Market Research Social Data

The best plant milk according to social media

Julia Miashkova
by Julia Miashkova on June 24, 2020

Veganism: You have two cows. And neither of them is under the pressure to birth at least one calf per year to be able to produce milk. Naturally, not all consumers of plant milk are vegans, and not all vegans consume plant milk. However, it's thanks to veganism that we have so many plant milk options available to consumers all around the world. And they can't seem to get enough of it.

According to ProVeg, of all the plant-based product categories, plant milk has the highest market value and penetration. According to a study by Cargill, one in two American and European consumers use plant milk, either by itself or in addition to cow’s milk. This makes for a decent demand and a lot of food for thought.

For any business contemplating adding plant milk products to the stock line, researching the market is an essential preparatory step. Likewise, for any consumer curious about plant milk options, checking other consumers' feedback and tips is the most natural thing to do. We at Awario thought we could help both groups and conduct a social listening study to learn what people on social media think of different types of plant milk.

Using our own social media monitoring and analytics tool, we started monitoring social media and the web for mentions of 4 of the most popular varieties of dairy-free milk: 

  • almond milk,
  • oat milk,
  • soy milk,
  • coconut milk.

We aimed to use social listening insights to learn all about the plant milk market and the actual demand for cow milk alternatives. Below is a walk-through of the setup and a recap of the main results we got in the end. It's also a how-to for market research. You're welcome to grab Awario's 7-day free trial (no credit card required!) and follow along — just replace the keywords I’m using with whatever product categories you’re looking to analyze.

Step 1. Create a project

To set Awario to start monitoring the entirety of the web for mentions of keywords, hashtags, social media handles, or whatever you can think of, you need to create a project. 5 months ago, we did exactly that, using soy milk and soymilk as seed keywords, and almond milk, coconut milk, and oat milk as competitors.

For every 'competitor' that you specify, Awario adds separate mentions monitoring alerts. In the alert settings, you can then specify languages, sources, and locations you'd like to receive mentions from in case you wish to track mentions in a specific country.

As soon as Awario is done collecting mentions (it picks up real-time as well as some historical data), you'll see a dashboard populated with social listening insights. The dashboard is interactive and flexible, meaning you can switch between different sources, time periods, alerts — or view stats for up to 3 alerts at a time. 

We'll now go through social listening metrics one by one to analyze mentions of different types of plant milk on social media.

Step 2. Follow the metrics 

Awario's dashboard offers a number of metrics derived from social listening analytics. While all of the metrics are valuable at different stages of marketing activities, we'll focus on those that will bring us the insights most specific to the type of analysis we're doing for plant milk.

Share of voice

Share of voice is a social listening metric that reflects the overall online visibility, i.e. how much what you're tracking is talked about online. Share of voice is a next-door metric to market share as it's derived from the number of online conversations around a brand, product, or phenomenon. Share of voice is the sheer volume of conversations, both good and bad. 

During the 5 months of our analysis, Awario collected some 591K mentions of the 4 types of plant milk on social media alone (we subtracted mentions found on blogs, news, and the web). Based on how much each of the plant milk options was talked about, we hereby present a breakdown of the overall online buzz.

Shares of voice of different types of plant milk

What social listening tells us is that the world of vegan milk is divided rather evenly among the different plant milk options. With the exception of soy milk that received the least visibility (13%), plant milk types boast more or less the same shares of online buzz — a quarter to a third of all conversations, with almond milk being the absolute leader (37%). 

Reach 

While Share of voice reflects the sheer volume of online conversations, Reach is a metric corresponding to the number of people exposed to mentions of plant milk. Depending on how many people saw the posts featuring different types of vegan milk, each has reached a certain number of people who haven't necessarily engaged with the posts but saw the conversations unfold.

Total reach of mentions of plant milk

All in all, conversations around the 4 varieties of plant milk we were tracking with Awario generated over 15 billion impressions on social media. Soy milk, having received the lowest number of mentions, also has the lowest share of impressions (7%). Meanwhile, almond milk — the leader in terms of the overall number of mentions — generated about the same number of impressions as coconut milk (39% and 38% respectively).

Sentiment 

With both Share of voice and Reach, we were looking at all mentions, i.e. positive, negative, and neutral. We'll now look at the sentiment behind the conversations, specifically at Net sentiment (ratio of positive to negative mentions). To calculate net sentiment, we disregard neutral mentions and see which sentiment — positive or negative — dominates the conversations, and by how much.

Net sentiment of mentions of plant milk

The fact that all of our net sentiment scores are positive means that all types of plant milk receive more positive feedback than negative. The difference is by how much. For example, coconut milk is the absolute leader, with a net sentiment of 50%. Meanwhile, oat milk has the lowest net sentiment (21%), which means that it has the narrowest gap between positive and negative mentions.

Topic cloud

The Topic cloud is another feature that helps us instantly scan user feedback and identify running themes, concerns, popular questions, and emerging trends. Awario displays a Topic cloud for each alert separately and gives you the option to benchmark Topic clouds for up to 3 alerts against each other.

