In oats we trust

That’s the vision statement from the ambitious start-up company Otis Oat M!lk. The aim: to provide a delicious alternative milk to coffee fiends and disrupt the comfy agri-corporates.

Otis, New Zealand’s first home-grown oat milk company, was meticulously thought up by kiwi kid, Tim Ryan.

“I wanted to start a brand that was relevant and gave back to the generations to follow. We want to offer more diversification to kiwi farmers and kiwi consumers, whilst keeping our sole vision on raising the conversation around NZ’s natural environment, and growing our plant-based industry.”

His journey is an epic, so let’s rewind a bit.

Back in 2005 Tim graduated from Otago University and was fresh on the scene in Queenstown.

“I worked in True Grit. I did that for about 3 months but then fell into the film industry, l was fortunate enough to work under a Queenstown business mentor of mine, Barbara Williams.”

Working on a couple of commercials for London based Ad Agencies, he scored himself a ticket to London.

Ogilvy’s supposed Mad Men he describes as “boring and corporate.”

“I was always over there thinking about ideas that you could execute back home.”

Over 2013 Tim began exploring a more plant-based diet.

“My girlfriend (at the time) was vegan and I love a coffee in the morning. I obviously needed a replacement for dairy milk”.

In 2014, Tim landed a job in Amsterdam with a prestigious creative agency Wieden + Kennedy. He was working with creative powerhouse brands he loved, such as Nike and Corona, all the while living the proverbial dream on the quaint canals of Amsterdam. After looking after a ménage à trois collab between Corona, Parley for Oceans (an NGO) and the World Surf League, Tim started to question his career.

“We shot in Hawaii, Australia, Mexico, Chile, Bali, Maldives, Italy and ended in New York. It sounds dreamy but it was absolutely horrible – the whole campaign was about doing good for the oceans, and no one really gave a sh*t.”

2016, a short visit home and revelation was hitting left, right and center.

“Driving across the Canterbury Plains I saw nothing but industrialized dairy farming and it scared the heck out of me. It was a white gold rush! That was when I clicked.

After that, every business trip I was on I would work on the Otis business plan so when I eventually snapped, I had something to fall back onto.”

Tim’s parents were a little astonished to find that he had thrown in a six-figure salary to endeavour a blindside career.

“I’m just unemployed now, I’m starting an Oat Milk company,” he recalls.

All jokes aside, they have been supportive of his quest. A brother-in-law provided the first point of contact at the Food Innovation Network – NZ’s food incubator.

Over 18 months he tested his product and went through a number of learning curves.

“We tested the milk thousands of times, we worked with some amazing baristas and food techs. We drank a sh*t load of coffee!”

On the 28th of April 2019, Otis Oat Milk was publicly announced and became Instagram official! Launching with their hero product, Otis barista oat milk – a 5 Litre bag in box solution aimed at reducing café waste.

“Everyone is using those 1 litre cartons. Challenging cafes, for me, has been super rewarding, we work with an incredible family of cafés and it's been really cool, they all want to play their part in more conscious consumption.”

The oats are sourced in Southland and Otago, which are close to his new home base, Dunedin.

“At the end of the day there are no almonds, soy, coconut or rice growing here – but we grow oats, in fact we grow the best oats in the world! Why wouldn’t we make oat milk!”

To that we say f*ck’n OATS!

Otis Oat M!lk is available in Vudu Larder, Bespoke Kitchen and Sherwood.

Words Lauren Prebble


© 2019