Plant-Based Solutions Spotlighted at SXSW

Joseph L. Murphy

Joseph L. Murphy

Light Shaping Photography & Communications

If you head south and veer southwest, you’ll land in a place that embraces the weird, the eclectic and the key to future collaboration. Each year, Austin, Texas, is the home of the South by Southwest Festival (SXSW), a collection of brands, influencers, musicians, artists and dreamers.

The SXSW Conference provides an opportunity for the global community of digital creatives to encounter cutting-edge ideas, discover new interests, and network with other professionals who share a similar appetite for forward-focused experiences.

U.S. Soy took center stage in a bustling corner of the SXSW festival, showcasing its versatility and sustainability in various industries. Attendees were treated to a unique experience as they learned about the importance of soybeans and their widespread applications.

The U.S. Soy brand, grown in the Heartland, was brought to SXSW to inform unlikely audiences. However, a closer look at the creative worldwide demographic that populates the conference and festivals may make you ask why it has not been represented since SXSW’s founding in 1987. SXSW is about bringing people from a wide variety of businesses and creative disciplines together to figure out the future.

This year, U.S. Soy farmer leaders led two panels that assembled thought leaders from Hollywood and the business world. For audience members, it may have been their first glance at the power of U.S. Soy. But, the farmers will be the first to tell you that the beans they grow in their fields are changing lives worldwide by leading the way in sustainability and adding plant-based products that are positive for the environment in thousands of products.

From fueling innovations in tire manufacturing to being a key ingredient in favorite foods, U.S. Soy is a versatile and eco-friendly choice. During the panels and at a reception after, attendees had the opportunity to interact with soybean farmers who shared their passion for sustainable agriculture and the benefits of using soy-based products.

“We are proud to be a part of SXSW 2024 and to highlight the incredible potential of U.S. Soy,” said Lisa Humphreys, a spokesperson for U.S. Soy. “Sustainability is at the core of what we do, and we are excited to showcase how soybeans can shape a brighter future for all.”

SXSW audiences learned more about U.S. Soy through two panels: Script to Screen: Advances in Sustainable Entertainment Products and Sustainable Lifestyle Products: A Conversation with Changemakers.

The U.S. Soy panels featured product innovators and representatives from the entertainment industry who are dictating sustainability changes through leadership. Audience members learned about the innovative uses of plant-based products featuring U.S. Soy at the startup, sustainability and store levels.

Carla Schultz, a Michigan-based soybean farmer, is proud that the soybeans she grows are used in many of the products consumers find on shelves.

“As farmers, we want to grow more soybeans with less inputs, to be more efficient with what we’re doing and to be more sustainable on our farm,” Schultz says. “I have four children, and we want our farms to be passed to the next generation. That means taking care of what we grow and taking care of our community. We are also thinking about what soybeans can be made into. What’s next? I believe industry leaders like yourselves have the opportunity to break new ground on research and development to enable consumers to live their lives while also reducing the impact on the planet.”

The presence of U.S. Soy at SXSW was a reminder of the importance of sustainable practices in modern industries. By choosing U.S. Soy, consumers can positively impact the environment while enjoying high-quality products.

“I think the greatest part of this conversation so far, is U.S. Soy has a solution for almost all of these problems,” Tony Mellenthin, a farmer leader from Wisconsin, says. “We always pride ourselves on being innovators, but we haven’t always been collaborators with the innovators of your industry. We must integrate this into what you’re doing (in Hollywood).”

As SXSW continues to inspire creativity and innovation, U.S. Soy stands out as an example of how sustainable choices can shape a better future for all. With its presence felt at the festival, U.S. Soy continues to pave the way for a greener and more sustainable world.

“It gets our name out there and lets them know what we can do for these companies,” April Hemmes, a soybean farmer from Iowa who attended SXSW, says. “We have a lot of what they’re looking for. People at the conference told me U.S. Soy has the answers to what they are looking for. It proved that we need to reach out to these businesses or decision makers to help them solve some of the issues they’re up against and what their consumers demand.”

