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De gustibus non est disputandum. The notion that you can’t win an argument about matters of taste has been around so long it’s a Latin maxim. And the theme charts for Silk Soymilk illustrate the point: Some consumers really like the product’s taste and consistency, others can’t stand it and can’t understand why anyone would.

About Silk

Silk is the leading plant-based beverage brand in the U.S. The company says that “Every drop of our soymilk begins with natural beans grown without genetic engineering right here in North America.” Silk’s beverage portfolio includes Silk Soymilk, Silk Pure Coconut and Silk Pure Almond. Silk is a product of White Wave Foods.

Positive Themes

The biggest positive was “Flavors,” with consumers picking their favorites from among Dark Chocolate, Almond, Very Vanilla and others.

  • My sister-in-law makes her own, using dates as a sweetener, and when I was staying at Daphna and Ian’s in May, Daphna’s mom used it in her coffee, and so I did too. Almond milk, I don’t know what took me so long, but I’m glad we found each other!  Silk’s PureAlmond is really great stuff. It has a sweet, vaguely nutty flavor, with just a hint of almonds. The texture is a little creamy but not palate-coating. (source)
  • I’m loving the Silk Pure Almond Dark Chocolate milk! It’s like a chocolate milk shake… (source)
  • Plus its sold at Kroger. Before I had to drive all of the way to Whole Foods to get the Silk brand because its the only store around here that carries it. Very Vanilla Silk soy milk is sooo yummy! I usually drink the Light Silk Vanilla soy milk because it has less fat. I tried this Very Vanilla kind at the hospital when Markus was there overnight & loved it! (source)

Consumers like its low “Calorie Count.”

  • Fat free silk milk vs regular milk. taste the same yet silk won since its 90 cal. YOU GO SILK MILK! (source)
  • Silk’s light chocolate soymilk is SO incredible. 90 calories per cup, super filling, and soooo creamy, rich, and chocolaty! Not to mention it isn’t derived from a cows puss-oozing udders. (source)

Many consumers like Silk not only for the health benefits but for its “Taste.”

  • I am a Lactose free milk drinker, but even if I could drink regular milk, this would be my first choice. Silk milk is the best tasteing milk I’ve ever tasted. (source)
  • I thought I’d give chocolate soymilk a try since it isn’t as thick as regular chocolate milk. Even though I wasn’t used to drinking soymilk, and got teased about drinking soy, it wasn’t hard to get used to it. Silk has been the best tasting chocolate soymilk that I have ran across. It is even good for baking, such as in German chocolate cake. Rating: 5 / 5. (source)

Negative Themes

“Taste” was among the positive themes, but it’s the single biggest negative theme, with some pretty uncomplimentary remarks, such as “nasty,” like crap,” unnatural” and “weird.”

  • just tried out some ‘silk unsweetened almond milk’ and it tastes like crap. maybe it’ll be good for smoothies or somethin. (source)
  • I would lower the shake’s calorie count/sugars by using unsweetened almond milk(AlmondBreeze is good, the Silk brand is AWFUL NASTY DO NOT DRINK). Also, I’d do more cardio than 30 minutes if you can swing it! (source)
  • read for yourself at EatDrinkBetter.  I personally only purchase Silk soymilk when I’m desperate and can’t make it to Whole Foods for my So Delicious coconut milk(CVS across the street from me sells Silk). I guess now I will definitely be avoiding it no matter how desperate! I never drink Silk. I always thought it had a strange chemically taste. (source)

Consumers have a range of objections to the “Ingredients” in Silk.

  • Whole Foods has decided to stop selling non-organic Silk soy milk. Whole Foods Markets has made the decision to pull Dean Food’s Silk brand soymilk from its shelves following Silk’s transition away from organic soybeans. Silk no longer uses certified organic soybeans for all of its offerings, though it does carry a specifically organic line and all of its beans are non-GMO. (source)
  • http://bit.ly/aNQCgR How nice to hear. I never bought Silk soymilk anyhow. Its filled w/sugar. (source)

“Cost” is an oft-mentioned objection.

  • i’ve tried almond milk, but i dont like it, we like the silk brand soy milk better, but it’s hella expensive, almost $5 for half a gallon! (source)
  • I have weird and exciting news…my son is apparently no longer allergic to milk. I still don’t understand how he could have been allergic 6 months ago and all of the sudden isn’t anymore…but I am so grateful. Silk is VERY expensive compared to milk. The doc just said for us to take it easy on transitioning him back to milk but that he should be ok now. (source)

Many people don’t like the consistency of soymilk, because it’s “too thick,” “too creamy,” or “too heavy and flavored.”

  • @pminton It’s all personal taste. I preferred skim cow milk, so I like Almond Breeze original best. Silk is too heavy and flavored for me. (source)

Insights

On its website the company says, “Carefully crafted for a signature smoothness that’s oh-so-easy to crave. And if you don’t love the taste, we’ll buy it back. That’s our Love It Guarantee.” The guarantee is a smart consumer relations move—Silk recognizes that buyers may be unsure whether or not they’ll like the taste and offers to remove the risk with their guarantee. Given the number of consumers in our sample who say they don’t like the taste, it would be interesting to know how many actually take the company up on its offer.

Silk emphasizes the healthy appeal of its product, and many consumers purchase it precisely because they’re looking for one or more of its qualities: it’s very low in saturated fat and 100 percent cholesterol-free, low in calories, and lactose-free. Those attributes differentiate it from dairy milk, but not from other soy milk products. Taste and consistency are what matter there, and you can’t please everybody. Silk apparently has a thicker consistency (“signature smoothness”) than the main competition (Almond Breeze soy milk), which some consumers like and some don’t.

Silk has to position itself against two categories of competitors: dairy milk and other soy milk products. The differentiators for dairy milk are clear and they’re facts (lactose-free, etc.); differentiators for other soy milk products are matters of taste.

Speaking of taste, I have a recipe for a hot chocolate soy milk on my Vitamix blog (disclosure: I’m an affiliate) that tastes great and that fans of soy milk might like to try.

About Our Approach

This case study is a form of social media analysis called a netnography—a qualitative, interpretive research methodology that adapts the traditional, in-person ethnographic research techniques of anthropology to the study of online communities.

To write this netnography, NetBase analyzed thousands of posts from consumers about the brand. The posts are automatically sorted into Positive or Negative classifications by our natural language processing (NLP) engine, then we manually sample those posts.

To summarize a netnography as we’ve done here, we distill our findings into useful insights about how the brand we studied is positioned and perceived. We can provide our source data and confidence intervals for the percentages in the theme charts upon request.

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