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. A. Elizabeth Sloan of Sloan Trends has identified ways in which soyfoods lend themselves to a variety of global food and health trends. This is part one of a two-part series.
A. Elizabeth Sloan, President of Sloan Trends, says that plant and animal protein blends and dairy alternatives are among today’s popular food trends. “The blended/hybrid trend is in its infancy globally, but it has very high potential in the largest markets for meat alternatives. The U.S. and Western Europe spend the most on vegan and vegetarian-oriented packaged foods,” she notes. Sloan’s Escondido, California-based firm tracks consumer food and beverage trends and behaviors, as well as health and nutrition attitudes.
1. Consumers are gravitating toward blended animal and plant proteins— including soy—and dairy alternatives such as soymilk. “Globally, the trend is toward meat reduction, not meat avoidance,” Sloan notes. The trend indicates a continuing role for U.S.-grown soybeans and animal agriculture in providing sustainable protein. The market for global meat alternatives is expected to grow to $8.1 billion by 2026. Dairy alternatives also are expected to grow, reaching an estimated $36.7 billion by 2025. Approximately 48 percent of Asians and 42 percent of U.S. consumers drink both dairy milk and plant-based alternative milks. Similarly, consumers who have a history of eating more plant-based foods, such as those in Southeast Asian countries, are also the fastest-growing meat consumers as their affluence increases.
Globally, more than 20 percent of consumers are trying to limit their meat intake, with Western Europe and the U.S. being the key markets for “flexitarian” product choices that include both meat and plant protein. When U.S. consumers define plant-based eating, one-third of them say that a plant-based diet contains some meat. Examples of blended foods—containing both plant protein and animal protein—include ground meat blended with textured soy protein (TSP).
Among U.S. consumers, 76 percent have an interest in having meat blends available in the supermarket meat department, while 62 percent want to see plant-based meat alternatives. In 2019, nearly half of consumers reported restricting certain animal-based foods but not following strict vegan or vegetarian diets, meaning that half of them practice some degree of “flexitarianism.”
2. Fermented soyfoods such as natto, miso and tempeh connect with the global trend of consuming fermented foods for digestive health. The fermented food trend represents another opportunity for U.S.-grown soy. Nearly 80 percent of consumers around the world are concerned about their digestive health. According to new global research, improved digestion ranks number two on a list of more than 25 functional health benefits that shoppers are looking for.
By 2026, consumers globally are expected to spend $53.27 billion USD annually on foods, beverages and supplements that help improve digestive health. “Fermented soyfoods that contain probiotics, prebiotics and digestive enzymes are among the foods that can help improve gut health,” Sloan says.
3. Tap into the growing market for uniquely Asian foods. Sloan also sees a growing opportunity for Asian soyfoods and other ethnic ingredients—including Malaysian, Indonesian, Vietnamese, Korean, Thai, and Japanese cuisines—to make global inroads. “For example, nearly six in ten North Americans who have not tried Malaysian or Singaporean foods say they would be excited or would very much like to try them. .” She adds that this consumer interest represents a good global marketing opportunity. Many in the U.S. already enjoy Chinese cuisine, but other Asian cuisines abound. Asian is the most ordered ethnic food among U.S. consumers in fast-casual and full-service restaurants as well as in the prepared food sections of grocery stores.
 Allied Market Research, 2020.
 Markets and Markets, “Dairy Alternatives Market,” 2020.
 Cargill, “Cargill, The Global Shifting Dairy Market,” 2018.
 Euromonitor, The Future of Meat, 2019.
 Euromonitor, The Future of Meat, 2019.
 Datassential, Healthy Keynote, 2019.
 FMI, Foundation for Meat and Poultry Research & Education, “The Power of Meat,” 2020.
 Euromonitor International, Lifestyle Consumer Survey, 2019.
 HealthFocus Global Study, 2018.
 HealthFocus International, 2020 Global Gut Health Report, 2020.
 Acumen Research and Consulting, Digestive Health Product Market, Aug. 2019.
 Technomic, “Why Asian Food Dominates U.S. Menus,” p. 3, 2018. https://info.technomic.com/rs/561-ZNP-897/images/Why-Asian-Foods-Dominate-US-Menus-Whitepaper.pdf
 Technomic, 2018 Ethnic Food & Beverage Consumer Trend Report.