Behind the beverage: Meet the people who can help bring your oat drinks to life

It takes a committed team of professionals — including food scientists, technologists, strategists and engineers — to bring oat-based beverages to market. We spoke to some of the experts behind the integrated offering at Tetra Pak — from product development to processing to process automation to packaging — about how they can support customers joining the oat boom, and how they see the category developing.

‘We transform ideas into prototypes’

Glauce De Souza
Product Development Centre (PDC) and Food Technology Manager
Lund, Sweden

“When you look at a package of oat beverage — the colour, the texture, the messaging — it tells you a story. And when you try the product, it has to match the story. That’s what we do, we make sure it looks right and tastes right and gives the consumer a good experience.”

 “I’m the head of the Tetra Pak Accelerator Lab and my job is to transform any idea the customer comes up with into a final product that can be commercialized, using our processing, packaging and services. We try to transform ideas into prototypes as fast as we can.”

“It will be interesting to see all the variations of oats that come to market. We’re talking about different experiences beyond milk replacements. I feel like consumers want fortification, to give their immune systems a boost after the pandemic. I feel they also want some indulgence, something that makes them feel better and happier.”

‘Oats are becoming an everyday part of our diets’

Jaume Reig
Director Prepared Food and Plant-based
Madrid, Spain

“Many plant-based products have been presented as a dairy alternative, something you drink because you can’t or don’t want to drink dairy. Five years ago, oat beverages only had a little bit of space on the shelf. Now they’re really taking off, and people aren’t drinking them just because they’re lactose intolerant or vegan. They’re drinking them because it’s a good product.”

“We’re receiving a lot more requests from producers that want to invest in oats, and we can help them with that. Tetra Pak is unique in that we have a complete offer. We have food application knowledge, with Product Development Centres around the world where customers can work with application experts to develop recipes and processes in an industrial environment. We’re solution providers with expertise in raw material handling, mixing and blending, heat treatment and aseptic storage, as well as filling and packaging and line/plant automation Producers know they can work with us because we have 35 years of experience. We’re trustworthy.”

“I lead our journey within plant-based products from a global perspective, with the main objective to set and implement our strategy. Not alone, of course — we’re a team of experts in different areas, delighted to support our colleagues in-market: from food technology to line solutions to product management to application sales.

“When my children go to school, they can choose between milk or oat drinks. Plant-based products, including oats, are becoming a natural, everyday part of our diets; it is a category in continuous evolution as well. So, from that perspective I think they’re definitely here to stay.”

‘It’s a lifestyle change, and that requires a change of mentality’

Anders Andrén
Product Manager, Automation and Digital
Lund, Sweden

“Whether our customers are just adding a line or building a new factory or expanding globally, our automation and digital solutions are a fundamental building block to get their operations up and running, supported by the right capabilities. You can guarantee the end-product quality is the same every time, no matter where in the world it’s produced.”

“Automation is about controlling food safety and quality, performance and production costs. It’s like the conductor of an orchestra. If you keep everything working together, they will perform perfectly.”

“I’m responsible for our products and solutions for automation and digitalization. I also work on strategies for our current and future portfolio, following industry trends, and trying to understand how we can package things together to help our customers close gaps in their supply chain.”

“Oats is a category that’s simply exploding around the world, and that’s been driven by consumer preferences and sustainability. And of course a bit of marketing helps as well. It’s like what’s happening in the auto industry with electric cars. It’s a lifestyle change, and that requires a change of mentality in how we relate to new products.”

‘The biggest opportunities we see are in plant-based beverages’

Varun Mathew
Product Manager, Packaging Solutions
Modena, Italy

“Our product development people started venturing into plant-based dairy alternatives about 20 years ago because consumers wanted something that wouldn’t cause digestion issues. But now it’s more and more about sustainability. We’re all more conscious about not only what we consume, but also the carbon footprint of the entire product lifecycle.”

“Over the past several years we’ve made giant strides in replacing fossil-based caps with bio-based caps. We’re now able to deliver a package that’s more than 80% renewable materials, when we were at about 70% a few years ago.”

“Also, what we can do from a packaging perspective is enable our customers to bring smaller packs to market at lower price points, which lets consumers do more sampling. Because when you get them to taste it once, they get a chance to become loyalists.”

“This is our hottest-selling end-to-end line. The biggest opportunities we see are in plant-based beverages. The category has been growing at a double-digit rate for the past 10 years, and our anticipation is that it will continue at the same pace for the next 10 years.”

‘I have never seen a challenge we are not able to solve’

Rana Cheaib
Food Technologist, Product Development Centre (PDC)
Lund, Sweden

“Sometimes a customer will have an idea for a recipe, but they don’t really know how to produce it. That’s when we recommend some different setups and try to compare them. We do this in pilot scale, which means they don’t need to waste a lot of ingredients and time and energy and everything. We can produce four or five small batches and compare them on the same day. This is a very efficient way to find the best candidate.”

“People are opening their eyes to these products, and especially oats because it’s a cheap raw material, easily grown and nutritious. It’s high in fiber and a good source of beta glucans, which can help reduce cholesterol, so it’s a very good ingredient.”

“We have so many different solutions, it’s like having a box of Lego — you can put together all the pieces that are needed in the desired way for a specific project, then you can pick different pieces and do it again for another customer.”

“I have never seen a challenge we are not able to solve in one way or another. Tetra Pak is a big company, so if we at PDC are missing any kind of mechanical part or need to source new ingredients, we can do that easily. We love facing challenges because that’s our motivation. To learn something new every day, and then to be able to transfer this knowledge to our customers to help them improve their products, that is our passion.”

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