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Otis Oat Milk comes home

Otis Oat Milk comes home
Otis oat milk founder Chris Wilkie

The game is set to change for Otago plant-based milk producers Otis when a new state–of–the art manufacturing facility opens in Auckland later this year.

Free Flow Manufacturing, a leading New Zealand beverage manufacturer, will operate what will be New Zealand’s first dedicated plant-based milk facility.

Free Flow Manufacturing co-founder Scott Day said the demand for plant-based milk alternatives has skyrocketed in recent years, outpacing traditional dairy milk, with no sign of slowing.

“Grocery spending on plant-based milk in New Zealand increased by 44 percent from 2019 to the end of 2022, with sales jumping from $61 million to $88 million,” said Day.

The new manufacturing plant will have the capacity to produce 50 million litres of plant-based milk annually, providing an opportunity for plant-based beverage companies to reduce reliance on imported goods.

For Otis, the facility will mean production of their oat milk can move from Sweden to home soil, a goal that has been in the pipeline since the co-founders Tim Ryan and Chris Wilkie launched the brand in 2018.

Unable to find a local facility that could produce oat milk packaged for the consumer market at the scale the company needed, they took production off-shore.

”We searched and did some feasibility studies and realised it would cost a heck of a lot of money to do a stand-alone facility. So we ended up taking it off-shore to Sweden,” Wilkie said.

While the costs of producing off-shore were a strain financially, there was a benefit in drawing off Swedish expertise. Angie Triantafyllou, chair of Swedish plant-based technology company Cerealiq, has been working with Otis since its inception and has been heavily involved in the development of the new Free Flow facility.

“We know New Zealand produces some of the highest quality oats in the world, and when this facility opens, they’ll be producing arguably the highest quality oat milk in the world, too,” Triantafyllou said.

Otis works closely with the New Zealand Oat Industry Group and Harraways, with oats supplied by around 50 Southland arable farmers.

The production move to New Zealand means the company can achieve their home- grown crop-to-cup objective.

“I truly think the facility is going to be world-class,” Wilkie said.

“We have a really good team with Otis and Free flow. It’s going to be great for Otis firstly and the plant-based industry as a whole.”

by Claire Inkson