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YOOK was crowned with the food world’s Oscar

YOOK won first place in the health products category at the Gulfood 2024 Innovation Awards. In the picture, Katre Kõvask, head of YOOK Production (second from the right). Photo. Gulfood

YOOK, a producer of oat-based drinks, was awarded the top prize in the health products category at the Gulfood 2024 Innovation Awards held at the international food fair in Dubai. According to Katre Kõvask, the company manager, “The Gulfood innovation award has placed YOOK in a higher category of competitors.”

On February 12, YOOK Production AS opened the first oat drink factory in the Baltic region in Türi. They are launching three different flavored products. The first product is a gluten-free barista drink made from whole-grain oats; the second is an organic beverage that can be consumed directly, used as a pour-over for coffee, or added to porridge. The third option is an oat drink enriched with vitamins and calcium.

On February 19, just a week later, the Estonian oat drink YOOK received significant international acclaim. “YOOK truly won the Gulfood Innovation Award, which can rightfully be called the food world’s Oscar. We are immensely proud and delighted to focus on promoting YOOK and Estonian cuisine,” said Katre Kõvask, CEO of YOOK Production. “We are seen as a serious newcomer, committed to building our brand and ready to invest further in the long term.”

People don’t take vague talk seriously

According to Katre Kõvask, while it may sound cliché, taste is the most crucial aspect of food—it’s the ticket to the market. Their significant secret and competitive advantage is creating a product from oats, water, and oil that is healthy and tastes excellent. “This is the magic that happens in our production; in this regard, we are understandably quite succinct,” she mentioned.

Although there are other providers of oat-based drinks in the international market, Katre Kõvask was pleased that YOOK outperformed them in every aspect. For instance, YOOK uses organic whole-grain oats to maintain high-quality products and a better taste. “This means not only a better taste experience but also an assurance for consumers that the ingredients are pure and beneficial, without worrying about preservatives or other additives,” she explained.

Given YOOK’s precise goal toward successful exports, Katre Kõvask emphasized that the company’s entire service package must be competitive and distinctive and provide potential partners with confidence and sufficient flexibility. “Today, the biggest global theme is supply chain and its reliability. After getting familiar with our products, many discussions start from there. We must have confidence in our raw materials and production capacity to offer that reliability. No one takes us seriously with vague talk and promises,” emphasized Katre Kõvask.

The company is targeting the Asian market

The company can produce a maximum of 20 million liters of oat-based drinks annually in a single shift. Initially, the products will reach Estonian store shelves, cafes, and restaurants. Afterward, they plan to expand to larger markets. “We are particularly interested in South Korea, Vietnam, and Japan in Asia. We’re also keeping an eye on Singapore and Indonesia. Additionally, we have a focus on Gulf countries, and we intend to explore markets in Western Europe as well. But let’s start from home. “We are now available on the store shelves in Estonia. Next in line are Latvia and Lithuania.”

According to Katre Kõvask, they aim to find potential contacts at the fair who can help them enter the Middle Eastern and Asian markets. There is significant interest from these regions. “The journey to a contract is long, but Gulfood is the right place to start. Our participation in Gulfood proves to them that we are a credible company, and it marks the beginning of every negotiation. Business is always about people; you have to meet and be in the right place at the right time,” emphasized Katre Kõvask.

18 Estonian companies are participating in this year’s Gulfood fair in Dubai, led by Enterprise Estonia. Besides YOOK the other participating Estonian companies include Balsnack International Holding AS, EBM Grupp AS, Haage Joogid OÜ, Iktos OÜ, Revala OÜ, Saku Õlletehase AS, Salvest AS, Valio Eesti AS, Öselwise OÜ, AS A. Le Coq, Siidrikoda OÜ, OÜ Vegestar, Puljong OÜ, Nordmel OÜ, Rosena DK OÜ, Sume Green OÜ, and Sunfly OÜ.

The award placed YOOK in a higher category of competitors

Last year, Estonian companies achieved great success at the same fair. Revala, an innovator in ice cream powders, secured the top spot in the dairy products category with its lactose-free soft ice cream. Must Küüslauk was recognized in the organic products category for its black garlic. Rosena DK won in the health and wellness products category with its Eternal Youth beauty shots containing collagen, vitamins, and other health-supporting components.

Innovation is an area where Estonian companies are already leading their competitors in the global market. In addition to taking companies to the fair, it is crucial to support innovation in a way that suits each company, said Eva-Kristiina Ponomarjov, head of the Enterprise Estonia export department.

Emphasizing the importance of will, readiness for development, courage, flexibility, and consistent contribution to stand out in the competitive international market are crucial components of innovation. “With our export services, we aim to continue on the same path and provide up-to-date and tailored support to the current needs of businesses. We are in constant contact with our partners to understand their strategic vision, how they measure success, the markets they operate in, and where they see growth potential. We are thrilled that this year, we can celebrate the victory of Estonian food innovation together,” said Ponomarjov.

Gulfood is the largest food fair in the world, and according to Kõvask, participation in it is crucial for both YOOK and all other Estonian food exporters. “This is a fair where business partnerships are formed and agreements are made. We are extremely grateful to Enterprise Estonia for the opportunity to be here and participate. Each award and recognition signifies that the company is a serious player, has significant scale, and is committed to growing its business. In particular, during the early stages of starting a business, such recognition serves as a catalyst for progress,” rejoiced Katre Kõvask.

GOOD TO KNOW:

  • Gulfood is the world’s largest food and beverage sector fair, which is held annually at the Dubai World Trade Centre. It is a business-to-business-oriented fair.
  • This year marks the 29th edition of the Gulfood Fair.
  • In 2024, the fair had over 5,000 exhibitors from 190 countries.
  • In 2023, three Estonian companies won top awards in the Gulfood Food Innovation Competition for the first time. The trio of winners included Revala, an innovator in ice cream powders; Must Küüslauk, known for its black garlic buds; and Rosena DK, which produces beauty shots containing collagen, vitamins, and other health-supporting components.

Yook Production AS

  • Employees: 15
  • Factory: located in Türil, YOOK’s new production complex spans over 2200 square meters and revitalizes the century-old history of Türi’s dairy industry.
  • Capacity: producing up to 20 million liters of oat milk annually.
  • Investment in the company: Over 13 million euros.
  • Focus: besides sales in the Estonian market, YOOK aims to export to Latvia, Lithuania, Asia, the Middle East, and Northern and Western Europe.

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