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The first oat drink factory in the Baltics financed by Coop Pank started production in Türi

The first oat drink factory in the Baltics, in which Estonian entrepreneurs have invested over 13 million euros and which was financed by domestic Coop Bank, started production in in the Central-Estonia town Türi.

"Milk alternatives made from oats are a growing global trend as they are delicious, non-allergenic and have very small environmental footprint. Thanks to this, they are also the most sustainable alternative to regular milk," said Katre Kõvask, CEO of YOOK Production AS, adding that the main consumers of oat drinks are similar everywhere, being people who are environmentally conscious, vegans, people who cannot drink cow's milk for health reasons and people with a flexible diet who also occasionally consume milk alternatives.

In Estonia, YOOK is already available in all retail chains, including Kaupmees and Sanitex, as well as in cafes and restaurants. “We are able to produce up to 20 million liters of oat-based drinks per year in one shift, with a special emphasis on exports. We will start with our home market, the Baltics, but we are already targeting, among others, Asia and the Gulf States, as well as Northern and Western Europe," said Katre Kõvask, describing the perspectives of geographical expansion. She added that competition in this product segment is very tough, and that in order to be successful, YOOK needs be clearly better and smarter than producers and brands that already have very strong global reach.

"We are keeping a close eye on trends, we are flexible and committed to constantly improving our product range," said the CEO, adding that YOOK uses only organic whole-grain oatmeal flakes in order to improve purity, taste and quality, and does not add sugars to its products. Organic whole-grain oat flakes are supplied to YOOK from a radius of 450 km. “This ensures that the raw materials are close to home and organic. Minimizing the environmental footprint is one of our core operating principles: it's a win-win for the environment and for the people.”

In the first phase, the company offers three products: first is a gluten-free barista drink made from organic whole-grain oat flakes, which is primarily intended for coffee with milk foam and matcha latte; the second is organic-drink that, as its name implies, is organic and suitable for drinking, pouring into coffee or into porridge and breakfast cereals; and the third is oat drink enriched with vitamins and calcium, ideal for pouring into coffee, drinking as such or for smoothies. All products are available in a one-litre carton package.

YOOK is powered by the solar park on the roof of the production building, adds value to the production residue and, in the long run, wants to move towards a zero footprint target. “The executives and owners of YOOK Production have extensive management and entrepreneurial experience and have done a great job in launching the plant successfully. We compliment the ambitions of the company and its environmentally friendly production in Central Estonia as it contributes to the development of the local community by creating new jobs and, at the same time helps to achieve more demanding food industry and climate targets,” commented Lehar Kütt, Head of Corporate Finance at Coop Pank that financed the construction of the plant.

YOOK's new production complex with more than 2,200 square meters of floor space has also given new life to the nearly century-old local dairy industry in Türi. Modern equipment and maximum automation help to keep production efficient and flexible, as the company currently employs 15 people. The production of oat-based drinks is technologically demanding process which requires fine-tuning of the production equipment according to the recipes. The recipes themselves were developed by Estonian and Nordic researchers, and the development work took more than a year.

The owners of YOOK Production AS are Estonian entrepreneurs Armin Karu, Martin Kangur, Paavo Pettai and Mark Eikner. The construction of the production plant was financed by Coop Pank and PRIA, and the digitalization of the company's processes was supported by EIS.