Tempeh is both trendy and traditional. Today, some global consumers see it as a staple, while others are newly embracing tempeh as a soy-based plant protein. The result is a global tempeh market that is projected to reach $5.8 billion by 2026.[1]

According to A. Elizabeth Sloan, President of Sloan Trends, tempeh and tofu meat alternatives now top $118 million. The category has grown by 5 percent over 2018, and was up 11 percent 2018 vs. 2017.[2] Sloan’s 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 (USSEC) taps into Sloan’s expertise for an analysis of current trends that create a demand for U.S.-grown soybeans. USSEC works with customers in multiple global markets to present the advantages of U.S. food beans to soyfood processors and maintain industry relationships. USSEC’s U.S. Soy Producers Mission (USSPM) recently included a visit to a progressive Indonesian tempeh company to provide a team of leading U.S. soy growers with the opportunity to learn, gather knowledge and connect with regional customers and the agriculture industry.

This is part one of a two-part report on how global food trends are increasing the demand for soyfoods.

Predictions for the Global Tempeh Market

The global tempeh market is projected to grow from $3.6 billion in 2018 to $5.8 billion by 2026.[3]

Countries such as China, South Korea and Australia are expected to drive the growth of the global tempeh market. North America also is expected to show significant compound annual growth rate (CAGR) in terms of volume.[4]

Although it has long been a traditional ingredient in Indonesian cuisine, tempeh (fermented soybean cake) is now gathering momentum on American menus, too. In U.S. restaurants, tempeh is added to rice bowls, salads and chili recipes. Marinated tempeh, with its nutty flavor, also is grilled or sautéed for entrees and sandwiches. Tempeh is often introduced as an ingredient in established familiar foods, such as kale Caesar salads with tempeh. Menus also reflect culinary mashups blending one cuisine with ingredients from another, such as Jamaican jerk tempeh, kimchi tempeh Reuben sandwiches, fried tempeh “wings,” and tempeh piccata.

3 Reasons Why New Consumers are Gravitating to Tempeh

New tempeh consumers are drawn to it for a variety of nutritional and culinary reasons.Tempeh is a protein-rich food, offering 31 grams of protein per cup, and approximately 15 grams per 3-ounce serving. Tempeh also appeals to consumers because it’s not only packed with nutrients, it features recognizable ingredients. Some commercially available tempeh brands have just three ingredients: organic soybeans, water and organic rice.  Tempeh meets the demands of consumers who seek simple, minimally processed foods.

Another reason that tempeh holds appeal is that it’s already an established plant-based meat alternative. It has a long history in Indonesia and elsewhere in Asia. Interest is building elsewhere in the world, including the U.S., as consumers explore more world cuisines. In 2019, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) approved tempeh for school lunch programs, with one ounce of tempeh being equivalent to 1 ounce meat alternative.[5]

Nutrient-dense tempeh also draws interest from health-conscious consumers because it is a fermented food, made from naturally fermented soybeans. Fermented foods are considered functional foods that have potentially beneficial effects on health when consumed on a regular basis at certain levels.[6]  Among the numerous advantages of fermented foods are their shelf life, nutrition content and functional benefits such as aiding digestion.[7]For the past two years, fermented foods have remained the number one hot superfood, according to the Pollock Communications Survey 2019.[8]Among the reasons for this popularity is that fermented foods such as tempeh contain probiotics (live organisms) that are intended to provide health benefits, generally by improving or restoring the gut flora.

Tempeh has specifically been called out as enhancing beneficial gut bacteria in studies published in the Polish Journal of Microbiology (soy tempeh stimulated the growth of bacteria of the genus Bifidobacterium)[9]and Food Research (tempeh consumption enhanced beneficial bacteria in the human gut).[10]  Also, a study published in the International Journal of Food Science Technology suggested that tempeh made from soybeans obtained great antioxidant activity because of R. oligospous fermentation.[11]The potential digestive health benefits of probiotics have also come to the attention of consumers. In a 2018 U.S. survey conducted by the International Food Information Council, among the perceived healthfulness of food nutrients, probiotics were ranked number six on a list of the top ten.[12]

[1]SPINS/Plant-based Foods Assn. Year Ended April, 2019

[2]SPINS/Plant-based Foods Assn. Year Ended April, 2019

[3]SPINS/Plant-based Foods Assn. Year Ended April, 2019

[4]Persistence Market Analysis, 2018


[6]“Functional Foods,” Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, July 15, 2019.



[8]“What’s Trending in Nutrition,” Pollock Communications Survey, 2019;


[9]“Evaluation of Bean and Soy Tempeh Influences on Intestinal Bacteria and Estimation of Antibacterial Properties of Bean Tempeh,” Polish J. Microbiol 62:189,2013.

[10]“Tempeh Consumption Enhanced Beneficial Bacteria in the Human Gut,” Food Research 3: 51, 2019.

[11]“ Effect of fermentation time on the antioxidant activities of tempeh prepared from fermented soybean using Rhizopus oligosporus.” Int J Food Science Tech 44: 799, 2009.

[12]2018 Food & Health Survey, International Food Information Council.