‘Big beverage interest shows we’re onto something’: Oatworks CEO


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Oat beta glucans can rival Omega3s in terms of impact, claims Oatworks CEO David Peters (Picture Credit: Oatworks)
Oat beta glucans can rival Omega3s in terms of impact, claims Oatworks CEO David Peters (Picture Credit: Oatworks)
Wellness Works CEO David Peters tells BeverageDaily.com that the NYC firm has attracted interest from major firms in its healthy Oatworks smoothie brand, and says this shows the potential of the novel oat beta glucan-based beverage.

Since late 2010, Peters has been head of global sales and marketing at Swedish oat beta glucan supplier Biovelop International, which Tate & Lyle recently acquired on May 20.

But he founded Wellness Works (Oatworks) as a US standalone a couple of years ago to accelerate the growth of Biovelop’s PromOat ingredient (with 35% oat beta glucan, a natural soluble fiber) in the US via a beverage matrix, but told us it “soon became clear that we’d hit upon something”.

Oatworks Smoothies come in Peach Mango, Strawberry Banana and Pomegranate Blueberry flavors and will retail for $3.79/12oz bottle in NYC from June, and through the use of oat beta glucan, it helps lower cholesterol, provides sustained energy release and increases satiety.

Oat beta glucans can rival Omega-3s…

The product has no added sugar and 100% juice, and Peters insists Oatworks is “in a good place”​ with its oat beta glucan emphasis, given increasing use of the term on product packaging by the likes of Quaker Oats Company (PepsiCo) and General Mills, and as consumer awareness of its benefits grows.

In 1997 the US Food and Drug Administration approved a oat beta glucan soluble fiber (3g/day), for reducing plasma cholesterol levels and the risk of heart disease, and Peters said oat beta glucan could easily rival Omega-3s in terms of “appeal and importance”​ to people in their diets.

He cited US consumer demand for healthy, ‘good-for-you’ beverages, and the industry need – given regulatory and government pressures – to improve product nutritional quality.

As a product, Oatworks resonates with PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi’s mission to ‘drinkify’ snacks and ‘snackify’ drinks, and Peters described the products core target audience as tech savvy, educated 20-40 year-olds, who wish to eat healthily but don’t necessarily have the time to do so.

“There’s definitely a very major trend going on within the beverage industry towards replicating breakfast or replicating snacks in a bottle. Oatworks hits on another major trend there,”​ he said.

“We have already seen a lot of interest in the company from the larger beverages companies, and it’s very clear that we’re onto something here. But we want to develop this and make a big success of it,"​ Peters added.

‘So many products masquerade as being healthy’

Peters said: “We wanted a genuinely good for you beverage, not just another sugary water, which is what most of the beverages in the US market are. So many products masquerade as being healthy, and then you check the ingredients list, and there may only one in there that’s good.”

But Peters admits that, traditionally, the big problem with formulating oats and other grains into beverages has been the “very gritty and lumpy texture”​ they have introduced to products.

“That’s where PromOat really comes into its own because you get this beautiful smooth finish to the product…People know oats are good for them but never knew they could get oats in a drink, and sort of assumed it would be lumpy. So consumers are pleasantly surprised by the great taste.”

Turning to Oatworks’ core target audience of 20-40 year-olds, Peters said that it was perfect for gym goers who wanted to eat oatmeal for breakfast, but didn’t have time or facilities to prepare it.

“So to be able to grab a bottle of this, and get the benefits of two bowls of oatmeal is clearly a very big benefit for that type of consumer,”​ he said.

Sustained energy and satiety

Peters said that many consumers eat oatmeal because it provides them with a source of a sustained energy, while they also get a feeling of satiety and don’t feel the need to snack between meals.

So if people also need a mid-morning, mid-afternoon pick-me-up, even in that awkward slot between finishing work and going out in the evening when they want something that keeps them ticking over, but not necessarily a main meal, then this product is ideal,”​ Peter said.

He also see health-conscious moms and dads, who want to make sure kids eat healthily, as another strong potential audience for Oatworks.

Discussing Oatworks’ initial New York launch – Peters sees the educated, health-conscious, but fast-paced demographic as an ideal seedbed for the smoothie – he said the brand planned to roll-out products across the East Coast throughout 2013, before targeting the West Coast in 2013.

In NYC the brand will target ‘natural channel’: gourmet delis, high-end supermarkets, stores such as Whole Foods Market and Fairway, but also bodegos, bagel stores and delis.

As it rolls out more widely across New York State, Peters said that high-end, natural foods retailers such as The Fresh Market, Wegmans and Kroger “will definitely be on the list”.

The Oatworks brand could possibly be extended into foods or other products at a later date, he added, given PromOat’s versatility as a functional ingredient.

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