Global consumption of soy extends beyond traditional food choices such as tempeh, tofu and soymilk. Soy ingredients also provide functional and nutrition benefits for various new and established food products around the world. Take a closer look at the ways that ingredients such as soy flour, soy concentrates, soy isolates and okara made with U.S.-grown soybeans enhance the world diet and inspire new specialties.

“The use of soy in snacks, sports nutrition, meats, soups and desserts is growing,” says A. Elizabeth Sloan, President of Sloan Trends. The Escondido, California-based firm tracks consumer food and beverage trends and behaviors, as well as health and nutrition attitudes, eating patterns, and emerging medical markets.  The U.S. Soybean Export Council taps into Sloan’s expertise for an analysis of current trends creating a demand for U.S.-grown soybeans.

Globally, bakery and confections are the largest applications for new food, beverage and supplement product formulations with soy. This article is Part Two of a two-part report exploring the uses and advantages of soy ingredients.

Feeding the Growing Global Appetite for High Quality Protein

Factors such as increased interest in plant protein, the role of convenience, continuing health awareness and sports nutrition all contribute to the uses of soy ingredients in new products. While meat alternatives and ready meals may be the first product categories that come to mind, the use of soy protein extends much further. According to Sloan, the soy protein market has a projected compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 5 percent from 2018 to 2027, and will be driven by significant ongoing growth in high protein functional supplements, beverages and nutrition bars.  “Although the Asia Pacific region will dominate the global soy protein market, North America is expected to hold a relatively high share, with Europe holding the second-largest share,” she says.  

Soy Ingredients Used in Sports Nutrition

Sports nutrition products currently have been enjoying a strong growth in mainstream new product development. From 2016 through March 2019, more than 11,000 new products featuring soy ingredients have been introduced in the sports nutrition category. Soy has the advantage of being a complete plant protein and contains adequate amounts of all the essential amino acids. 

Sloan points out that with more than half of the adults in both China and the U.S. falling into the new active lifestyle demographic—defined as fit consumers who exercise more than three days a week for at least 30 minutes—high-protein food, drinks and supplements will continue to be of interest. Between 2013 and 2017, new products positioned as being high protein (or a source of protein) grew by 188 percent. Also, excluding sports nutrition, the number of protein products positioned as increasing energy or alertness grew by 65 percent during that same time period.

Functional Food Uses for Soy Concentrates & Isolates 

Sloan points out that soy concentrate is a soy protein form that held a significant global market share (54.7 percent) in 2018, with concentrates expected to remain dominant.  Soy protein concentrate and soy protein isolate are made from defatted soy flakes with carbohydrates removed. Soy protein concentrate contains approximately 70 percent protein, while soy protein isolate is about 92.8 percent protein. 

Soy protein concentrate comes in several forms, including flour and granules, and is incorporated into baked goods as well as meat products to retain flavor and moisture. Currently, functional foods are driving the soy concentrate segment. Soy isolates account for the second-largest share of market, at 32 percent. That rate is expected to remain stable through 2027.  Soy protein isolate is used in making products such as energy bars, and nutrition products in the fitness category. It also can be added as a powder to beverages. In 2017, more than 5 percent of global food and beverage product launches made protein claims.