Nutrition

Do You See Soyfoods at the Center of Global Food Trends?

My recent professional travels have demonstrated to me the various ways that soyfoods and U.S.-grown soybeans connect with current consumer attitudes. Initiatives range from packaging innovations for retail food products, to building awareness of the advantages of soyfoods for restaurant professionals and home cooks alike.

Education efforts promote ways that soyfoods meet current demands. The healthcare community is informing more consumers about the strengths of soyfoods for wellness. Community-based programs are educating target audiences, by providing solid messages about economical soyfoods and soybean oil. Check out some of the food-related trends that U.S.-grown soy supports.

Healthier People, Healthier Planet

One global trend that has escalated as a result of the coronavirus pandemic is a wellness movement that embraces safety and hygiene, and places increased importance on food transparency and sustainability.[1]

Currently, 75% of global consumers say they expect companies to invest in sustainability.[2]  In today’s marketplace, U.S.-grown soybeans have the advantage of being verified sustainably grown.[3] Consumers worldwide are expected to look for brands that partner with them in helping to make positive changes in the environment, and brands that help them make their own lives carbon negative.[4]

E-commerce data shows that consumers currently gravitate toward product attributes like probiotics, antioxidants, superfoods, and foods that are a good source of vitamins or promote the health of the immune system.[5] Traditional soyfoods should retain a particular consumer appeal, given that research suggests soyfoods seem to have antioxidant properties that can offer health benefits.[6] Fermented soyfoods such as tempeh (fermented soybean cake) are known to contain probiotics.[7] Also, opportunities exist for innovative new soyfoods products. For example, a new fortified tofu from a U.S. producer includes prebiotic and postbiotics, plus vitamins and minerals such as calcium and Vitamin D as well as additional protein.

Soyfoods in the Store

Plant-based ingredients such as soyfoods continue to make inroads with consumers, as evidenced by the rise of flexitarian eating patterns that include slowly increasing one’s intake of plant-based foods without omitting animal-based foods.[8]  Key drivers of the plant-based trend worldwide are consumers who restrict certain animal-based foods such as dairy products, but don’t follow strict vegetarian or vegan diets—nearly 50% of global consumers. Those following dairy-free diets are more likely to be motivated by health and digestive considerations than environmental or ethical concerns.[9]

Among Western countries, the U.S. dominates market penetration and leads innovation in dairy-free milk, ice cream and yogurt products. The UK and France are expected to show growth as well. In the Asia-Pacific (APAC) region, however, the largest portion of sales are attributed to traditional soymilk and nut-based beverages.[10] In 2020, the global soymilk market reached $747.68 million and is anticipated to show a CAGR of 5.52% from 2020 to 2027.[11]

The concerns of environmentally conscious shoppers can vary depending upon their geographical region. For example, research suggests that levels of interest in sustainability are highest in the emerging markets of Latin America and Asia, where water shortages and air pollution are significant issues. In Indonesia, littering and landfills are of concern, while in Europe plastic waste and ocean pollution are key issues.[12] With one-third of global consumers seeking to reduce their environmental impact and increasing their awareness of the food they choose to eat,[13] product packaging may represent an area of opportunity for the soyfoods industry. I’ve recently started working with a U.S. university to develop innovative new tofu packaging.

Soyfoods at Home

More than half of Americans report that they have been eating at home more due to the pandemic. It’s not surprising that 35% of consumers have discovered a new interest in cooking, although meal planning and improving cooking skills have arisen as new challenges.[14] Educating consumers about the versatility and affordability of soyfoods can help meet those challenges.

In North Dakota, for example, an upcoming dietician-run community cooking class for consumers, dietitians, students in culinary and dietitian programs is being offered free of change in September. The Joy of Soy Cooking Class is part of the Adult Healthy Cooking Class program at Family Wellness in Fargo. The class is being presented in partnership with CommonGround, the national movement of U.S. farmers who share information about the food they grow. Attendees will work with soyfoods such as texturized soy protein (TSP), tofu, edamame and canned soybeans.

Nutrition attributes of soyfoods include high-quality protein,[15] and some manufacturers are enhancing that aspect in their new retail products. For example, in Japan, high protein tofu bars are part of a new product line, promoted as being both sustainable and healthy. The tofu bars come in yuzo kosho (a Japanese condiment made with fresh chilies) and wafu dashi flavors. Wafu dashi is a broth made with dried fish and kombu (kelp).

