The United States Soybean Export Council (USSEC) compiles and shares information about emerging trends with a potential for increasing the demand for U.S.-grown soybeans. April is National Soy foods Month in the U.S., an initiative that reminds consumers of the nutrition and culinary benefits of U.S.-grown soy, as well as the role soy foods play in feeding the world. Soy foods are traditional in various global cultures and are poised to become increasingly popular with new consumers in the U.S. and throughout the world. Up-to-date market information also helps keep buyers, processors, commercial end-users and a variety of stakeholders current on opportunities for U.S.-grown soybeans.

Consumer attitudes toward food choices, shopping behavior and lifestyle priorities are quickly evolving. As suggested by the following trends, soy foods have numerous attributes that leave them well-positioned to compete in the post-COVID-19 world. Part one of a two-part series.

Redefined Food Attitudes Shine a Spotlight on Soy foods

Pandemic concerns have spurred the world’s consumers to redefine the way they view diet and health, and many are tweaking their eating habits as a result. In the U.S., 85% of consumers have made changes in the food they eat or the way they prepare it.[1] In 2020, more than 50% of consumers in the Asia Pacific region and in Latin America defined their current eating habits as healthy or extremely healthy, as did at least 40% of consumers in The Middle East/Africa, Europe and North America.[2]

Evolving Ideas About Health: Health is a motivating factor for consumers’ food choices, currently ranking second only to convenience, ahead of cost and taste.[3] For a growing number of consumers, maintaining good health means paying more attention to their eating habits. For example, 58% of U.S. consumers say overall health influences their food decisions more now than it did a decade ago.[4]

Fortified soymilk, with its nutrition profile, is well-positioned to compete in a changing marketplace where consumers increasingly focus on healthfulness. In 2010, just 23% of U.S. consumers were aware of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans; that number rose to 41% in 2020.[5] The 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans include soy foods in the categories of vegetables, dairy, protein food and oils. The new guidelines include fortified soy beverages and soy yogurt as part of the dairy group, noting that they are similar to milk and yogurt in nutrient composition and the way they are used in meals.[6]

Consumers worldwide are also redefining their view of healthy dietary choices to include immune health. Approximately 54% of global consumers say they have educated themselves on ingredients that may have the potential for  boosting immune health, including yogurt, fermented drinks, and antioxidants.[7] Such areas of interest may increase the appeal of soy foods. Western consumers have begun exploring fermented soy foods like tempeh (fermented soybean cake) in their quest for gastrointestinal health.[8] Additionally, antioxidants appear to play a role in the beneficial health effects of soy, although more in-depth studies are needed.[9]

Prevalence of Plant Protein: In the past year, consumption of plant-based meat and dairy alternatives rose. In the U.S., for example, 28% of consumers now eat more protein from plant sources; 24% eat more plant-based dairy, and 17% eat more plant-based meat alternatives than in 2019.[10] U.S.-grown soy provides affordable, high-quality plant protein that offers all of the essential amino acids in amounts required to meet the nutritional needs of children and adults.[11].

While 25% of global consumers prefer eating 100% plant protein, according to a recent consumer survey, 36% would prefer a mix of animal and plant proteins.[12]  The versatility of products such as TVP (textured vegetable protein, also called TSP or textured soy protein) makes it simple for consumers to create their own protein blends by combining equal amounts of  ground beef, pork or turkey with TVP.

In addition to protein blends, plant-based claims among global product launches experienced a 37% compound annual growth rate (CAGR) from 2016 to 2020.[13]  When it comes to dairy alternatives, consumption varies by world regions; consumers in India, for instance, increased their consumption by 40% in the past year.[14]

Revisiting E-Commerce Invites New Ways to Shop for Soy foods

The new post-pandemic normal may well include a world in which convenience is seen as a necessity and shopping is transformed. E-commerce is projected to account for half the growth in the global retail sector by 2025, expanding by an additional $1.4 trillion. In 2020, 16% of goods were bought online, double the ratio of 2015. The U.S., China and Mexico are forecasted to have the highest growth in e-commerce between 2020 and 2025.[15]

Shifting Shopping Habits:  With more people confined at home due to pandemic restrictions, grocery shopping has gravitated toward becoming a planned activity.[16]  The alternative of online shopping suits changing lifestyles by appealing to individuals who want to comparison shop and enjoy the convenience of doorstep delivery.

Poland, Italy, France and Ireland are among the countries where a majority of consumers are considering more online shopping alternatives to supermarkets.[17]  As of December 2020, approximately 71% of Americans were working from home, with 54% saying they would want to work from home after the coronavirus outbreak ends.[18]  Such consumers may opt for the convenience of ordering shelf-stable soyfoods like TVP, canned soybeans and Tetra Pak soymilk and silken tofu. Globally, the fastest-growing distribution medium for tempeh is also expected to be online with a CAGR of more than 7% from 2017 to 2025.[19]


[1] IFIC 2020 Food and Health Survey.

[2] Euromonitor International, “Experiential Snacking,” 2021.

[3] Pollock Communications and Today’s Dietitian: “Nutrition Experts Forecast 2020.”

[4] IFIC 2020 Food and Health Survey

[5] IFIC 2020 Food and Health Survey

[6] USDA and HHS, Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020-2025.

[7] Innova, Top Ten Trends 2021.

[8] Dimidi et al. Nutrients, 2019

[9] Rizzo, Gianluca. “The Antioxidant Role of Soy and Soy Foods in Human Health,” Antioxidants (Basel), 2020, Jul; 9(7): 635.

[10] IFIC 2020 Food and Health Survey

[11] Hughes GJ, Ryan DJ, Mukherjea R, Schasteen CS. “Protein Digestibility-Corrected Amino Acid Scores (PDCAAS) for Soy Protein Isolates and Concentrate: Criteria for Evaluation.” Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry. 2011 December 14;59(23):12707-12.

[12] Innova Market Insights, “Powering Up On Plant Protein,” March 24, 2021.

[13] Innova Market Insights, “Powering Up on Plant Protein,” March 24, 2021.

[14] Innova Market Insights, “Plant-Based Spotlight on Dairy Alternatives.”

[15] Euromonitor International, “E-Commerce to Account for Half the Growth in Global Retail by 2025,” March 25, 2021.

[16] Euromonitor International, “Experiential Snacking,” 2021.

[17] Nielsen IQ, “Many Europeans in Lockdown expect the impact of COVID-19 to last another year,” April 8, 2020.

[18] Pew Research Center. “How the Coronavirus Outbreak Has—and Hasn’t— Changed the Way Americans Work.” December 9, 2020.

[19] Hexa Research, “Global Tempeh Market.”