The U.S. Soybean Export Council (USSEC) provides its stakeholders with updates on food and health trends that may have a positive impact on the demand for U.S.-grown food soybeans. Currently, soyfoods complement a variety of lifestyle trends that in turn may feed the global demand for high-quality U.S.-grown soy .
Many factors influence consumer decisions about overall diet and ingredient choices. Recently, Dr. A. Elizabeth Sloan, President of Sloan Trends, identified several areas that represent growth opportunities for soyfoods. “In addition to the advantages of soy as a plant protein source, we see emerging areas of interest and concern being voiced by consumers that may represent more opportunities to increase the demand for soy.”
Soyfoods shine when consumers choose ingredients for health-related reasons
Protein and fiber are ingredients that consumers are trying to get more of in their diets. These attributes are among the top motivators for purchase of healthy foods worldwide. Soyfoods such as edamame, canned soybeans and tempeh offer the dual advantages of protein and fiber. For example, one-half cup of shelled edamame provides approximately 9 grams of protein and 4 grams of dietary fiber.
Weight control as a lifestyle is gathering momentum
Soyfoods are a viable food choice for people who want to control their weight, because are soy is satisfying and provides a sense of feeling full. Currently, half of U.S. adult consumers want to lose weight. Approximately 48 percent of consumers in South Korea, Thailand and Australia are buying protein for weight control. In Indonesia, 45 percent of consumers purchase protein such as soyfoods to help control their weight. For 40 percent of consumers, weight management is one of the advantages of eating protein.
Flexitarian eating styles create new opportunities for soy
About one-half of global consumers have flexitarian diets to some degree, meaning that they buy both meat and meat alternatives. In the U.S. flexitarians are now said to account for 37 percent of all buyers of meat.Shifts in the protein market see animal sources of protein sharing space on the global dinner table with plant-based proteins. This trend represents an opportunity for U.S.-grown soy. Approximately 74 percent of U.S. consumers are interested or very interested in protein, and 42 percent interested or very interested in plant protein. From 2018 to 2019, the sales of meat alternatives rose 19.2 percent.
The versatility of soyfoods makes them a convenient choice for omnivores and vegetarians alike. Not only are they simple to incorporate into recipes (think tofu salad dressings or soymilk smoothies), the quality protein content of soy is in line with consumer preferences. Among those who drink non-dairy milk, nearly one-third say that protein would encourage them to consume more of it.
Soymilk addresses the dietary considerations of many consumers who want an alternative to dairy milk. Calcium from calcium-fortified soymilk and calcium-set tofu is absorbed similarly to calcium from cow’s milk. Textured soy protein (TSP) is a versatile soyfood that is expected to make inroads with consumers . It resembles ground beef in texture and can be used in home recipes as a ground meat alternative, as well as an ingredient in meat alternative products. Globally, the textured soy protein market — valued at $1.1 billion in 2018— is projected to reach $2.1 billion by 2026.
Contemporary soy consumers grow more attuned to sustainability
About half of U.S. consumers are more likely to buy items described as sustainable. U.S. soybean farmers currently employ sustainable practices, including reduced tillage, crop rotation and water and nutrient management. By following the U.S. Soy Sustainability Assurance Protocol (SSAP), U.S. farmers have increased their soy production by 96 percent since 1980, while using 8 percent less energy. The SSAP takes a comprehensive approach and verifies sustainable U.S. soybean production on a national scale. The U.S. Department of Agriculture conducts third party audits each year, with agents in more than 2,200 offices in agricultural production areas.
The Society for Nutrition Education and Behavior advises that environmental sustainability should be incorporated into guidance for dietary choices. Soy is an efficiently produced source of protein, in terms of both protein delivery and protein content.
Today’s lifestyle and food attitudes— such as taking health and environmental concerns into consideration when making dietary choices —boost the market outlook for high quality U.S.-grown soy.
 United Soybean Board Plant-based Protein and Soy: A U.S. Consumer Perspective Survey, 2019.
 US Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service. 2016. Nutrient Data Laboratory. USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference.
 The NPD Group, 2020.
 HealthFocus International, Global Trend Study on Shoppers’ Journey towards Living & Eating Healthier, 2020.
 Euromonitor, Global Lifestyle Survey, 2019.
 Nielsen, “The F Word Flexitarian is Not a Curse to the Meat Industry,” July 25, 2019. https://www.nielsen.com/us/en/insights/article/2019/the-f-word-flexitarian-is-not-a-curse-to-the-meat-industry/
 HealthFocus, U.S. Trends Survey, 2019.
 FMI’s 2019 the Power of Meat.
 Mintel’s Plant-based Proteins – US – May 2019.
 J Food Sci 67: 3144, 2002; J Nutr 135: 2379, 2005.
 “Textured Soy Protein Market by Nature (Organic, Conventional, and Non-GMO) and Application (Food & Beverages Industry and Feed Industry): Global Opportunity Analysis and Industry Forecast, 2019-2026.” www.alliedmarketresearch.com/textured-soy-protein-market
 Datassential, The New Healthy Keynote, April 2016.
 “Soil Tillage and Crop Rotation.” https://www.ers.usda.gov/topics/farm-practices-management/crop-livestock-practices/soil-tillage-and-crop-rotation/. United States Department of Agriculture Economic Research Service. April 4, 2017.
 Field to Market: The Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture, 2016. Environmental and Socioeconomic Indicators for Measuring Outcomes of On Farm Agricultural Production in the United States (third edition). ISBN: 978-0-692-81902-9.
 U.S. Soy, U.S. Soy Sustainability Assurance Protocol, April 2018.
 J Nutr Educ Behav 51: 315, 2019
 Gonzalez et al. Food Policy 36 (2011) 562–570
Linda Funk has more than 30 years’ experience with large food and beverage manufacturers and commodity associations, assisting clients in telling their stories.