We talk to Sophia Bucknell

Last month Ben Toon sat down with Oatly’s Brand Activation Manager, Sophia Bucknell. They talked about Sophia’s work, Oatly’s mission, and challenges Oatly faced recently and how they overcame them!


Vision

So, thanks for chatting with us! Do you mind introducing yourself and telling us what you do at Oatly?


Sophia

Yeah. My name is Sophia. I’ve been at Oatly three and a half years. I started off as a marketing executive then I went to field marketing manager and now I’m brand activation manager. Activities like experiential marketing or the coffee channel – which is huge for the business. I basically lead up on any sort of brand activities within that channel either organizing events, organizing promotions that we run or, festivals activities. I also work with the coffee team to make sure that everything we do is on brand and looks great.


Vision

Nice. It does look cool, we’ve always thought Oatlys aesthetic looks great. How long has that been about? 


Sophia

So Oatly’s been about since 1994. But it wasn’t until 2014, that we rebranded. Before then it was a product that was “born through science” because there were no alternatives for those that had allergies. But then it never really took off because scientists had made the product – and with creativity maybe not being their strongest point. So, the creative department was born, they took over and did a rebranding and that’s what we have now.


Vision

Just quickly for those who may not be familiar with Oatly, could you give us a quick overview and insight into Oatly’s mission?


Sophia

Yeah. So, Oatly’s a company that focuses on sustainability, at first it was an Oat drink but now we’ve turned into a company that’s trying to plant-based food products that don’t tax the planet’s resources. Essentially, we want to try and encourage more people to realise how much of an impact the food industry has on our climate. The climate is a hot topic now, which is great, but food isn’t on the agenda at COP 26. And it’s just getting that info out there for people, and then providing products for them to switch to. We’re not company that’s saying everyone must go vegan, we’re just saying there needs to be more of a shift to a more plant-based society.

Vision

Okay yeah, sustainability seems like a massive part of Oatly mission then?


Sophia

Yeah, for sure. What’s great about this company is [Oatly], we back what we say through the science and we’re not just a company that’s kind – “we need a story” so let’s make this our story. We were born 27 years ago, purely based on needing to make alternatives and we needed to do it in a way that was the most sustainable. So, a scientist at the time he spent ages working out, which crop was going to be the least damaging of the planet, and he found out it was oat. Right, so he came up with the product and essentially every decision that we make must go through the sustainability checks first.


Vision

That’s cool. We didn’t know that it went back that far and it all came from that purpose or that it was that involved/dedicated to the cause!


Sophia 

We do a sustainability report every year in Sweden, where our headquarters are and it’s a legal requirement. We thought, why dont we do something like that for the UK but make it interesting. So we’ve got a book equivalent, where we’re taking science, but making it digestible and fun to read.


Vision  

Awesome! Over the last year, what has Oatly found particularly challenging and how have you overcome that challenge?


Sophia

I mean the obvious one is COVID. And the effects of COVID on every bit of our supply chain essentially, and then the effects on like the different markets and the channels. Our offices in Asia are completely shut down, we’re still working from home. Like it’s really difficult. That’s really challenging. Yeah, a tough couple of years as it was for the rest of the world. And the other challenge is how much the category is growing, which is also a really great thing. And we see it as, you know, more competition, but it’s also great that the category of dairy alternatives is growing and that’s becoming normal. Three and a half years ago everybody was like “what the hell are dairy alternatives?” the fact that it’s grown that much in three and a half years is crazy. Every year there’s a new competitor coming in, and they can produce great tasting quality products as well, but at the same time, you know, we’re not scared about it because we’ve got amazing products and we’ve got the science to back it! And so, we’re just going to continue. Yeah. We’ve got some exciting plans coming up as well, so we’re just going to continue kind of leading the way with it <laughs>.

Vision

Okay, Awesome! Shameless plug alert: How does vision provide Oatly with value?


Sophia

We’ve switched from one provider to Vision and it’s just so interesting seeing how much more smoothly life could be. So, working with Vision, the people so far have been absolutely lovely and also just people’s responses back, and their commitment to the work. It’s just a breath of fresh air and how on it everyone is at Vision. And that means obviously, Vision has a massive effect on how the business runs, for example with campaigns and so on, the whole logistics in general and our account manager [Sally]. If we don’t have our products to hand when we want them, we have angry consumers, so yeah it affects our business, so it’s great to have a company that just works well, really.


Vision

Amazing thanks! Last question. On a personal level, can you share one resource that you have found invaluable such as a podcast, book, or idea?


Sophia

I’m so new to this, everyone knows him already but Jay Shetty. So, he left his corporate world job to become a monk. He’s come back and he’s brought his teachings to this side of the world. He does all these talks about interpersonal development. I’ve been listening to some podcasts recently. That’s just kind of given me a breath of fresh air around reframing your mind on, you know, some of the issues at work or whatever. So, I highly recommend listening to him.


Thanks we will! Sophia, thanks for chatting with us. All the best!

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