Globally speaking, today’s children are well positioned to become tomorrow’s soy consumers for a number of reasons. Soyfoods are foods for the future because they help address issues such as the long-term health of world populations and the long-term health of the planet. As a high quality plant protein, U.S.-grown soybeans are sustainable and widely available. Not only do soyfoods such as soymilk, tofu, tempeh and edamame offer nutrition and health benefits for young consumers, they also are perceived as minimally processed, environmentally friendly foods.

These are just some of the compelling reasons why young consumers may begin enjoying soyfoods at a younger age than previous generations.“Soymilk contributes the majority of global soyfood growth and accounts for 40% of the global soyfoods market,”[1] says A. Elizabeth Sloan, President of Sloan Trends. “Increasing use of soymilk will be one of the key growth drivers in the soy market,”[2] she adds. Her Escondido, California-based firm tracks consumer food and beverage trends and behaviors, as well as health and nutrition attitudes.

The U.S. Soybean Export Council (USSEC) taps into Sloan’s expertise for an analysis of 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.

This is part one of a two-part report on ways that soyfoods are being introduced to young consumers and meeting market demands.

Recognizing the Nutrition and Health Benefits of Soyfoods

For young girls, there is evidence that eating more than a serving of soy per day— one cup of soymilk or a half-cup of tempeh, tofu or edamame—may reduce breast cancer risk later in life.[3]

The Shanghai Women’s Health Study, a population-based prospective study with more than 70,000 women participating, provides the strongest evidence that soy consumption reduces breast cancer. When adolescent soy intake habits were considered, pre-menopausal women with the highest soy protein intake both in their adolescence and adulthood had more than a 50 percent decreased risk compared to women who had the lowest intake during those periods.[4]

Promoting Sustainability with Soyfoods

In the U.S., the 74-million-strong Gen Z young adults (those born after 1995) are showing a preference for sustainability in food choices; 47 percent of college and university students are limiting their meat consumption.[5]  In fact, worldwide, the soy-based segment is anticipated to dominate the meat alternatives market that is projected to reach $7.5 billion by 2025.[6]

In a recent position paper, the Society for Nutrition Education and Behavior underscored the significance of teaching that dietary choices have environmental impact, and that long-term sustainability of food affects the long-term nutritional health of a population.[7]  Similarly, authors of the 2019 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Report highlighted the numerous environmental and health benefits of a plant-based diet. [8]

Establishing Soyfoods as Part of a Healthy Eating Pattern

According to the World Health Organization, childhood obesity is associated with a wide range of serious health complications and an increased risk of premature onset of illnesses like diabetes and heart disease.Globally, from 1990 to 2016, the number of overweight or obese infants and young children (up to five years old) increased from 30 million to 41 million.[9]  In the U.S., obesity affects 18.5 percent of children and adolescents (ages two to 19).[10]

In light of these facts, eating patterns and snacking habits take on greater importance. In many countries, snacking is common in children. For example, one study analyzing snacking patterns of children in Australia, China, Mexico, and the U.S. found that snacking in Australia and the U.S. provided one-third and one-quarter of total energy intakes, respectively.[11]

Soyfoods such as edamame and soynuts are especially good snack choices for teens because soy is cholesterol-free, low in saturated fatsand is a complete protein offering all of the essential amino acids in the proper amounts needed for healthy growth. A study published in The Journal of Nutritionfound that consuming protein-rich afternoon snacks containing soy protein led to a reduction in appetite, a delay in subsequent eating, and an improved overall diet quality compared to other snack options.[12]

[1]Hexa Research, 2019. Soy Food Market Size and Forecast by Product (Milk, Oil, Other, By Application and Trend analysis, 2015 – 2025.

[2]Hexa Research, 2019. Soy Food Market Size and Forecast by Product (Milk, Oil, Other, By Application and Trend analysis, 2015 – 2025.

[3]Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev 18:1050, 2009.

[4]Proc Amer Assoc Cancer Res, Volme 47, 2006.

[5] College & University: A SNAP! Keynote.

[6]Research & Markets, 2018. Meat Substitute Market by Product Type, Source Category—Global Opportunity Analysis and Industry Forecast 2018-2025.

[7]J Nutr Educ Behav 51: 315, 2019

[8]Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, 2019. “Executive Summary, 1: 1-2”



[11]Nutrients. 2018 Feb; 10(2): 198.

[12]J Nutr. 2015 Jul;145(7):1614-22. “Protein Snacks Improve Appetite and Diet Quality in Teens.”