Oatsu is a fantastic, healthier breakfast format made in London that has been mixing and dispatching generously sized jars (220g) of plant-based overnight oats since 2020, primarily via its online shop, Mighty Plants online supermarket and an expanding huddle of independent, London-based cafes. Everything stepped up a few gears at the beginning of 2022 when Jiffy, the rapid grocery delivery retailer, tracked down Lauren and her sought-after on-the-go breakfasts.
The brand’s Jiffy launch took off with a flying start, with their Banana Biscoff and Blueberry overnight oat jars quickly establishing themselves as the retailer’s 1st and 3rd top-selling breakfast products. More exciting yet was the revelation that Oatsu had quickly become the fast turnaround retailer’s second highest revenue-generating breakfast brand, ahead of a swathe of leading household name cereal brands.
Breakfast has been in the ‘bleak experience’ wilderness for some while, a category that for all its healthier eating proclamations remains a category dominated by sugar laden cereals, buttery pastries, and the odd bottle of liquid breakfast gloop. Thankfully Lockdown was a time when countless commuters who’d historically foregone a traditional breakfast for some underwhelming, on-the-go bite suddenly found themselves stuck at home wondering how to make breakfast time a little more fulfilling.
Lauren herself was an early adopter of overnight oats, a simple make-at-home breakfast popularised by foodie accounts on Instagram and TikTok; a close relative of European bircher muesli (yoghurt and apple juice) with a more progressive, dairy-free mindset.
Before launching Oatsu, Lauren spent 5 years managing the digital and social media presences of investment banks in the UK and Hong Kong. It was during this time that Lauren discovered what a satisfying, filling breakfast overnight oats were – they kept her going through long working days.
Lauren religiously set aside 5-10 minutes every evening to prepare her oat breakfasts, which she’d refrigerate overnight and enjoy at her desk the next morning. However the allure of an active London social life meant that she, like so many others, couldn’t always find the time to prepare them. When this happened, Lauren trawled nearby supermarket and cafe shelves to track down something affordable, plant-based and packed with nutrition. ‘Why aren’t ready-to-eat overnight oats available in stores yet?,’ thought Lauren, which was the very moment a germ of a great idea took hold.
The following months saw Lauren’s Mill Hill kitchen become an Aladdin’s cave of intriguing ingredients as she trialled countless enticing flavour combinations. Banana Biscoff was an instant hit, marrying the classic breakfast fruit with the in-vogue biscuit spread which has inspired countless recipes across Instagram and TikTok. Blueberry came about from Lauren wanting a light, refreshing recipe that reflected the overnight oats she prepared herself. Oatsu’s Choc Peanut offering, taps into consumer preferences for confectionery flavours, and for more upmarket craft nut butters. It’s infused with ManiLife’s delectable Rich Cocoa Peanut Butter, a kindred challenger brand who’ve been great supporters of Oatsu to date. The much-loved autumnal pairing of Apple Cinnamon was requested by one of Oatsu’s earliest customers, and has been a consistent top-seller ever since.
‘I opted for as sustainable packaging as possible’ continues Lauren. ‘Our oats arrive in reusable glass jars, with labels and flyers made from recycled paper. Giving back is also important, which is why, at various points through the year, we donate a portion of our profits to ‘The Girls’ Network,’ who empower teenage girls from the least-advantaged communities by connecting them with mentors and a network of professional female role models. During my time at university I volunteered as a mentor to a dyslexic 14 year old girl through a similar organisation, ‘IntoUniversity.’ I found the experience hugely rewarding and as a female founder leading an all-female team, I want to do my bit empowering young women to believe in themselves so they fulfil their career dreams.’
The step-change moment for Oatsu came when Lauren attended a series of evening Enterprise Nation events after work for aspiring entrepreneurs. It was here she decided to test the waters with her overnight oat offerings, so samples were passed around for attendees to try – their unanimous positive assessments convinced her that she was on the right track. Indeed to this day, some of Oatsu’s most passionate supporters are her entrepreneurial peers from these early start-up events.
The mutually beneficial alliance with Jiffy has provided the perfect springboard to build a Capital-centric following among time-poor, health-conscious professionals and exciting conversations are already being had with a number of other rapid grocery delivery partners, upmarket traditional supermarkets and natural food retailers. This is the reason that Lauren and her team are already working with nutritionists and a SALSA-accredited manufacturer to commercialise their recipes, and scale their production volumes to meet direct-to-consumer and retailer demand.
Oatsu is perfectly placed to accommodate the blossoming enthusiasm for oat-based milks. Indeed, oat milk is now dominating the plant-based milk market with UK consumers spending £146 million on oat milk in 2020, up from £47 million in 2019 (Vegconomist/Mintel). Besides having a low-glycaemic index, oats offer a wholesome source of comfort food as a slow-release carbohydrate which helps keep weight-gaining snacking urges at bay.
Today there’s no reason whatsoever why ready-to-eat should mean a respite from great tastes or healthier living convictions, especially when each 220g jar contains at least 7 of the 30 plants needed per week for a healthy gut.