of oat fiber residues, i.e. our leftovers, which we usually refer to as our “oat residues”.  We definitely don’t want these nutritious residues to go to waste, so we’ve experimented with the leftovers quite a lot throughout the years with an ambition to find the most sustainable (and delicious) ways to make something great out of them.

 

Our Residues Dream

Back in 2018, we received a grant from Vinnova, the Swedish Governmental Agency for Innovation, which enabled us to expand our work on developing prototypes for oat-based foods made from our oat residues. Before then we had only been able to conduct small-scale tests on how to use re-use them. Even though we’ve come far in improving both taste and texture in different prototypes, we still have lots of work to do to unlock the potential of oat residues for human consumption. 

Even though we haven’t yet launched any edible residue products (sounds yum, right?), the knowledge from all the experiments has helped us develop a broader range of oat products. We can’t reveal any secrets about the current project (that’s the whole thing about top secret stuff you know), but we’re really looking forward to the day when we can finally tell you more about it.

 

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The Oatly Factories

Whilst aiming for new ways to turn the residues into oat goodies, we repurpose 100% of our oat residues, so that they don’t end up in landfill. And although talking about policies is clearly not as fun as diving into food experiments, it can be good to know that we have an Oatly Waste and Fiber Residue Policy in place to ensure that we’re choosing the most sustainable solutions available at each production facility. 

We have factories up and running in different countries, spread across Asia, North America and Europe. The conditions look a bit different at each site, but the Waste and Fiber Residue Policy ensures that 100% of the oat residues are being repurposed. This is done according to a hierarchy of options* to utilize both the nutrients and energy of the oat residues in the best way possible. Turning the oat residues into food for humans would be the most sustainable alternative, followed by animal feed, biogas and soil improvement. In 2021, some of our residues were turned into animal feed but more than half of our oat residues were turned into energy. If you’re curious about how this was made possible, you can read more about the process at one of our factories in the US here. 

We’re continuously looking into solutions for how we can improve our production process from a sustainability point of view. For example, it takes water to move the oat residues around and out of the factories. Since we have the ambition to reduce our water withdrawal by at least half between 2019 and 2029, we’re working to reduce the amount of water in our residues as well. These improvements have already been designed into our newest factories which we’re forecasting will result in water savings of over 40 million liters per year.

 

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Animal feed? What?

We’ve received lots of valuable feedback on how we’re handling our oat residues over the years. In 2018, when we only had one factory, some of our most dedicated oat fans reached out to us. They were wondering why we, a food company that is making products 100% suitable for vegans were sending tons of oat residues to local pig farmers. 

Since the nutritional content of the oat residues is so high, using them for animal feed to replace other feed crops was the most sustainable option available to us. But thanks to the critique we’ve had challenging and constructive discussions internally that have helped us to re-evaluate what we can do with the oat fiber residues, including increasing our efforts to turn them into food for humans, and using them for energy generation. 

So, it turns out it’s not as easy to transform oat residues into something edible as we wish it was, but we’ve made some really good progress so far. Even though we’re happy about repurposing 100% of the oat residues, we’ll not be satisfied until we’ve managed to create something delicious and edible. Stay tuned!

*based on recognized external food waste sustainability models in the EU and US.

Ps! Click here to read more about turning oat residue into renewable energy! 

2 Messages

2 years ago

Vegans don't want to contribute to animal agriculture. How can you sell residue to pig abusers? How can you not understand that it is so morally wrong what you do. And please stop with the marketing mumbo jumbo. Its unexplainable what you do.

122 Messages

Hi Robert,

 

thank you for stopping by in here! Hope you've seen our responses to your tweets too.

 

We do hear and appreciate your thoughts on this topic. Our end goal is the same - to promote the plant-base revolution - and again that is definitely what you support when buying our products.

 

As a company and food producer we're guided by the international Food Waste Hierarchy at all our oat factories; it's been key for us from start (with sustainability in mind) to not allow nutrients being wasted. There are other smart ways to make use of food industry waste that we're exploring too with lots of potential - but we're not there yet (we hope you stay tuned though)!

 

Thank you again for your support so far. 

 

All the best,


Åsa at Oatly

2 Messages

Thanks for your reply. And I read the comments on Twitter. Still I have a hard time 'understanding'what you are saying. Food not going to waste is important, but as a producer of products a lot of vegan/plant based people consume sending stuff to the industry what they really want to end, is very hard to take in and accept.

1 Message

@robertbrugman​ Hi hi, big oatmilk drinker here- I totally get where you're coming from, but I also understand Oatly. It is important to minimize all waste to be a sustainable company. Right now, Oatly doesn't have many options for what to do with its byproduct besides donating some of it to animal feed. So think of it as a choice: Waste the food, or feed animals with it. Either way, farmers will buy animal feed, so Oatly refusing to provide the feed won't exactly stop the meat industry. So, the most planet-friendly option right now? To give it to animals. They're trying to diversify what they do with their waste (and minimize what they give to animals), but in the meantime, this is the most planet-friendly option they have. 

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1 Message

5 months ago

Hi, may I ask about the economical aspect of this?
Like, i get it, sustainability is important to us all and blah blah, but are you selling it to the pig farm for the same price (or different) they would have paid for food, or are you simply giving the residue away?

It doesn't change anything about the ethical aspect - in any case it means collaboration with pig farmers or in other words validating the right of pig farming as a practice to continue to exist (which to begin with is 'validated' by consumers and governments).
But, what i'm curious about now is whether this 'residue disposal' is actually helping the farmers cut costs (and making it even easier for them alongside typically being government subsidized) or nah. Thanks for your answer.

122 Messages

Hi Teo,

 

Thanks for offering an interesting aspect to this topic!

 

As you may know we have several oat factories and we’re not handling the residues at each site on our own but have partnered up with a company specialized in utilizing food industry leftovers (which may also include using them for biofuel, biogas or soil fertilizer depending on the prerequisites at our oat factory - and decided upon following the food waste hierarchy that we’re referring to above).

 

But now to your question!

 

There’s also the aspect of circular economy. Producing new, raw material (in this case for example grown corn or soybean) would indeed be more costly and resource intense compared to utilizing a by-product, which is part of a larger production. So although we can’t speak for a pig farmer’s economy it’s definitely fair to say that a business model like this enables sales at a competitive rate – to any end buyer.

 

As you suggest though, we’re all for a world of less animal agriculture – for the health of the planet as well as humans – and we’re continuing to work towards that  by offering oat based products to replace dairy. On top of this we’re still investigating whether our oat residues could be enjoyed by humans (here’s more on that if you’re interested)!

 

Hope this makes sense. Happy to answer any further questions or concerns!

 

All the best, 

Åsa at Oatly