28 May 2023

LCA of Oatly products and comparison with cow's milk

Critically reviewed Life Cycle Assessment

Oatly, the world's largest oat drink company, has asked Blonk Consultants to perform a Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) to compare the environmental performance of their Oatly Barista, Oatly “No” Sugars and Oatly Oat Drink (Whole, Semi and Light) products to cow’s milk. The study covers six sales markets: Germany, Finland, the Netherlands, Sweden, and the United Kingdom (for all products), and the United States (for Oatly Barista only). In addition, the study has analysed the main drivers behind the environmental impact of Oatly Barista, and has identified potential opportunities for improvement.


Set up of the study

The functional unit considered for this study is 1 liter of Oatly product and cow’s milk at the point of sale (retail or food service), and includes packaging manufacturing and packaging end-of-life. For cow’s milk, a country-specific average market mix of skimmed, semi-skimmed, and whole milk was considered, as well as the most common heat treatment type (HTST or UHT) and packaging format (plastic, beverage carton, aseptic/chilled) in each country. The foreground data for the Oatly products is based on company-specific data from Oatly. For the cow’s milk, latest data and statistics at a national level were used.

LCA calculation guidelines

The study was performed and critically reviewed according to ISO 14040/14044 standards and follows LCA guidelines including the European Product Environmental Footprint Category Rules (PEFCR). The analysis was done for 9 key impact categories from the ReCiPe 2016 impact assessment method. Cow’s milk was modelled using Blonk’s Animal Production System Footprint (APS Footprint), a tool for computing lifecycle environmental impacts of animal production systems, which follows published and recognized international calculation guidelines from the European Commission (PEFCR for Dairy Products), The European Environment Agency (Air pollutant emission inventory guidebook) and the IPCC (Emissions from livestock and manure management).


Results & Follow-up studies

The results show the impact for the different environmental impact categories (climate change, fine particulate matter formation, terrestrial acidification, freshwater eutrophication, marine eutrophication, mineral resource scarcity, fossil resource scarcity, water consumption, and land use), as well as the contribution of individual life cycle stages to the overall footprint for each of these categories. The study contains several sensitivity and uncertainty analyses to assess the robustness of the results.

The results for Oatly Barista can be found in the main report, and the results for Oatly “No” Sugars and Oat Drink (Whole, Semi and Light) are published in an addendum. Both studies have been subject to a critical review.

Following these studies we additionally performed LCAs to compare the environmental performance of Oatly Original to cow's milk in the United States (December 2023), Oatly Barista to cow's milk in China (February 2024) and Oatly Creamy Oat for the Swedish market (February 2024)

More information

Get in touch

Caroline te Pas
Team Manager

If you have questions about this project or are interested in an LCA of your product? Get in touch with Caroline.