Alternative milk… The New Normal?

After the Christmas Indulgence, most are set on making some form of change to their diet or lifestyle. Year on year Veganuary causes more and more buzz and in January 2020 there was almost twice the number of mentions around #Veganuary than #DryJanuary ( As an increasing number of people embark on their ‘Veganuary’ challenge the more people look to source alternatives for “dairy” and “meat”.


As far as milk alternatives go, many will not have to look further than their kitchen as research shows when it comes to alternative milks many have already made the switch. In 2019, 1 in 10 Pret a Manger’s (UK) hot drinks were ordered with dairy alternative milks (source) and by October 2020 the Grocer reported that 62% of adults in the UK had purchased an alternative milk when shopping (source).


With less than 2% of the (UK) population defining themselves as Vegan we are actually seeing the rise in non-vegans making the switch to alternative milk (source). This makes the alternative milk consumer far more nuanced than assuming they are vegans or have a dairy intolerance.


But why have people made the switch? At Audiense we teamed up with our friends at Pulsar to answer this question. When analyzing the conversation around alternative milk we are able to see people quoting a multitude of reasons for making the switch; everything from the ‘delicious taste’ to how wonderfully ‘healthy’, ‘sustainable’ and ‘cruelty-free’ alternative milk is (source). Values such as sustainability and ethical concerns around the production of cow milk were also key concerns for shying away from it (source).


When looking at the communities of people talking about alternative milks we noticed that while some were vegan many were simply social and human rights activists (source).  We also noticed there was a large community of people that had no ties to activism and were in fact keen healthy eaters and had a passion for fitness which perhaps is unsurprising given ‘health’  and ‘high protein’ content were reasons given for people making the switch to alternative milk (source).


However, as mentioned the alternative milk consumer is far more complex, and healthy eaters or activists weren’t the only communities talking about alternative milk… Did you know that some of the gaming community have an affinity for oat milk?! And gamers in the US were vocal in celebrating Dunkin’ Donuts adding oat milk to their menu options in August 2020.


While most of the conversation remained positive, it’s hard to ignore a small group of people participating were not consumers of alternative milk but instead using the conversation to speak negatively about those opting for the alternatives. Predominantly, these slurs referred to people drinking soy-milk, calling them ‘the aggressively woke’ liberals that can afford these ‘high-priced drinks’ (source).


As we move into 2021 alternative milk brands need to move beyond just targeting vegans and healthy eaters. Instead, they need to broaden their target audience as it will not be too far into the future when drinking alternative milk is #TheNewNormal (providing that the price of it drops a little!)


If you’d like to understand more about the people talking about alternative milk please find the full report referenced here.