Danica Vallone of Red Hen Industries told audience members that she has had sleepless nights trying to think of ways for her company to lead in sustainability. Vallone’s company is a full-service design and fabrication house that has worked with Nike, Pepsi, and other major brands.

She told the audience about challenges in the film industry, including time constraints, budget limitations, and material changes that can result in costly mistakes. She says that tried and true ways of doing things often prevail over new techniques and the use of new materials, like U.S. Soy, that promise to be more sustainable. Like in many businesses, mistakes can lead to loss of credibility and dollars.

“I fell in love with the opportunity to get to conjure and build these worlds from scratch and then into existence,” she says. “It’s like magic. But I eventually realized that it didn’t sit well with me to be building beautiful worlds that were actively harming this actual world that we’re in right now together. I still haven’t, and I probably will never be able to reconcile that. And that’s the philosophical crux of why I’m being driven to do this (be more sustainable).”

Vallone and the other panelists were optimistic about changes in their industry that are promoting sustainability and embracing new plant-based ideas and discoveries that can be used in the future.

“To make the world a more sustainable, longer lasting place, your vehicle is soy, but our vehicle is whatever is going to get the job done,” Vallone says. “To be a clear and true voice leading in the right direction, but not to the exclusion of any of the other good players that are also on the scene. I think it’s important to maintain a real spirit of innovation and play with all the other companies, big and small, who are trying to bring alternative materials into the fray. It’s very much an all-ships rise together scenario here.”

For more information on U.S. Soy and its wide range of applications, visit the U.S. Soy website or follow on Facebook, LinkedIn, X, Instagram and TikTok.

Overheard at the SXSW U.S. Soy panels– A collection of quotes from the panelists



We’re now reaching a point where companies are coming out with real sustainability metrics and goals that can be worked towards and achieved. Rather than this greenwashing, we want to adopt a greener approach. That’s taken a long time, but I think it’s also because it’s difficult for everyone across the supply chain to understand what the inputs and outputs are and where that fits in with what we do. Sustainability has moved from an afterthought into a prerequisite at this point.

Christoph Krumm of Sironix Renewables



The great thing about soy is you can trace it back all the way to the farmers and show the efficiencies in water reduction, waste reduction and so forth. As a startup with sustainability at its DNA, it’s embedded from the innovation to the market. It’s really integrated. When you work with organizations like the United Soybean Board and look at soy in terms of tracing it back and the transparency about where it’s coming from, that’s becoming so critical. And it’s required by law now in Europe.

Ann Lee-Jeffs, Sustainability Collaborative



Even the founders who are starting companies now know that to be competitive truly, they have to think about sustainability differently to get on the shelf. So, it is table stakes, from a beauty perspective, to make sure that your ingredients are truly something that you can put on your skin that you can ingest and then bring that into retail.

Kendra Bracken-Ferguson, Braintrust Founders Studio and Braintrust Fund



Every department, from grip, electric, set design to costumes, they don’t want to be the ones that fail because they try to go sustainable in some way that isn’t tested. So, every department does not want to be the weak link that gets blamed because they will never work again. So that’s the fear factor; you have to get over it. You have to come together as a production team, support one another, and understand what you’re doing.

Todd Holland, Directors Guild of America, about the pressure of utilizing new materials and implementing sustainability measures.



My thought is this: let’s do something right. We may not be able to solve every issue. I have two young kids, and I’m terrified for them. And so it’s a commitment of mine to try to be better and do better. What we do is very complex. We have a lot to do daily to make these shows happen from concept to delivery. But let’s figure out something that we can do that’s eco-friendly and sustainable. Every day.

Ty Walker, Senior Vice President Head of Physical Production at Hartbeat



One resource from the Directors Guild of America is the materials connection database. It provides an easy-to-search database of over 10,000 tactile materials that can be used in sets and construction. We created that out of sheer necessity. Our goal was to create tools that someone like me who is trying to do the right thing could find simply and easily.

Todd Holland about the Directors Guild of America, Sustainable Future Committee Pro-Tips database