Topic clouds for different types of plant milk

As promised, Topic clouds for different types of plant milk revealed user feedback, top brands, serving suggestions, and even political commentary through food analogies.

Keeping tabs on the biggest topics dominating the plant milk conversations is the easiest way to stay up to date with industry news, social media debates, and all relevant discussions that could spin into a campaign, phenomenon, or movement.

Step 3. Dive into mentions

Now that we've reviewed some of the key social listening metrics, it's time to take a deep dive into the mentions per se. Awario collects raw user data, which means we can examine social media posts a lot closer.

We went into each of the alerts and sorted the mentions by Reach to discover the most influential posts, top news, and popular topics. If we were tracking brand names, sorting mentions by Reach would bring us brand ambassadors and influencers promoting products on social media. Since we were tracking product categories, we'd get to know niche influencers and industry leaders.

Example of a mentions feed sorted by Reach

Soy milk

Soyfoods have been a staple of Asian cuisines for thousands of years. It might be no coincidence that one of the most influential mentions of soy milk found by Awario came from a Chinese food and country-life blogger Li Ziqi (10.7M subscribers on YouTube).

Another social media personality — this time an American model and actress Cindy Crawford — also emerged as a niche influencer for plant milk but turned out to be much less of a fan of soy milk in particular.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

#FBF When you asked for a latte with almond milk, but @BenMFeldman brings it with soy milk! C'mon, Ben...

A post shared by Cindy Crawford (@cindycrawford) on

One of the first plant milk varieties to storm Western markets, soy milk has been scrutinized a lot since all of the nut milks rolled around. The result: it's talked about the least because other types of plant milk are stealing the spotlight, and not all that's being said about the soyfood is good talk.

Coconut milk 

Much like soy milk, coconut milk has been around for a good while now. As more and more brands are refining their formulas and adding coconut milk to packaged plant milk stock lines, consumers get more and more curious. One of our leaders in terms of total social media impressions, coconut milk must have some powerful niche influencers talking about it.

Tasty appears as the usual suspect: with an audience of 103.2M followers on Facebook alone, no product or food group could wish for a bigger social media influencer. Coconut milk is presented as a dairy-free alternative meant to plant up a pasta classic otherwise heavily loaded with animal products.

A fierce opponent of the vegan diet turned vegan ally Gordon Ramsay appeared as one of the top influencers mentioning coconut milk on social media. Even though the recipe the celebrity chef shared with his 14.4M YouTube subscribers had meat in it, coconut milk made an appearance and got visibility even as part of an omnivore dish.

Oat milk 

Originally a Swedish invention, oat milk made big waves when it hit the American shores. Developed much later than other plant milk options and pioneered by the one and only Oatly, it won the U.S. market in what felt like a heartbeat. It's no surprise that the mentions feed for oat milk is headed by some of the biggest mass media names.

Reese Witherspoon, meanwhile, headlines the list of human influencers posing the great question: oat milk or almond milk? By doing so, the actress, producer, and entrepreneur exposed her 23M Instagram audience to two types of plant milk at once and allegedly gave her followers double the amount of food for plant milk-related thought.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Okay, y’all had a LOT of thoughts about #oatmilk a few weeks ago. Let’s settle this once and for all… almond milk or oat milk? ☕️ (via @julesdenby)

A post shared by Reese Witherspoon (@reesewitherspoon) on

Almond milk

The leader in terms of the total number of mentions, almond milk was off to a bad start. Chrissy Teigen, as much as she's fierce dissing Donald Trump, turned out to be a fierce and influential opponent of almond milk in favor of coconut milk. Given that the model has over 30M followers on Instagram, she alone could be responsible for coconut milk's winner net sentiment.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

I’m so over watery almond milk! Meet my new kitchen staple @vitacoco #coconutmilk

A post shared by chrissy teigen (@chrissyteigen) on

But Jesus Daily comes to save the day, mentioning favorably an almond milk smoothie to its 35M Facebook followers.

Depending on which social media influencers and publishers you hold more dearly, different types of plant milk appear in a different light. With the exception of a handful of celebrities holding strong opposition towards this or that variety of vegan milk, the distribution of influencer powers is more or less even.

And the best plant milk award goes to...

Our social media listening analysis tells us that some plant milk varieties are more powerful on social media than others, yet two leaders emerge from behind the metrics and opinions: almond milk and coconut milk. 

  • Almond milk is talked about the most; it also has the highest reach.
  • Coconut milk is a close second in terms of the number of impressions.
  • Coconut milk also appears in the best light, boasting the highest net sentiment score.
  • Almond milk has Jesus Daily on its side, and coconut milk is favored by Chrissy Teigen — the choice is yours.

You're welcome to pick a favorite out of the two or disregard our results completely and conduct a social listening study of your own. When it comes to choosing a personal favorite plant milk variety, social listening can only tell us so much. For brands, however, a social media analysis like this one gives plenty of insights to base product and marketing decisions on.

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