Oats as a success factor
The 1980’s medical discovery that oat beta-glucans could lower cholesterol levels in people with elevated levels, along with the Japanese innovation of FOSHU (Food for Special Health Uses or Functional Foods), focused the interest of both researchers and product developers on food and health. With plenty of oats in Sweden, several ideas and innovations emerged around this raw ingredient.
In the university town of Lund, Professor Richard Öste had been studying lactose intolerance, and with the increased knowledge of oats, he came up with the idea of developing a Swedish oat drink that, in addition to being a Nordic alternative to soy drink, also turned out to have a documented effect on cholesterol. Together with three research colleagues and the foundation SL-Stiftelsen, he developed an oat base, and the researchers and Skånska Lantmännen formed a joint development company called Ceba AB.
The first product was a weight loss product in soup form, Complätt, which was developed together with Friggs, then part of Procordia Food. After a successful clinical study, the product was launched in 1994. Simultaneously, the company also developed a lactose-free drink called Ica Solhavre for the food retailer Ica, which, like Complätt, was produced under licence for many years. Ceba’s first own product was Mill Milk, which was launched in the UK market in 1995.
In the late 1990’s, Oatly was launched in Sweden – a venture that became so successful that the company ended up adopting the product name as its own. But it would be another ten years before the real success came through a shift to lifestyle marketing well in line with an increased interest in vegetable products. In 2019, the company’s sales reached almost SEK 2 billion.