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Soy drinks: dairy alternative or health elixir?

Source: Roy Morgan Single Source (Australia), April 2011-March 2012 (n=19,690) and April 2015-March 2016 (n=15,074).

Baristas may resent it because it coagulates with coffee and author Dean Koontz may have described it as an “obscenity” in one of his novels, but soy milk does have its supporters. In fact, the latest findings from Roy Morgan Research reveal that soy drinks are more popular with Australians 14+ than energy drinks, sports drinks, iced teas or breakfast drinks.

In the 12 months to March 2016, 5.7% of Australians 14+ (or just over 1.1 million people) reported consuming at least one soy drink in any given seven-day period, a smidgeon ahead of those who consumed energy drinks (5.6%), sports drinks (5.6%), iced tea (4.7%) and breakfast drinks (4.7%).

And whereas consumption of energy- and sports-drinks has slipped since 2012, the proportion of Aussies drinking soy beverages is up over the same period. Admittedly, the increase has been fractional (from 5.3%), but even so, this does represent an extra 115,000 people drinking soy milk at least once per week.

Soy drink consumption compared to other beverages, 2012 vs 2016


Source: Roy Morgan Single Source (Australia), April 2011-March 2012 (n=19,690) and April 2015-March 2016 (n=15,074).


Meet Australia’s soy drinkers

Curiously, ACT residents lead the country for soy drink consumption, with 9.3% drinking it in an average seven days; ahead of Melburnians (8.3%) and Sydneysiders (6.0%). Lagging behind the other capital cities is Hobart, where only 3.8% of residents drink soy beverages. Overall, capital-city dwellers (6.3%) are more likely than country residents (4.6%) to opt for soy drinks.

Not surprisingly, consumption is well above average among people who ‘avoid dairy foods wherever possible’ (16.4%) as well as those for who say ‘Milk/Dairy products do not agree with me’ (15.4%). It is also elevated (13.5%) among people who report that ‘The food I eat is all, or almost all, vegetarian.’

However, our figures show that dairy and soy milk consumption are not as mutually exclusive as one might think. Almost one-third (31.3%) of Australians who consume soy drinks in an average seven days also drink regular fresh white milk in that time.

Even among soy-drinkers who have issues with dairy, there is a surprising rate of dairy-milk consumption. Some 13.4% of soy-drinkers who ‘avoid dairy foods wherever possible,’ and 15.8% of those who say that ‘milk/dairy products don’t agree’ with them, drink regular milk as well as soy.

Norman Morris, Industry Communications Director, Roy Morgan Research, says:

“While soy drink consumption shows no sign of challenging regular dairy milk (which is drunk by 44.4% of the population in an average seven days), it does occupy a certain niche in the non-alcoholic beverage market, with slightly more consumers than energy and sports drinks.

“Many Australians choose to drink soy milk because of the discomfort or adverse reactions dairy products cause them. Consumers interested in health and nutrition are also more inclined to drink soy beverages: for example, people who ‘favour natural medicines and health products’ are more than 50% more likely than the average Aussie to drink soy milk, as are those who ‘look for drinks with added ingredients that are good for my body’. 

“However, the fact that almost a third of soy drinkers also consume regular dairy milk suggests that for some people, soy drinks aren’t a lifestyle choice but simply another beverage option. Just as a consumer might drink coffee and hot chocolate, or cola and lemonade, so too might someone vary the kind of milk they consume.

“With other non-dairy milks such as rice, coconut and almond milk becoming increasingly available, soy-drink brands need to identify exactly who is most likely to buy their product and why, and ensure that they continue to engage with and appeal to these consumers especially as the non-dairy milk market broadens. Roy Morgan’s Single Source data can provide in-depth demographic, attitudinal and behavioural data on soy drink consumers, thereby enabling brands to home in on their target market with unprecedented accuracy.”

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About Roy Morgan

Roy Morgan is the largest independent Australian research company, with offices throughout Australia, as well as in Indonesia, the United States and the United Kingdom. A full service research organisation specialising in omnibus and syndicated data, Roy Morgan has over 70 years’ experience in collecting objective, independent information on consumers.

Margin of Error

The margin of error to be allowed for in any estimate depends mainly on the number of interviews on which it is based. Margin of error gives indications of the likely range within which estimates would be 95% likely to fall, expressed as the number of percentage points above or below the actual estimate. Allowance for design effects (such as stratification and weighting) should be made as appropriate.

Sample Size

Percentage Estimate


25% or 75%

10% or 90%

5% or 95%