The U.S. Soybean Export Council (USSEC) offers frequent updates on topics that reflect the global demand for U.S.-grown soy. Updates range from global food and health trends to evolving consumer preference and soyfoods-related research, helping to keep USSEC stakeholders current on the global market opportunities for U.S.-grown soy.

Recent product innovations featuring soyfoods mirror today’s worldwide health, nutrition and lifestyle trends. Approximately 79 percent of global consumers in a recent survey agree that they will be seeking products that are healthier and better for the environment[1] once the COVID-19 pandemic passes. “Consumers are getting wiser and more involved in the protein markets, and individuals are starting to look for the plant protein source that is ‘best for me,’” explains A. Elizabeth Sloan, Ph.D., president of Sloan Trends. Based on research and trend reports from experts such as Dr. Sloan, soyfoods product innovations are likely to have consumer appeal.

Global Product Categories to Watch

  • Functional and fortified foods in the dairy alternatives, snacks and confectionery sectors are growing soyfoods market niches.[2] No legal definition of functional foods exists in the U.S., but the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates foods that are labeled as functional. While all food is functional at some level in that it provides energy and nutrients, there is growing evidence that some food components, not considered nutrients in the traditional sense, may provide positive health benefits.[3] Similarly, fortified foods are those that include added vitamins and/or other nutrients,[4] such as brands of soymilk fortified with calcium, vitamin A and vitamin D.
  • Fermented foods like tempeh (fermented soybean cake) are among the foods that Western consumers are exploring in their quest for gastrointestinal health.[5] Soy yogurt also is a fermented product. Last year, the plant-based yogurt category showed a growth spurt of 31.3 percent, reaching $283 million in sales.[6]
  • All-day snacking on the part of consumers creates expanded opportunities for better-for-you snacks.[7] In the U.S., 42 percent of consumers eat snacks three or more times per day.[8] Examples of creative snack products include plant-based jerky made with textured soy protein in a selection of flavors, and kid-friendly plant protein versions of chicken nuggets, made with soy protein concentrate and soy protein isolate.
  • Desserts with drawing power offer product opportunities for U.S.-grown soy. Among global food and beverage products, new frozen desserts as well as nondairy ice creams and frozen yogurts formulated with soy have emerged as growing market segments. For example, from 2016 to 2019, 286 new frozen desserts have been introduced; during the same period, 503 new nondairy ice creams and frozen yogurts arrived on the market. The soy-based dessert category, with an anticipated compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 6.6 percent, currently is being driven by consumers in the U.S., the U.K., Germany, India and Japan.[10] Product examples include a line of frozen dairy-free cheesecakes made with tofu.
  • Dairy alternative products continue to branch out. Plant-based yogurt and cheese categories, for example, have been exhibiting growth. Last year, plant-based cheeses grew 18.3 percent, to reach $189 million.[11] Dairy alternative coffee creamers experienced a 34.3 percent increase, with $287 million in sales.[12]

Other food product categories featuring plant-based alternatives are growing as well: refrigerated dips (600 percent increase); refrigerated whipped toppings (300 percent growth), refrigerated salad dressings (42 percent) refrigerated desserts (40 percent) and frozen novelties (38 percent).[13]

  • Spins on traditional soyfoods attract new consumers. Protein is one of the highest motivators for Western European, Australian and U.S. consumers who purchase packaged foods that are perceived as healthy.[14] Globally, the tofu industry is expected to reach $24 billion by 2022.[15] Examples of nontraditional tofu products include flavored tofu cutlets and baked flavored tofu bars; seasoned tofu cubes that can be sprinkled into salads and pasta main courses; and baked tofu in global flavors.
  • Meat alternatives and blended products offer opportunities for soy. Western Europe, Asia, North America and Latin America have been the most active regions in formulating new foods and beverages using soy from 2016 to 2019.[16] In the U.S., refrigerated and frozen meals incorporate meat alternatives made with soyfoods. Also, blended products pair meat with plant-based ingredients such as edamame and tofu. Frozen products range from microwavable pizza pockets made with soy-based pepperoni to frozen skillet meals made with vegetables and soy protein meat alternatives. Additionally, major meat manufacturers are blending plant-based ingredients and vegetables into beef and pork products. Combined, these product lines indicate broader opportunities on the horizon for U.S.-grown soy.


[1] Ipsos, Earth Day 2020, April 2020

[2] Euromonitor, Strategic Themes in Food and Nutrition, 2020

[3] “Position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: Functional Foods,” Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, 2013

[4] Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, ”Functional Foods” Eat Right, July 15, 2019

[5] Dimidi et al. Nutrients, 2019

[6] SPINS, Data for the Year Ended 2019, for the Plant-Based Foods Association

[7] Euromonitor, Strategic Themes in Food and Nutrition, 2020

[8] IRI, Snacking Survey, 2020

[9] Innova Market Insights, 2019

[10] Research and Markets, Plant-Based Data, June 2019

[11] SPINS, Data for the Year Ended 2019, for the Plant-Based Foods Association

[12] SPINS, Data for the Year Ended 2019, for the Plant-Based Foods Association

[13] IRI, Year Ended 10/2019

[14] Euromonitor, 2019

[15] Market Insights Report, 2019

[16] Innova Market Insights, 2019