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How Oatly Is Joining Ireland’s Dairy Debate


As the oat drink brand launches its first major brand campaign in Ireland, creative director Michael Lee tells LBB’s Alex Reeves how views on plant-based alternatives are shifting fast

How Oatly Is Joining Ireland’s Dairy Debate

Ireland has a strong reputation for its dairy the world over. That’s the thought that inspired a pair of London admen to invent Baileys Irish Cream in 1973, a few years after the Kerrygold butter brand was created, drawing on that same heritage. 

But times are changing in Ireland, as in so much of the world. Now Oatly, the world’s original and largest oat drink company, is launching its first major brand campaign there. 

Simultaneously, a report conducted by Opinions Research for Oatly reveals that one third of shoppers are buying more meat and dairy alternatives than they did three years ago. And the trend shows no sign of slowing down, with three out of ten adults planning to make even more plant-based swaps in 2023. 

One interesting finding from the report was that choosing plant-based is currently less popular amongst older age groups. More than half (55%) of those aged 65 and older said they wouldn’t consider a meat or dairy alternative in the coming year, with preconceptions about taste as the most common barrier. 

However, one person in the 65+ age group who has embraced plant-based products is self-employed welder, farmer and social media star, Padraig Howley. County Clare’s Padraig found viral fame on Instagram after changing his diet to include plant-based products to help lose weight and improve his health. His food-swapping journey captured the hearts of the nation, featuring in national and regional media across Ireland, and his content was viewed hundreds of thousands of times on Instagram. So, it’s no surprise that Padraig has been working with Oatly on this campaign.

At this pivotal moment in the history of dairy and its alternatives in Ireland, LBB’s Alex Reeves spoke to Oatly’s creative director Michael Lee.

LBB> For you, what does your research show about Oatly's place in the Irish market in 2023?

Michael> Our products are already popular with Irish consumers – our Oatly Barista Edition is the number-one selling product in the category. But as our research shows, plant-based is about to hit the mainstream in Ireland and we really wanted to amplify that trend and get people talking and considering the shift to a plant-based lifestyle with a loud and unmissable brand campaign.

LBB> Dairy has traditionally been a huge export of Ireland and a big part of its economy and, to some extent as a result, its culture. How does Oatly mean to take on that particular challenge through creativity?

Michael> We’ve always been fearless when it comes to challenging norms, when you’re on a mission to change the food system for people and planet, you kind of have to be. In the past, we have challenged the food industry to show us their (climate footprint) numbers, petitioned the German government to make climate labelling mandatory on food products, encouraged Brits to ‘Ditch Milk’, and pinned our hopes on a couple of dorky oat drink carton puppets named Norm&Al to encourage mainstream society to eat more plant-based foods.

‘It’s like milk but made for humans’ is a great opening line for our launch in Ireland, because it’s the perfect cocktail party answer for what our product is all about. Beyond being obvious (duh, milk is for baby cows) it also tends to make people think and debate and consider their own personal plant-based journey.

Dairy has been a part of human diets for centuries. For us, this is about giving consumers a choice and for that choice to be normal. People may want to reduce or eliminate dairy in their diet for health, ethical or environmental reasons, and so we think plant-based alternatives should be just as available as their dairy counterparts. We exist to make it easy for people to make those small swaps – whether they’re doing it for themselves, for the planet, or a bit of both. And we come up with hopefully unboring ways of encouraging just that.

LBB> What aspects of the broader global strategy are you pushing particularly when it comes to marketing to Ireland and why?

Michael> Since every carton of oat drink sold is a win for the planet, I guess you could say our broader global strategy is to get everyone on the planet to go plant-based. But that’s just a creative guy’s perspective on things.

LBB> How did Padraig Howley get involved in the campaign and why was he the right choice?

Michael> Padraig Howley is a near-70 year old welder from County Clare in Ireland, who found overnight fame in his own right in 2021 when he documented his journey to veganism on social media – with the help of his daughter. We’re working with Padraig to authentically tell his story as part of the campaign; from meat and dairy lover for over six decades, to realising the enormous health benefits it has had for him personally giving them up. 

He's super cool, which is why we were psyched when he agreed to work with us.

LBB> Is there anything else about this campaign that you'd like to add?

Michael> Just wanted to give a shout out to Ed Hines, the music teacher from Boston we hired to help teach the people of Ireland how to play [Oatly CEO] Toni Petersson’s song, ‘Wow no Cow’ on the recorder. The documentary and digital bits surrounding Hine’s interactions with the people of Dublin are just one of those head-scratching campaign moments that doesn’t make sense, which is why it makes perfect sense.

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Categories: Milk, Soft Drinks

LBB Editorial, Thu, 16 Feb 2023 16:07:44 GMT