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

Soyfoods on the Childhood Nutrition Landscape

In this era of rising interest in plant proteins, soy-based products can serve as nutritionally equivalent alternatives to meat and dairy. Soyfoods are cholesterol-free and have minimal amounts of saturated fat[3], in addition to being complete plant proteins offering all of the essential amino acids in the amounts needed for healthy growth. Choose from the wide variety of plentiful and affordable options, including steamed edamame (1 g saturated fat), soymilk (0 g saturated fat),  soynuts (1 g saturated fat)  and other convenient snacks.

Soy-based formulas also continue to maintain a presence in the market. Sloan notes, “The global infant formula market—of which soy is a major ingredient—is projected to grow from $24 billion in 2018, to $45.3 billionby 2025.[4]Infant formula is the largest and fastest growing packaged food product in the world.Follow-on toddler milks [transition formulas] are also fast approaching double digit growth as the massive global millennial generation—the children of the baby boomers—begins starting families of their own.”[5]

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), isolated soy protein-based infant formulas are a safe and nutritionally equivalent alternative to cow’s milk based formulas for term infants whose needs aren’t met by breast milk.[6]In the U.S., soy protein-based infant formulas account for at least 20 percent of the formula market.[7] 

Soyfoods Can Feed School Children

An increasing awareness of the connection between nutrition and health has amplified the importance of choosing nutrient-dense foods and high-quality protein, such as soy, for children’s menus. For example, one serving of soymilk provides an average of 7 to 8 grams of protein. Some calcium-fortified brands of soymilk also provide 50% more calcium than dairy milk.

In fact, soymilk is a recognized dairy alternative. According to the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, jointly published by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, “Soy beverages fortified with calcium, vitamin A, and vitamin D are included as part of the dairy group because they are similar to milk, based on nutrient composition and in their use in meals.”[8] Similarly, the U.S. Department of Agriculture approved tempeh for school lunch programs in 2019, crediting one ounce of tempeh as a one-ounce equivalent of meat alternative.[9]  Tempeh (fermented soybean cake) is a versatile meat alternative for salads, sandwiches and stir-fry dishes.