Soyfoods Suit Dieters’ Attitudes

The U.S. Soybean Export Council (USSEC) tracks trends that may represent global market opportunities for U.S.-grown soy. As evolving consumer priorities elevate health and wellness, soyfoods are currently well-positioned to respond to the changing food preferences and shopping behavior of global consumers.

March is National Nutrition Month in the U.S.—a time to focus on what we eat and why. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics sponsors the month-long observation in addition to providing consumers with year-round tips for making good decisions about their food. This year’s Nutrition Month is an especially timely event, one year after the onset of the global pandemic turned worldwide consumer attention to health. Approximately 51% of consumers indicate they are concerned about having been less active or gaining weight during the pandemic.[1]  U.S.-grown soy provides dietary options that help address consumer concerns such as wellness, weight management and proactive eating.

For example, a few suggestions from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics include varying one’s protein choices by eating more legumes, including soyfoods, and also choosing low-fat or fat-free dairy products or calcium-fortified plant-based alternatives.[2] Practical ideas for making nutrient-rich dietary choices include adding fat-free dairy milk or calcium-fortified soymilk to oatmeal is another example.[3] The 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans include soy beverages (i.e., soymilk) and soy yogurt as part of the dairy group because they are similar to milk and yogurt in nutrient composition and the way they are used in meals.[4]

Shifting Diet Attitudes

Pre-pandemic, more than half of consumers considered maintaining a healthy weight to be a part of the definition of good health.[5] According to the World Health Organization (WHO), worldwide obesity has nearly tripled since 1975.[6] In 2016, more than 1.9 billion adults were overweight, with 650 million being obese.[7] WHO defines overweight adults as those with a BMI equal to or greater than 25, and obese adults as having a BMI equal to or greater than 30.[8] Currently the top motivators affecting consumer dietary choices are weight loss, feeling better and having more energy, improving physical appearance, protecting long term health, and preventing weight gain.[9]

Tapping into the Weight Management Mindset

Individuals with diabetes, hypertension and cardiovascular disease may be taking a new look at functional foods and beverages that support metabolic wellness and healthy weight management.[10]

The attributes of soyfoods such as tofu may also appeal to informed consumers who are on weight loss diets. For example, WW International (formerly Weight Watchers) includes tofu as one of the proteins on its list of 200 ZeroPoint™ foods that do not need to be tracked or measured. Among other proteins on the list are choices such as fish, eggs, skinless chicken breast and skinless turkey breast, although no food is off-limits.[11] WW, with more than 4.6 million members worldwide,[12] recently tied for first place with the flexitarian diet for Best Weight Loss Diet, and was rated as the top (first place) Best Commercial Diet Plan.[13] It is important, however, to choose a diet plan that fits best with your lifestyle.

Eating Proactively is on the Rise

In 2020, 43% of Americans said they followed a specific diet or eating pattern within the past year, an increase from 38% in 2019.[14] Global consumers are becoming attuned to proactive eating that takes health into consideration. Approximately 31% of consumers report purchasing more items tailored for their health, and 50% have reported a preference for foods and beverages that naturally contain beneficial ingredients.[15]

This desire to influence health and wellness through foods and beverages is creating new opportunities for nutrient-dense products offering functional health benefits such as immune system support or sustaining energy.[16] Consumers choose foods with beneficial nutrients such as vitamins, minerals, lean protein, fiber and healthy fats. Various soyfoods offer some of today’s sought-after nutrients, including protein, probiotics, antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids.[17]

In addition, plant-based options like soyfoods are well-positioned for the future. More than four in 10 consumers (43%) say they would assume that a product described as “plant- based” would be healthier than one that is not, even if it had the same Nutrition Facts label.[18] Soy is a unique vegetable protein source compared to other legumes because of its combination of high protein content and lower carbohydrate content.[19] Tofu, edamame, soymilk and canned soybeans are convenient product choices for consumers who are looking for simple ways to incorporate more plant-based foods into their diet.



[1] ADM “Emerging Consumer Behavior Shifts: Six Ways Food & Beverage Innovation is Evolving in the Face of COVID-19,” August 27, 2020.–Beverage-Innovation-Is-Evolving-in-the-Face-of-COVID-19/default.aspx

[2] Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, “Forget Low-Fat and Low-Sugar, Concentrate on a Healthy Eating Pattern,” Sept. 3, 2020.

[3] Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, “Tips for Choosing a Nutrient Rich Diet,” April 26, 2020.

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

[5] Euromonitor International Health and Nutrition Survey, fielded February 2020.

[6] World Health Organization, Fact Sheet, “Obesity and Overweight”,  April 1, 2020.

[7] World Health Organization, Fact Sheet, “Obesity and Overweight”,  April 1, 2020.

[8] World Health Organization, Fact Sheet, “Obesity and Overweight”,  April 1, 2020.

[9] International Food Information Council, 2020 Food & Health Survey.

[10] ADM “Emerging Consumer Behavior Shifts: Six Ways Food & Beverage Innovation is Evolving in the Face of COVID-19,” August 27, 2020.

[11] WW International,

[12] Weight Watchers Reimagined, “Wellness/  Evolution and history of WW  program.” 2019.

[13] U.S. News & World Report, “Best Weight Loss Diets Expertly Reviewed,” 2021.

[14] International Food Information Council, 2020 Food & Health Survey.

[15] Archer Daniels Midland, ADM, “Top 5 Global Food Trends 2021.”

[16] Archer Daniels Midland, ADM, “Top 5 Global Food Trends 2021.”

[17] International Food Information Council, Consumer Survey: Nutrient Density and Health, August, 20, 2020.

[18] International Food Information Council, 2020 Food & Health Survey.

[19] Nutrients, “Soy, Soy Foods and Their Role in Vegetarian Diets,” January 10, 2018.

Linda Funk


Flavorful Insight

Linda Funk has more than 30 years’ experience with large food and beverage manufacturers and commodity associations, assisting clients in telling their stories.