Sweden Is Waging a War on Oat Milk

A Swedish dairy conglomerate is taking on alternative milk like it's a national epidemic

swedish milk wars
A Swedish dairy conglomerate wants to lure people away from the siren song of plant-based milk alternatives.
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By Kayla Kibbe / December 5, 2019 6:45 am

In case you missed it, Sweden is in the midst of a milk war.

Faced with the growing popularity of alternative milks like Oatly, a popular brand of oat milk originating in Sweden, the Swedish dairy conglomerate Arla is waging war against its plant-based competition.

The latest manifestation of this growing unrest, as Jacob Goldberg reported for the Outline, comes in the form of a pro-dairy milk add campaign splashing slogans like “Milk is milk!” and “Only milk tastes like milk” across obviously anti-Oatly TV ads.

“Milk has been a natural part of Swedes’ diet and culture for over a century — it’s in the Swedes’ souls,” Rosanna Hagald of the Stockholm-based ad agency behind Arla’s “Milk is milk” campaign, told Goldberg. “For the last couple of years, a lot of new competitors have entered the market and tried to convince people to choose other beverages over milk.”

Like Hagald herself, the ads make thinly veiled references to Oatly, obviously parodying the plant-based milk alternative. But Arla isn’t having all the fun. Oatly has mounted similarly satirical counterattacks, launching a “flush the milk” campaign modeled after a Swedish public service campaign encouraging alcoholic Swedes to “flush the brandy,” and even going as far as to trademark the nonsense words — “pjölkbrölksölk, and trölk” — the Arla ads use to mock Oatly and print them on their products.

Of course, Sweden isn’t the only place where the popularity of plant-based milks is on the rise. So why has Sweden gone to war over it? Apparently, the country takes its milk seriously, with some criticizing Oatly’s anti-milk ads for crossing the line.

“People got offended, like, they thought you should not attack the milk-drinking people of Sweden,” Isa Ellman, a graphic designer who published a thesis on the so-called Milk War earlier this year, told Goldberg.

Oatly, for its part, isn’t losing any sleep over the matter.

“It must be terrible to wake up one day and realize consumers see through your propaganda and that your products are totally out of sync with what the planet needs to ensure its future,” Oatly creative director John Schoolcraft told Goldberg. “That an oat milk company shows up possessing no fear at all and all too eager to witness your demise must be dreadful. I don’t feel sorry for them at all.”

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