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The Top Non-Diary Milks: Udder Absence

Find out what the most preferred non-dairy milk is as determined by Gastrograph AI. Gastrograph uses Artificial Intelligence to predict food and beverage flavor preferences.

Today’s focus on healthy eating increasingly comes with an eye to environmentally friendly diets. This spells big opportunities for plant-based food and beverage products, and the pandemic has only swelled demand.

The popularity of non-dairy milk—including soy, almond, flax, oat, and hemp—puts sales projections for the global market at $38 billion by 2024. Mindful of these stakes, Consumer Packaged Goods (CPG) companies are constantly creating new formulas, flavors, and even limited holiday offerings.

To find which products consumers like best, traditional taste-testing would indicate the non-dairy preferences of a few people in a particular place. By contrast, we can quickly and reliably discover the most preferred products across the United States — using Gastrograph AI.

TL;DR

  • The analysis focused on consumer preference of non-dairy milk in the United States
  • Gastrograph AI determined that the best non-dairy milk is The Original Oatly! Oat Milk.
    • The Original Oatly! Oat Milk was given a PQ of 4.19 out of 7.
    • Drivers of preference included "wet" and "dairy" notes. Preference would increase with sweetening from honey or vanilla flavors.
  • Soy Milk ranked the lowest of the non-dairy milk products reviewed in our analysis. Adding honey would increase the overall preference of consumers.

What is Gastrograph AI?

As the name suggests, Gastrograph uses Artificial Intelligence to predict food and beverage flavor preferences. Since 2009, we’ve been learning how 3 billion consumers worldwide perceive the products they taste. Clustering them across Preference Archetypes, we discover how much consumers like or dislike what they’re tasting—with discriminators ranging from age and sex to food occasion and tasting experience.

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Figure 1: Preference Archetypes

With this technology, we can analyze the performance of a product like non-dairy milk to determine what flavors predominate, the perceived intensity of each flavor signature, as well as how emphasis or de-emphasis could lift preferences or suggest new flavor combinations (Cinnamon Espresso Almond Milk anyone?).

Testing and Evaluation

For this analysis, we selected a handful of non-dairy milk brands from Chobani and Oatly to Trader Joe’s and MALK to create a stack rank of competitive products in the U.S. We evaluated them based on Gastrograph AI’s preference measurement, Perceived Quality or PQ—predicted preference scored along a 7-point hedonic scale.

Tasting panels are hosted to gather consumer perceptions in the Gastrograph Review App (App Store or Play Store), and panelists use it to record their sensory judgments and preferences. Trained to evaluate these results, the AI can go further—factoring in appropriate discriminators to assess the viability of modified or even brand new products.

Non-dairy Milk Type Product PQ (Perceived Quality)
Oat Milk The Original Oatly! Oat Milk 4.19
Almond Milk Original Almond Milk by Silk 4.05
Cashew Milk Original Cashew Milk by Silk 3.75
Soy Milk Silk Soymilk, Chocolate 3.30

Figure 2: Highest Ranking Non-dairy Milk Brands by Type

The Best Non-dairy Milk: Oat Milk

 

With a PQ of 4.19 out of 7, The Original Oatly! Oat Milk topped the chart. Drivers of preference included “wet” and “dairy” notes, and almost half the population actually scored the product at a PQ of 5.

Our analysis suggests that preference would improve with sweetening from honey or vanilla flavors. The second-place oat milk, Low Fat Oat Milk by Oatly, earned positive flavor attributes for “rich,” “mouthfeel” and “roasted” textures.

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Figure 3: Profile and Preferences for The Original Oatly! Oat Milk

Almond Milk

Preference for attributes like “nuts and seeds,” “sugar” and “dairy” earned The Original Almond Milk by Silk the highest rating in its class with a PQ of 4.05. Analysis indicates that an increase in richness would help it to perform better.

Lower scoring Unsweetened Almond Milk by MALK still ranked higher than certain Pea and Soy Milks. The AI notes that more men than women prefer almond milk.

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Figure 4: Profile and Preferences for The Original Almond Milk by Silk

Cashew Milk

With a PQ of 3.75, Original Cashew Milk by Silk displayed drivers of preference in “nuts and seeds,” “dairy,” “sugar” and “rich.” 

The lower scoring Cashew Milk by So Delicious earned a 3.4 PQ, with a preference for “nuts and seeds” flavor that couldn’t offset a negative “mineral” flavor. Our data goes on to indicate that blending in hazelnut would make appealing cashew milk.

Flavor Profile for Cashew Milk by So Delicious
Figure 5: Flavor Profile for Cashew Milk by So Delicious

Soy Milk

Soy Milk ranked as the lowest non-dairy milk. In the example of Silk Soy Chocolate Milk, the drivers of preference included "rich" "dairy" and "sugar" notes. It was more preferred by males and held a PQ score of 3.30. 

According to our analysis, an increase in honey would lift overall preference.

Flavor Profile for Silk Soy Chocolate Milk
Figure 6: Flavor Profile for Silk Soy Chocolate Milk

Adjusting Focus

Gastrograph AI reveals preference segmentation by identifying clusters of consumers (Archetypes) with similar leanings toward flavors, aromas, and textures. Results account for both a product’s competitive set and the demographics of specific tasting populations, In the case of non-dairy milk, Archetype 1 focuses more on female users ages 20-70. Archetype 2 focuses more on males in their 20’s to 60’s.

The plot below positions our non-dairy contenders according to their PQ. These values, combined with market preference comparisons and flavor profiles, reiterate that oat milk is the most popular non-dairy choice in the U.S., led by The Original Oatly! Oat Milk.

Flavor Profile Comparison Map
Figure 7: Flavor Profile Comparison Map

Based on the competitive set and the demographic tasting population, we can also look at preference segmentation, where Gastrograph AI can identify clusters (or archetypes) of consumers that have similar preferences for the flavors, aromas, and textures found in the set of non-dairy milks. Archetype 1 focuses more on female users in different age ranges from 20 -70. Archetype 2 is more male-focused with ages in their 20s-60s.

Through the PQ values, market preference comparisons, and flavor profiles the best U.S non-dairy milk is - Oat Milk! It ranked higher in PQ, archetypes, flavor profiles, and demographics. Specifically the Original Oatly! Oat Milk was the highest in comparison to any other oat milk. Below is a chart for the highest non-dairy milk brands according to their PQ. Perhaps things may change in the future and new nut milk may surpass oat, but as for now moo-ve over cow’s milk, oat milk is here to stay!

What Are You Thinking About?

A new nut or plant offering could change non-dairy preferences, but for now, oat milk rules the category. If you’re curious about this one or any other, let us help you discover the facts, along with opportunities they could offer. Just reach out!

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This blog was originally published on July 6, 2020, updated on February 7, 2022.

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