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[Analysis] Veganism - the health craze storming the UK

May 16, 2019 11:04:14 AM

This is a guest blog written by Raven Wheatley-Hawkins, Digital Marketing Executive at Adroit Data & Insight. Connect with her on LinkedIn.

According to recent reports veganism is on the rise. Within a decade the number of vegans in the UK has risen by approximately 150,000 to a staggering 600,000 in total. Adroit started a social listening project to understand the conversations being had online and report the findings.


As well as veganism being healthy, it is also reported to be trending online which people and organisations are taking advantage of. For instance, supermarkets are successfully implementing this trend into marketing, shown by increased spending on vegan products.

Trends online can be induced by influencers conversations. Influencers have a significant number of followers and increase the visibility of posts and brand awareness as a whole. To put this into perspective, Ariana Grande and Miley Cyrus are celebrity influencers that do not eat meat and often use the hashtag #vegan. This hashtag has more than 60 million posts and will be seen by their millions of followers.

With the love of veganism growing, the hate of vegans is possibly rising with it according to recent articles. Good Morning Britain created a controversial debate on ‘why people hate vegans’ which took the internet by storm. Niall Boylan shared his opinion that vegans were ‘irritating’, but Adrian Chiles defended veganism’s true qualities.


Can Social Listening provide insight into veganism with a pig named Percy?

Adroit followed the perfect story to highlight the country’s split in views on veganism. The feature emerged from a pink little marshmallow sweet, named, Percy Pig. M&S caused the outrage by removing all gelatin from the Percy Pig sweets. Fans of Percy pig sweets were angry as there was already a veggie version released in 2011 but now the main product was also gelatin free. Some followers felt that M&S robbed their freedom of choice.

This story was released on the main news outlets such as the BBC, the Guardian, and Daily Mail. The story also found its way onto Good Morning Britain due to Piers Morgan’s comments, one being that vegans must “go and get their own sweets.”


Social listening: when you can hear every snort and scoff on the internet.

As soon as the story went live, here at Adroit we used social listening tools to track the hashtags and keywords linked to the story on many outlets, in real time. For instance, news stories, Twitter hashtags, public Facebook profiles, and the list goes on.

By doing this, we wanted to see the overall opinions and feelings for Percy and found that the country was divided in opinion. Our results were very interesting...

Firstly, social listening tools allowed us to make a timeline showing the amount ‘Percy pig’ was mentioned before, during and after the story was released on major news networks.


There were virtually no mentions of this sweet prior to the release of the controversial story on the 30th of April. We delved into this content to find the first (in red), the most popular and the last online interaction (the most popular post happened to also be the last online interaction, the one in green).

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The power of Artificial Intelligence

We then wanted to see if these conversations were positive or negative, so we looked at the sentiment (a measure of opinion) using Artificial Intelligence (AI). AI identifies and categorises text and visual content into sentiments by using algorithms based on aspects of the words co-occurring with opinions. In the past, AI used simpler text searches which missed irony and sarcasm and generated high levels of neutral comments. Now, Artificial Intelligence is developing, the output is far more insightful.


You can see that there was a mix of opinions:

  • Positive 29% g. ‘Good’
  • Neutral 22.4% g. ‘Follow’
  • Negative 48.6 % g. ‘hate’

Once we gauged the tone of the opinions, social listening allowed us to see the emotions and feelings behind them. AI used more algorithms based on words and emotions co-occurring together.


The positive sentiment transfers to the emotion joy (45.8%) and the negative sentiment transfers to the emotions: disgust (38.4%), sadness (7.7%), anger (8.1%).

What type of people would engage in the conversations you ask?

We answered this with a look at the keywords that appear in the bios of the authors contributing to the conversations. 


The size of the square represents the recurrence, ‘News’ appears the most which is not surprising as it was a trending news story. Vegan’ and ‘animals’ were also keywords in the bios which is consistent with the topic.

Keywords are just as important in the conversations as they are in the bios, as they can be used for tagging which can induce a bigger audience. This visual shows the mentions of keywords over time, the width corresponds to the number of mentions per keyword.


Finally, by using social listening tools we can see who was influencing these conversations and ‘KTHopkins’ was one of the conversation influencers.


Who are they?

Social listening and Audience Intelligence platforms working together are able to extract the individuals engaged in online conversations to understand them as an audience. We took advantage of this and had some intriguing results…

Their demographics were unsurprising, but we were more interested in the audience’s interests, affinities, personality, influencers and online behaviour. The audience had twelve segments, for example, ‘animal rights’, ‘BBC live’ and ‘justice’ which paints a picture of this audience.

Thanks to IBM Watson we were able to generate a graph showing the most relevant personality traits for this audience in comparison to a baseline audience.


This audience prefer to challenge authority and traditional values to help bring about positive changes. They also think quite often about the things they are unhappy about. And they are philosophical: they’re open to and intrigued by new ideas and love to explore them. The conversations mirrored their personality.

We looked at the most shared content by this audience which was:


So, there was no surprise that the audience has affinities with:


This often means the audience can be heavily influenced by them. We can look at macro and nano influencers and everything in-between. This is similar to the influencers in conversations, but it is for the audience in general. Sometimes the smaller level influencers can be a cost-effective strategy for brand awareness.

What social networking site do they use?

We could see that this audience was most likely to be using Twitter. This suggests they are individuals that want their opinions heard as they are more likely to use a microblog.


Overall, ‘Percy pig’ made a big impression online and highlights the amount of information you can gain from the internet with a simple keyword. This can be vital in campaign planning if you are looking to make an impression on the internet. The age-old marketing saying says: “All attention is good attention” … with a helping hand from a marketing team that is…? 😉

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