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.
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.
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.