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YOOK’s award-winning oat drinks score another point for food innovation in Estonia

The Baltic countries’ first oat drink producer combines the best Nordic organic oats with modern technology.

3 min read

Estonians love tradition as much as they love innovation. Nowhere is that more evident than in the food and beverage industry, where the country’s entrepreneurial minds are giving time-honoured traditions high-tech makeovers.

Case in point: Oat beverages. Widely believed to be a 1990s invention and steadily climbing upwards in the global non-dairy milk hierarchy over recent decades, oat-based beverages have a much longer history in Estonia. “Oat drink was consumed as a milk alternative throughout the year by our ancestors on the shores of the Baltic Sea,” says Katre Kõvask, CEO of YOOK, the first oat drink producer in Estonia and the Baltics. “It’s pleasant, refreshing, and nutrient-rich.”

Plant-based for the planet

Plant-based milks have been growing in popularity for multiple reasons, from nutritional to ethical. “The vitamins and nutrients in oats make this a superfood in modern terms, but oats are also gentle on the planet,” Kõvask says.

Being gentle on the planet is non-negotiable for any innovation that wants to make it out of the idea stage. The global population is projected to reach 8.5 billion in 2030, and 9.7 billion in 2050. The volume of cow’s milk produced worldwide has been rising steadily, but keeping up production is a considerable strain on the environment. “One way or another, alternatives to cow’s milk are needed,” says Kõvask. “Oat drink is perfect for that. Oat cultivation requires 80% less land than milk production and produces 80% less emissions. And while a ton of water is needed to produce 1 litre of milk, one litre of oat drink only requires 40 litres of water.”

Innovate or bust

While the environmental case has always been relatively easy to make, standing out for its flavour has perhaps not been as simple for oat milk. In a sea of plant-based milk alternatives, how does the humble oat compete? Leave it to the Estonians — YOOK’s commitment to innovation has resulted in a standout product making waves internationally.

“A food business without innovation is like a car without wheels,” Kõvask says. “If there is no innovation that makes you a hundred times better than your competitors, nothing else will help. In order to innovate, you must have the courage to involve the world’s best knowledge and scientists, be they in Estonia or further afield.”

Whatever YOOK is doing (the actual process is, naturally, a bit of a secret), it seems to be working. Using organic whole-grain oats to maintain high quality and great taste, the company has been making headlines recently for winning awards such as the Gulfood Innovation Award and the Superior Taste Award from the International Taste Institute.

“YOOK is off to a really good start in terms of awards,” says Kõvask. “But this is only the beginning. The goal is to establish a foothold in Asia, the Middle East, and Western Europe.”

Estonia’s food industry makes the most of organic raw materials, skilled workers, modern production facilities, and the country’s famously business-friendly environment. Take a look at investment opportunities in the food sector, and get in touch for your free e-Consulting.


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