New Zealand’s first homegrown oat m!lk brand using New Zealand grown oats. Otis represents a Kiwi movement toward locally grown plant-based products that the whole world can enjoy. Go Well was initially recruited to identify their environmental impacts throughout their entire supply chain and provide recommendations on how they could build a proposed bottling plant to be circular and regenerative. Or, in other words, to send no materials to landfill and emit no greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, all while also helping to improve the health of the local ecosystem. 

Following this report, Otis had us provide ongoing support and advice on all aspects of sustainability, and develop them a sustainability strategy. This work included such things as deciding on their packaging, producing a carbon reduction plan, procuring Fairtrade cocoa for their chocolate milk, and how to communicate the complexities of their mission to their audience. In addition to this, we led the work to produce their 1% Fund Report and decide on how this money would be spent. Check out their video here for more info about this. 

Otis are in a unique position as they work to provide an attractive alternative to industrial dairy farming and support New Zealand farmers to adopt regenerative land management practices. Ultimately, their aim is to help support New Zealand’s agricultural sector to become more diverse and more resilient. 

The reality is, if they are to have any chance of competing with the behemoth that is our industrial dairy industry and provide farmers with the confidence to grow oats as part of a diverse and regenerative farming system, then they have to export to global markets. It’s worth remembering that around 95% of New Zealand dairy products are exported and Dairy is New Zealand’s biggest export earner, with exports of approximately $17 billion a year, accounting for 20% of our total exports.

Therefore, to achieve their mission, Otis had to think big and long term, from the beginning. They also had to be very mindful of what the big global oat milk brands were doing. This is why they chose to have their milk manufactured in Sweden and use liquid paperboard packaging (aka Tetra Pak). 

At the time of writing, there is still no plant-based milk-producing factory in Aotearoa that isn’t owned by a Dairy company. Otis considered other manufacturing alternatives, but these could not produce the product quality and health benefits they required. Sweden is the home of oat milk and the dominant global oat milk brand, Oatly. 

Despite the fact that Otis are offsetting their organisational emissions (this includes the freight to and from Sweden) by 120% and qualifying for Climate Positive Business Operations certification through Ekos, and the fact that any oat milk has a carbon footprint (and overall environmental footprint) many times smaller than that of its dairy equivalent, Otis have faced significant challenges from New Zealand consumers, and more specifically “keyboard warriors”, on the emissions related to manufacturing in Sweden. 

It is a challenge that won’t truly be able to overcome until there is a New Zealand-based manufacturing option for them. The slowness in developing the infrastructure for plant-based alternative products in New Zealand is hugely frustrating. 

On the packaging front, Otis have again  faced significant challenges explaining their decision to use LPB (liquid packaging board – aka Tetra Pak). Despite it being proven to have the lowest carbon footprint over its lifetime as any comparable packaging material, and Otis’ own cartons being manufactured with 100% renewable energy and plant-based plastics (most LPB cartons use fossil fuel plastics), the focus for many has been on the significant challenges in recycling the material. Auckland City Council is the only council that accepts  LPB packaging in their kerbside recycling collections in New Zealand, and many overseas markets also send the packaging material to landfill (see our About Recycling page for more info). 

However the material can be recycled and saveBOARD have now set up a recycling plant in Te Rapa, Hamilton, New Zealand and Warragamba, NSW, Australia. The timing is hugely significant as the New Zealand government (Ministry for the Environment) is currently working to “transform recycling” in Aotearoa.  

However, not wanting to wait around for the government’s decision, Otis have been operating their own take back scheme for their Waikato-based customers and participating in the building of a nationwide collection scheme with the Packaging Forum and other brands using LPB. 

The travel emissions and packaging challenges are two fantastic examples of the obstacles faced by businesses like Otis who have been founded to disrupt and create positive change. Taking customers and other stakeholders on the journey with them involves a very high level of education, engagement, and challenging existing beliefs and norms of behaviour. Their communication and execution are critical. 

But even more important than that is having a deep understanding of the environmental, social, and financial issues we collectively face, the impacts they are having on these as a business, the role they want to play in the economic transformation, and a plan to guide their journey. 

If you’d like to know more about the thinking behind the work we have done with Otis Oat M!lk please get in touch. 

We’re here to evolve business for the sustainable future.