If your TikTok algorithm has been serving you up warnings against drinking oat milk, you’re not alone. Right now, videos with titles like “The truth about oat milk,” “Oat milk is toxic,” and “Oat milk is a scam” have hundreds of thousands of views on the popular social media app. And Oatly, the Swedish dairy-free brand that invented oat milk, has had enough.

On its website Fck Oatly (which is dedicated to covering all of the negative press that surrounds the brand), Oatly refers to many of the viral social media posts that warn people away from its products. “This sad exchange comes about because the internet is full of ‘amateur nutritionists,’” claims Oatly. “Aka people who make catchy TikTok videos and Twitter threads slamming Oatly’s ingredients.”

There is indeed a sea of nutrition advice on TikTok, much of which, research suggests, is not actually that accurate. In fact, earlier this year, one study conducted by Dublin City University and MyFitnessPal suggested that only 2.1 percent of nutrition content on TikTok is accurate. Yet, concerningly, the researchers also found that 57 percent of people are applying nutrition trends from TikTok to their own lives.

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According to Oatly, the main ingredients in its products that have come under fire include rapeseed oil, sugar, cocoa, and “even water.” Some believe that seed oils, like the rapeseed oil used in Oatly, are a threat to their health. However, many experts maintain that these oils are safe, and may even be beneficial to heart health. This is also the stance of Oatly’s “very smart, very nerdy” food scientists.

“We mainly use rapeseed oil because it has a high proportion of monounsaturated fat, which is preferable for health according to general dietary recommendations,” Oatly stated, responding to someone on social media concerned about rapeseed oil. “The rapeseed we’ve been using is high-quality, non-GMO, hot-pressed, and is also super handy in some of our products where saturated fats are required to create the right consistency.”

Experts have also confirmed that oat milk’s GI score, another subject of concern on TikTok, isn’t something we need to worry about too much. You can read more about this here, but the gist is, for those without diabetes or prediabetes, the human body can maintain blood sugar levels on its own, and oat milk can be a nutritious part of a balanced diet.

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Oat milk ‘designed for humans’

Oatly has mastered the art of clapping back to those who criticize it. As well as the Fck Oatly website, it also recently opened a pop-up installation at Milan Design Week, which featured a blue courtyard, an Oatly kiosk, and an oat milk fountain. The Kiosk featured a sign that read: “Designed for humans.”

“We created a venue called Designed for Humans featuring ‘The Fountain of Youth’ but of course, those names are purely coincidental and have nothing to do with oat drink,” Oatly posted on its social media accounts about the new pop-up installation.

“Designed for humans” is another play on Oatly’s signature slogan: “It’s like milk, but made for humans.” The slogan has got the brand into trouble before, and it was even banned from using the line in a campaign in Ireland and Northern Ireland. But with the new pop-up, the brand demonstrates it is not backing down on its main marketing hook.

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And, indeed, a mother cow doesn’t produce milk for the dairy industry intentionally. The milk they produce is meant for their calf (which is why female cows have to be repeatedly artificially inseminated for milk production).

Another example of Oatly’s unique combative approach to marketing was its 2023 billboard campaign targeted at Big Dairy. In two adjacent billboards in New York’s Times Square and Hollywood Blvd., it announced its own climate footprint and stated it would donate the marketing space to any dairy brand that wanted to post its own for comparison. Research suggests that on the whole, oat milk, and all dairy-free milks, is far better for the environment than dairy. 

According to Brand Vision Insights, Oatly’s ability to twist negative feedback and “turn it into a rallying cry for change” means the brand has effectively positioned itself as a “disruptor in the food industry.” But it also simply “knows how to have fun.”

“By infusing its marketing with humor, honesty, and a tad of sarcasm, Oatly stands out in a crowded marketplace, capturing the attention of consumers and sparking conversations,” it continues. And despite what TikTok thinks, Oatly, and oat milk in general, is still popular. In fact, according to a recent report from Custom Market Insights, the oat milk market is on track to jump from a worth of nearly $3 billion to more than $6 billion by 2032.

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