Oatly, the world’s largest oat milk company, has taken Glebe Farm, a Cambridgeshire family farm to court for trade mark infringement over its PureOaty drink. All I have to say is, shame on you Oatly!
We are actually really fortunate with the choice we have at the moment. There are gluten free oats and oat milk (thanks in the UK to Glebe Farm) and lots of other oat milks for consumers to try. They are not all the same and we get to choose our favourites.
So why are Oatly suing PureOaty?
Let’s get to know the two companies first.
Who are Glebe Farm Foods?
Glebe Farm Foods, based in Kings Ripton, Huntingdon, is a long-established oat milling business that began making oat milk with its British farmed oats 18 months ago. And if Oatly get their way they’ll have to try to find another way of describing their oat drink… Gluten Free Grain Drink, Gluten Free Plant Milk, Gluten Free Groats
I heard this from Emma Amoscatto of the Free From Farm House so thanks Emma for raising this to me. I was shocked and very disappointed to hear that Oatly, a huge brand with a worldwide presence, seem to feel threatened by Glebe Farm?
Who are Oatly?
Swedish brand Oatly, which makes a range of vegan dairy alternatives from oats, has seen its UK turnover grow by a staggering 90 percent in one year. The company’s UK turnover in 2018 was £18 million – 89 percent growth from 2017. It is projected to turnover £30 million for 2019. (source: Plant Based News). Oatly also sold a 20% share to US company Blackstone Investment recently, stating, this will not change us! It seems that clean, honest Swedish image is slipping!
Who are Glebe Farm?
Glebe Farm is owned by Rebecca and Philip Rayner, who own and run their family farm in Cambridgeshire. They are the only farm in the UK growing and processing gluten free oats into porridge flakes, oat flour and their delicious gluten free oat drink, PureOaty. They are involved in every step of growing, milling and manufacturing oats, so they know exactly what goes into everything they produce. They are the premier supplier of gluten free oats throughout Europe and supply customers and manufacturers right around the world.
Why are Oatly Suing Glebe Farm?
Oatly claims the brand name and packaging of PureOaty is too similar to its own – Having examined both the brands and packaging I would have to disagree, on so many counts.
- Colour – Oatly has many different carton colours, ranging from grey, to blues and browns for their chocolate milk. PureOaty is blue. You can’t patent blue. It’s a different blue to the blue that Oatly uses and has been the same packaging for years.
- Passing off the brand – Oatly claims Glebe Farm is passing off their brand. It’s not. Oatly is modern and quirky. No offence to PureOaty but it’s just a basic blue carton that has oat milk in it. No clever flannel like Oatly. An old fashioned logo (sorry Glebe Farm – no offence) A picture of a coffee cup – you surely can’t own the rights to anyone using the image of a coffee cup on any plant milk based product? That’s just ridiculous? Coffee is where I use my oat milk the most, it works a dream. These two brands are so different it’s ridiculous to compare them. PureOaty is like RonSeal, it does exactly what it says on the packet. Nothing more It’s just a basic carton of oat milk.
- Oatly is seeking an injunction to stop the PureOaty brand – Are they really that threatened to have competition? There are lots of oat milk brands in the UK. Are they going to challenge them all? Watch out Alpro, Moma, Minor Figures, Rude Health… you might be next!
- Using the name Pure Oaty – surely if you’re an oat farm and you want to make oat milk you can use the word oat on your package? How are you supposed to market and explain what it is? Philip Rayner is fighting the claim which he said has “always surprised” the family, PureOaty being simply “a nod to the purity of our product”. I agree, it’s pretty much just an oat drink. PureOaty is a great name.
- Gluten free claims – Glebe Farm specialise in gluten-free oats. On Oatly’s website, this what they say about their oats: “No, out oats are not gluten free in Europe and Asia. We can guarantee that Oatly products contain less than 100 ppm (mg/kg product) gluten from wheat, rye and barley. This is comparable to products that may be labelled “Very low gluten” and which are allowed to contain max 100 ppm gluten.” For a product to claim gluten free status is must be 20ppm or less gluten. In the US Oatly’s milk is made from certified gluten-free oats and are labelled gluten-free.
- The PureOaty name puts customers in mind of Oatly – Come on guys! Oats is Oats! You can’t complain about competition using the word oats! Competition is good, it’s fair and you can back off our British oats brand please! I can see that Oatly and Oaty are similar. But what other words can you use to describe an Oat milk? PureGrain? PureGroat? I look at both and I really didn’t notice the similarity, and I certainly wouldn’t pick up PureOaty thinking it as Oatly.