Flavored tofu offers a wide variety of culinary possibilities. In the U.S., flavored tofus include specialties like edamame, ponzu, garlic-and-herb and curry seasoned tofu, while spiced tofu sheets are available in China.

Soyfoods in Restaurants

Restaurants continue to acquaint their customers with global ingredients including soy, and specialty flavors for food and drinks. In fact, 31% of global consumers say they get their own flavor inspirations from restaurants, cafes, food stalls and other away-from-home foodservice outlets.[16]  Innovations such as hybrid flavors hold appeal for adventurous consumers who want to indulge in out-of-the-ordinary food and drinks.[17]

In October, the Iowa Restaurant Association Education Foundation is co-sponsoring a student Tofu Beverage Competition at the 2021 Culinary Student Cook-Off, along with the Soyfoods Council and a tofu company. The event will benefit the Iowa ProStart Program for high school students interested in foodservice careers. Participating high school culinary teams will craft their beverages using a new fortified tofu product produced by a U.S. manufacturer.

Other new foodservice soy products in the U.S. include soy pepperoni, developed for pizzerias.

If you know of other programs in the U.S. Soybean Export Council (USSEC) community promoting soyfoods, I’d like to hear about them. You can email me at lfunk@flavorfulinsight.com.

[1] Conway, Jared, et al. 2021. How to Activate Consumer Trends Using E-commerce Product Attribute Data.(White Paper). Euromonitor International, June 2021.

https://go.euromonitor.com/rs/805-KOK-719/images/wpVia-EcommerceClaimsConsumerTrends.pdf

[2] Innova Market Insights, “Top Ten Trends for 2021.”

[3] The U.S. Soybean Sustainability Assurance Protocol.

https://ussec.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/20180416-U.S.-Soy-Sustainability-Assurance-Protocol-low-res.pdf

[4] Mintel 2021 Global Consumer Trends.

[5] Conway, Jared, et al. 2021. How to Activate Consumer Trends Using E-commerce Product Attribute Data.(White Paper). Euromonitor International, June 2021.

https://go.euromonitor.com/rs/805-KOK-719/images/wpVia-EcommerceClaimsConsumerTrends.pdf

[6] Rizzo, Gianluca. The Antioxidant Role of Soy and Soy Foods in Human Health, Antioxidants, 2020, Jul; 9(7);635.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7402135/

[7]  Subandi, Stephanie T., et al.  Tempeh consumption enhanced beneficial bacteria in the human gut. Food Research, October 2018.

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/328100975_Tempeh_consumption_enhanced_beneficial_bacteria_in_the_human_gut

[8] International Food Information Council “What is the Flexitarian Diet?” 2019.

https://foodinsight.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/10/FlextarianDiet.pdf

[9]Euromonitor International, Lifestyle Survey.

https://blog.euromonitor.com/the-unstoppable-rise-of-plant-based-alternatives

[10] Euromonitor International

https://www.euromonitor.com/post-dairy-era-the-unstoppable-rise-of-plant-based-alternatives/report.

[11] MarketWatch, “Global Soy Milk Market, 2021,” Press Release, June 15, 2021.

https://www.marketwatch.com/press-release/global-soy-milk-market-2021-with-top-countries-data-analysis-historical-research-price-trend-share-future-prospective-historical-situation-and-forecast-by-2027-with-covid-19-analysis-2021-06-15

[12] Innova Market Insights, “Planetary Health: Consumer Concern for Sustainability Varies Around the Globe.” Press release, June 16, 2021.

https://www.innovamarketinsights.com/press-release/planetary-health-consumer-concern-for-sustainability-varies-around-the-globe/

[13] Innova Market Insights, “Planetary Health: Consumer Concern for Sustainability Varies Around the Globe.” Press release, June 16, 2021.

[14] Acosta, “COVID-19: Reinventing How America Eats,” September 2020.

https://www.acosta.com/news/new-acosta-report-details-how-covid-19-is-reinventing-how-america-eats

[15] Messina, Mark. Soy and Health Update: Evaluation of the Clinical and Epidemiologic Literature. Nutrients, v.9(12); 2016 Dec.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5188409/

[16]Innova Market Insights Top Five Flavor Trends for 2021

[17] “Flavor Mashups for New Sensory Experiences in Food and Beverages,” Innova Market Insights Press Release, April 28, 2021.

https://www.innovamarketinsights.com/flavor-mashups-for-new-sensory-experiences-in-food-and-beverages/

Linda Funk

President

Flavorful Insight

Linda Funk has more than 30 years’ experience with large food and beverage manufacturers and commodity associations, assisting clients in telling their stories.