Food & Lifestyle

For Global Soy Consumers, Protein Completeness Matters

Linda Funk

Linda Funk

Flavorful Insight

The U.S. Soybean Export Council (USSEC) provides its stakeholders with updates on food and health trends that are likely to have a positive impact on the demand for U.S.-grown soybeans. Soyfoods fit in with the growing consumer interest in plant protein in general, and also fulfill the requirements for being a complete plant protein.

According to Dr. A. Elizabeth Sloan, President of Sloan Trends, as consumers get more involved and better informed about plant protein, they are looking at protein quality. In particular, they are looking for complete protein. “As a bevy of plant proteins continue to come onto the global stage, some new and important differentiating advantages emerge for soy as a plant protein choice.”  Sloan’s Escondido, California-based firm tracks consumer food and beverage trends and behaviors, as well as health and nutrition attitudes.

Food Behavior Trend: Consumers Show High Interest in Protein

Soyfoods are in sync with consumer interest in protein. Globally, 59 percent of consumers are buying high protein foods.[1] Those in the Asia Pacific region are most likely to be trying to add more protein to their diets, followed by Western Europe and the U.S.[2]  Worldwide consumers associate several benefits with a high-protein diet: physical energy (56 percent); muscle health (51 percent) and daily health (50 percent) are reported to be the top three reasons. These end-benefits also function best with a complete protein.[3]

Food Trend: Plant Protein Products Proliferate

By 2030, consumer interest in protein rich diets and plant-based meat alternatives is predicted to grow to an $85 billion market. Soyfoods offer many advantages in today’s plant protein market. Soy is a high-quality complete plant protein. Complete proteins contain all nine of the essential amino acids (ones the body cannot produce itself) in amounts needed by the body.[5]  For this reason, soyfoods can have appeal for consumers in today’s competitive market where two-thirds of U.S. adults say that having a complete protein is important to them.[6]

Among global food shoppers, sixty percent focus on the type of protein they consume, with their top indicators of good sources being natural (56 percent), complete protein (38 percent) and a clean source (37 percent).[7]  Soy is the most efficiently produced source of protein among plant-based foods[8]  Soy protein has the ability to help consumers feel full, which appeals to consumers who are concerned about weight control. Currently, satiety is the second most desired attribute for functional foods, helping consumers ward off hunger.[9]

Nutrition Attitude Trend: Consumers Consider Protein Quality and Attributes

Soy is a preferred plant protein choice because it offers the two factors that determine quality protein—digestibility and amino acid content. To measure the protein quality of most foods, the FDA currently uses the Protein Digestibility Corrected Amino Acid Score (PDCAAS).[10] This method evaluates the quality of a protein based on amino acid requirements for the human diet, and on its digestibility. When it comes to the protein quality of different foods measured by PDCAAS, soy protein is equivalent to egg, milk, casein and whey proteins.[11]          

Current food trends and nutrition attitudes are helping to carve out new product opportunities for soyfoods.  In turn, these demands create an ongoing market for high quality U.S.-grown soy.


[1] Euromonitor International. Food and Nutrition Survey 2019.

[2] Euromonitor International. Food and Nutrition Survey 2019.

[3] HealthFocus International, Global Trend Study on Shoppers’ Journey Towards Living and Eating Healthier, 2020.

[4] UBS. “The Food Revolution,” Page 67. July 2019.

[5] Hughes, GJ, Ryan DJ, Mukherjea R, et al. Protein digestibility-corrected amino acid scores (PDCAAS) for soy protein isolates and concentrate: Criteria for evaluation. J Agric Food Chemistry. 2011;59(23):12707 – 12.

[6] United Soybean Board Plant-based Protein and Soy: A U.S. Consumer Perspective Survey, 2019.

[7] HealthFocus 2019 Global Opportunities In Protein.

[8] Gonzalez et al. Food Policy 36 (2011) 562–570

[9] HealthFocus, USA Consumer Survey, 2019.

[10] Advances in Nutrition 10: 755, 2019

[11] Hoffman, J.R. and Falvo, Michael J. Protein—Which is Best? J. Sports Sci Med, 2004, Dep. 3(#): 118-130.