- The carton’s blue packaging and teacup image also bears more than a passing resemblance to the Swedish brand –
- Brand – Nope. I’d disagree again. It’s not the same as Oatly at all. It’s just a simple coffee cup image. The font is completely different, being joined up like writing. Oatly’s fonts are blocky, in full caps and very modern. PureOaty is more old fashioned, and to my mind, more like a traditional British oat farm business image.
- Coffee cup image? I’d say PureOaty is an old fashioned tea cup almost, whereas Oatly has a modern glass image. Oatly’s packaging doesn’t look like a cup to me at all, it’s like a tumbler. There isn’t much comparison and I can’t see why an oat milk can’t depict the most common usage of said oat drink – in a hot drink! Oatly you can’t patent coffee cups!
I am so cross about this. I’m disappointed. I love Oatly, at least I used to. I have Oatgurt in my fridge, Oatly ice cream in my freezer, and both the Whole oat and chocolate milk from Oatly. I have Oatly Cream and Custard. But Oatly, you might have just lost a loyal and passionate customer over this.
And I’m one of those annoying people who will keep telling others.
I think Oatly are bullies. Greedy. Trying to use their status and clout as the bigger brand to push out an already established smaller oat milk brand. As Oatly prepare to establish their own factory here in the UK, this can’t be a coincidence.
You can read more here in this article, Oatly takes Cambridge family to court
Details of the court case
Oatly have pulled together documents concerning their Trademark Infringement Case, which should be decided by the court mid July. Click on the button below to read them:
What can we do about this?
Not a lot sadly. This is now in the lap of the courts! However there is something we can do. We can push back to Oatly and let them know we are not happy. In my view there is room for all the oat milk brands we have.
We can also show Glebe Farm some support. They sell their milk in Coop, Holland & Barrett and have an Amazon store. I’ve just bought some as I needed milk anyway. Check out Pure Oaty here: Glebe Farm, Gluten-Free Oat Drink – 10 x 1 Liter, Dairy-Free, Vegan, No Added Sugar
You could also sign the petition on Change.org
Oatly, you need to win me back to get me to buy your milk again. I do not like injustice. I do not like bullies.
A response from Oatly
I contacted Oatly on Instagram and this is their response:
“We prioritise sustainability and the health of our planet and we exist to lead the plant-based movement to fight climate change.
However, we’re still a company and therefore protecting our intellectual property is something completely separate to this. And it’s something we’ve always done, it isn’t a new practice for us (or any other company for that matter).”
“Oatly is the original inventor of oat drink so others look to us for inspo which we’re so proud of. More plant based = less climate impact.
But, at times it may get taken a bit too far, and when this happens lawyers step in and thanks to an impartial legal system things get decided on a case-by-case basis. Frustratingly, we’re not able to go into any more detail than this as the case is ongoing…. So, for now, we wish you all the best.
And another response here taken from the LinkedIn Discussion, which you can follow here: The heated debate over on LinkedIn
The only people taking anything a bit too far is YOU Oatly! You! Love Ruth xxx
The FreeFrom community usually sticks together. We have amazing awards, supportive brands and great awareness and networking. This behaviour from Oatly, attacking a competitor is out of order!
But I do love my Oat milk. So I’ll be doing a review of PureOaty soon. I’ve just ordered some from their Amazon store and they also supply Holland and Barrett and Coop so keep your eyes peeled! It’s very distinctive packaging and as you can see, nothing like Oatly! No one could ever get the two confused! Check out PureOaty here: Glebe Farm, Gluten-Free Oat Drink – 10 x 1 Liter, Dairy-Free, Vegan, No Added Sugar
Little update on Oatly vs PureOaty in a taste test… PureOaty wins hands down. It’s so much nicer. I think I’ll do a proper review in a few weeks, perhaps we have the outcome of this whole legal shenanigans.
Oatly Sues fellow oat drink brand PureOaty over trademark infringement claim
What do you think about this? Are you as angry as I am? Are you disappointed in Oatly? Or do you think they have a case?
Neil Pithouse says
I much prefer the Glebe Farm carton to the Oat-ly one which I think is ugly and dull. Judging by the pictures here both cartons have a mottled effect which may be part of the basis for the claim re the colour however I certainly wouldn’t get the two confused – clearly two different brands. This is up there with the McLibel case for corporate thuggery. Let’s hope this case highlights a great small British brand to our supermarkets and they load the shelf with PureOaty and give Oat-ly there marching orders. Best of luck Glebe Farm.
