WISHH Perspectives

Global Food Trends Indicate Post COVID-19 Opportunities for U.S.-Grown Soy, Part 2

By: Linda Funk, Flavorful Insight

Dr. A. Elizabeth Sloan, President of Sloan Trends, has identified recent research-based trends that indicate global growth opportunities for soyfoods. Trends covered in Part One include cooking at home, more informed consumers who consider environmental sustainability when making food choices, and the connection between soyfoods and health benefits. “People all over the world are exercising more frequently since COVID-19, and at the same time there are some very new and interesting behaviors and goals,” Sloan says. Opportunities for U.S.-grown soy arise out of several of today’s trends, including those outlined here. Part two of a two-part series.

Edamame, tofu and tempeh tempt nutrient-seeking consumers:

Consumers choose nutrient dense foods primarily to improve and maintain their health with beneficial nutrients that include vitamins, minerals, lean protein, fiber and healthy fats.[1] Approximately 44 percent of those who seek out nutrient-dense foods do so to improve their long-term health.[2] Fiber and protein are the top motivators for consumer food purchases.[3] Tempeh is made using whole soybeans and, depending upon the brand of tempeh, a 3-ounce serving offers approximately 4 g of dietary fiber and 15 g of protein.[4]

Soyfoods offer some of today’s sought-after nutrients, which include protein, probiotics, antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids, among others. For example, edamame and soybean oil can help consumers meet requirements for the omega-3 essential fatty acid, alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). One-half cup of cooked edamame contains .28 grams of ALA and 1 tablespoon of soybean oil provides .923 grams of ALA.[5]

Soy protein keeps pace with the exercise explosion:

“Consumers are looking for new companion products to help boost their energy and manage their weight,” Sloan says. “Exercise as medicine is a hot new global trend. Exercise is being used to help manage and prevent conditions from heart health/cholesterol lowering to low energy to menopause.” Exercise is Medicine® (EIM) was one of the top 10 worldwide fitness trends in 2019—a global health initiative that recognizes fitness professionals as part of the healthcare team.[6] In 2020, EIM moved up to the number six fitness trend slot in North America.[7]

For American consumers, muscle health and strength influence their food choices,[8]  and soy protein is well-positioned to compete in that arena. Worldwide, muscle health is among the benefits that 51 percent of consumers associate with a high protein diet.[9] The key to building and maintaining muscle is a combination of resistance exercise and dietary protein.[10] A recent meta-analysis found similar increases in lean body mass and strength when supplementing with soy protein or animal protein during resistance exercise training.[11]

Soy steps into the sweet spot as a dessert ingredient:

While consumers across the world were following stay-at-home recommendations during the pandemic, many rediscovered their love of baking and sweets. With global stay-at-home orders due to the pandemic, it isn’t surprising that many consumers have rediscovered their love of baking and sweets. In March, sales of baking yeast were up 647 percent over last year, baking powder was up 178 percent and flour sales rose by 155 percent. Also, sales of dairy milk alternatives during the same period were up 85 percent.[12]

The consumer interest in dairy alternatives offers new product opportunities for soy-based desserts and dessert ingredients. Plant-based ice cream alternatives, for example, reported a 5.7 percent growth in 2019.[13] Last year, 441 new desserts and ice cream products featuring soy were introduced globally. Soy-based cheesecakes are among the new dessert offerings on the market. In addition, 2,203 confectionery products with soy ingredients arrived on the market in 2019.[14]

Given their protein and nutrient content as well as their ready availability, U.S.-grown food soybeans are poised to fulfill global demands. Soybean growers and soyfoods producers are equipped to respond to evolving food preferences in a post-pandemic market.

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

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

[3] FMI, 2019.

[4] USDA Food Data Central

[5] USDA Food Data Central

[6] ACSM Health & Fitness Journal, “Worldwide Survey of Fitness Trends for 2019,” Nov./Dec. 2018. Volume 22/Number 6, 10-17.

[7] ASCM, 2020 Top Ten Fitness Trends. https://www.acsm.org/read-research/trending-topics-resource-pages/acsm-fitness-trends

[8] International Food Information Council, 2019, Food and Health Survey.

[9] HealthFocus International, Global Trend Study on Shoppers’ Journey Towards Living and Eating Healthier, 2020.

[10] Am J Clin Nutr 96: 1454, 2012

[11] Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab 28: 674, 2018

[12] Nielsen, 2020.

[13] SPINS, 52 Weeks Ending December 2019, commissioned data.

[14] Innova Market Insights, 2019.

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