How do changes in the global picture for snacking behaviors and related consumer preferences have the potential to increase the demand for U.S. soybeans? For today’s global consumers, flavor reigns but nutrition content, sensory qualities and convenience all come into play when making snack choices. Soyfoods, thanks to their versatility, are well-positioned to compete in various segments of the snack marketplace.

Seeing a Spike in Snacks

Snacks have traditionally been consumed between mealtimes, although they can also replace a meal. In the U.S., snacking occasions accounted on average for 24% of adults’ daily calorie intake a decade ago.[1] Today, many consumers today say they have switched from traditional snacks to high protein/low sugar alternatives in the last 12 months, including 65% of North Americans, 59% of Europeans, 54% of those in the Africa/Middle East region, and 52% in the Asia Pacific region.[2]  Soymilk fruit smoothies or fresh vegetables eaten with tofu dip are examples of such snacks.

In the U.S., 32% of consumers report they are snacking more[3] and 42% of consumers eat snacks three or more times per day.[4] Globally, 55% of consumers expect their snacks to offer a nutritional boost,[5] with 51% saying they have switched from traditional snacks such as chocolate and confectionery products to high-protein/low-sugar snacks.[6]

When making snack choices, consumers are demonstrating an interest in crunchy and crispy textures, whether those products are sweet or savory.[7]  However, the savory snack category stands out in comparison to other snack types, with a worldwide compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 4% from 2015-2020.[8]

Rising Interest in Immune-Boosting Ingredients

Health concerns have accelerated during the COVID-19 pandemic among consumers with existing health problems who are more vulnerable to the virus—a phenomenon that may have spurred the desire for lighter snacks.[9] The demand for immune-boosting ingredients and foods—including globally inspired superfoods—can partly be attributed to consumer interest in natural products and ingredients that have been enjoyed in some cultures for thousands of years.[10]  Soyfoods such as tofu and soymilk are traditional foods in Asian cuisine. With the allowance of a health claim for soy protein in the United States, one study has said that soyfoods may have the potential for becoming “the superfood of the millennium.”[11]

Snacks on the Homefront

Consumer snack preferences and priorities reflect an increased interest in the healthfulness of their food choices with 54% of consumers saying that healthfulness matters more now than it did in 2010.[12]  With 71% of Americans working at home all or most of the time due to pandemic-related issues,[13] family eating patterns have been affected. In fact, 41% of parents are snacking more as a result of the pandemic, compared to 29% of nonparents.[14]

Buying behavior is also evolving, with an increased number of direct-to-consumer snack product introductions that can be delivered to the home.[15]  Bringing an enhanced snack experience into the home takes on may forms. In South Korea, for example, jellies were introduced in 2020 with packaging that resembles the bento box lunches that those working from home had previously consumed at work.[16] One UAE company introduced a kit that enabled consumers in Gulf countries to make their own chocolates at home.[17] Creativity in snack product innovation includes soyfoods such as flavored crispy soy snacks.

Rethinking Family Snack Choices

One of the factors that may influence family snack choices in the future is the rise in childhood obesity. Globally, more than 340 million children and adolescents, ages 5 to 19, were overweight or obese in 2016.[18]  According to the World Health Organization, one of the ways to reduce overweight and obesity is to consume more fruit, vegetables, legumes, whole grains and nuts.[19]

In many countries, snacking is common in children. For example, one study analyzing snacking patterns of children in Australia, China, Mexico, and the U.S. found that snacking in Australia and the U.S. provided one-third and one-quarter of total energy intakes, respectively.[20]  In the U.S., research suggests that overweight and obese adolescents consume more snacks daily and more calories per snacking occasion—as well greater amounts of saturated fat, added sugar and sodium and lower average energy density— than adolescents with normal weight.[21]

For teens, soyfoods such as edamame, soymilk and soynuts are sensible snack choices that offer high-quality plant protein with all of the essential amino acids in the proper amounts needed for healthy growth. A study published in The Journal of Nutrition found that consuming protein-rich afternoon snacks containing soy protein led to a reduction in appetite, a delay in subsequent eating, and an improved overall diet quality compared to other snack options.[22]

Consumers can find a host of convenient soy-based snacks in grocery stores, such as soy yogurt, soymilk, edamame and soy-based jerky. Additionally, crunchy snacks like dark chocolate covered edamame or wasabi edamame, and honey roasted soybeans can be purchased online.

[1] USDA, “Snacking Patterns of U.S. Adults,” 2011.

[2] FMCG Gurus, Top Ten Trends for 2021.

[3] IFIC 2020 Food and Health Survey

[4] IRI, Snacking Survey, 2020

[5] FMCG Gurus, Top Ten Trends for 2021

[6] FMCG Gurus, Global Savory Food & Snacking Trends, 2020

[7] Euromonitor International, “Experiential Snacking,” 2021.

[8] Euromonitor International, “Experiential Snacking,” 2021.

[9] Euromonitor International, “Experiential Snacking,” 2021.

[10] Datassential FoodBytes, Annual Trend Forecast, 2021.

[11] [Setchell, K and Radd, S. “Soy and Phytoestrogens: Benefits and risks,” Asia Pacific J Clin Nutr (2000) 9(Suppl.): S13–S22; S-19

[12] IFIC 2020 Food and Health Survey

[13] Pew Research Center. “How the Coronavirus Outbreak Has—and Hasn’t— Changed the Way Americans Work.” December 9, 2020.

[14] IFIC 2020 Food and Health Survey

[15] Euromonitor International, “Experiential Snacking,” 2021.

[16] Euromonitor International, “Experiential Snacking,” 2021.

[17] Euromonitor International, “Experiential Snacking,” 2021.

[18] World Health Organization, “Obesity and Overweight,” 2020.

[19] World Health Organization, “Obesity and Overweight,” 2020.

[20] Nutrients. 2018 Feb; 10(2): 198.

[21] Tripicchio, GL; Kachrak, A; et al. “Associations between snacking and weight status among adolescents 12-19 years in the United States,” Nutrients, 2019, Jul; 11 (7): 1486.

[22] J Nutr. “Protein Snacks Improve Appetite and Diet Quality in Teens.” 2015 Jul;145(7):1614-22.