Ruth Holroyd says
I agree, there is so little to compare between the two, you’d never get them confused. I trust in our legal system and am hoping that Oatly don’t win this. It’s so unfair. This Free From community sticks together. we do not attack our competitors and try to beat them out of the market. It’s not how we do business! It’s not how I do business. Choice is what makes life enriching and I choose now to try PureOaty. I’ve got some coming in the post and cannot wait to try it. Goodbye Oatly! Hello Pure Oaty! If one good thing came out of this it’s me supporting a local British oat farmer.
Caroline Stephens says
Yes Ruth, I saw this on the FT and was really shocked. It’s clearly Private Equity funding making Oatly too corporate. Don’t even trust the “Love, Oatly” to you and on LinkedIn posts, suggesting “aren’t we nice, friends”!! Having worked on big brands, I’m very sympathetic against passing off by copycats, but I agree with you that PureOaty is just a small family business trying to build a different brand identity in the same category, which Oatly may have created but do not own. I’d like to move away from using Oatly in Rex Bakery coffees as a result (although their product is considered very tasty by customers, which is the most important point they should be building their business on!) and will plan to review alternatives. Perhaps you should come and be a chief taster?! x
Ruth Holroyd says
Oh Caroline I would love to be chief taster! Can I? I can give you a list of the best ones! My friends say are better! And let’s put some Pure Oaty in the mix! I’ve had coffee made with Minor Figures oat milk which was good. And I think we should look at ethics and food miles! Get me telling you what to do
Stuart Evans says
HI Ruth. In the end, for me, it’s almost not about the drink or the branding — it’s about the damage to consumers when large behemoths start throwing their weight about (it’s happened before with big IT companies, and others). I am furious about this, but not through altruism towatds Glebe Farms in particular (even though I certainly wish them well). Instead, my anger stems from the impact it has on innovation, retail price, choice, competition etc. All this hurts the consumer in the end.
If you read Oatly’s court papers (there’s a link to those paper’s from Oatly’s website, as you may know) it’s clear that they intend not just to ask Glebe Farms to stop using the branding, but also to inflict punitive damages and costs on them. This is obviously about trying to disable a competitor.
So, I hope people will stop buying Oatly products completely. I urge you to write to Oatly (I have), sign the petition (here https://www.change.org/p/blackstone-group-we-would-like-oatly-to-renege-its-injunction-on-glebe-farms-immediately-freepureoaty ) and generally make sure Oatly can be in no doubt that it’s obvious aggression is in stark contract with it’s friendly marketing face, now revealed as an objectionable facade.
Ruth Holroyd says
Hi Stuart, I didn’t know that the court papers were available. and what you say makes me even more livid. I feel so let down, the brand I thought I was supporting is not the brand I believed in. It is 100% about getting a competitor out of the game and THAT is disgusting. I will continue to shout about this FROM THE ROOFTOPS. I’ve already started talking to my two favourite local cafes who claim that the only oat milks they can rely on for good barista coffee is Oatly so they won’t swap. I’ve told them I won’t be happy having coffee at their shops unless they at least look into this. We all need to take responsibility for our purchasing power, because we as consumers to have power. There are loads of great oat milks out there and I am looking forward to trying them. For now I have PureOaty in my fridge and I’m absolutely loving it! It’s so good. I actually think it tastes better than Oatly so am planning to do some blind tasting and perhaps do it at my local cafe so we can learn together. I don’t care which brand they stock, just not Oatly! Never again. There is even a lovely sounding brand called Oato from Milk and More which comes in a glass recyclable bottle! How cool is that? I also have friends who make their own, but I’m ultimately a very lazy person with so many big plans ahead of me, I’m not sure that’s something I could do regularly. Oatly Sucks. I hadn’t initially thought I would want to boycott a brand like them but now I feel like it’s the only way I have a voice. Thanks so much for your comment. I’m loving this debate.
FYI….. there is a petition on Change. org.
Ruth Holroyd says
Thanks Paula! Off to sign right now!
Is there a petition to sign here?
Ruth Holroyd says
Yes there is, thanks for asking. Someone else has commented below the link and I’ve just updated the blog with it too. Please vote! Takes a few seconds. Not sure if it’ll help but it sends a message to Oatly.