WISHH Perspectives

What’s the Latest Global Update on Soymilk and Plant-Based Dairy Products?

Linda Funk, Flavorful Insight  • Jan 5, 2022

Is the glass half-empty or half-full for soymilk in this era of plant-based dairy products? A decade or so ago, few could have predicted that a traditional dairy alternative like soymilk would find itself in a crowded plant-based milk market. In fact, plant-based dairy products continue to proliferate and have broadened beyond the soymilk tradition to include products made of other bases—including beverage products, creamers, yogurts and cheese.[1] In the U.S., milk remains the top beverage category consumed in an average week, ahead of soft drinks, juice, bottled water and energy drinks.[2] On an indexed basis, between 2015 and 2019, consumption of dairy alternative beverages rose 60% worldwide and nondairy spoonable yogurts doubled.[3]

Here’s what consumers of dairy alternative are looking for, and how soymilk made from U.S.-grown soy continues to meet their needs on so many levels.

The Wellness Connection

Consumers of plant-based food and drinks tend to support issues such as health, sustainability and ethical concerns.[4] In 2021, one in four Americans said they were eating more plant protein than they did in 2020.  In addition, almost three-quarters of Americans are confident in their ability to choose healthy foods.[5] In the world of plant-based milks, soymilk answers the needs of those looking for high-quality plant protein. When compared to other plant-based milks, soymilk typically has more protein, offering approximately 7 grams per one-cup serving.[6]

Dairy and nondairy yogurts—with the healthy halo of being a fermented food— are expected to exceed a global market value of $100 billion for the first time.[7] Traditional yogurt is an ancient food, believed to have been consumed for thousands of years. Soymilk yogurt is not a recent arrival on the scene, either. Commercially made soymilk-based nondairy yogurt has been available for at least a century, both in Europe and in the U.S.[8]  Within the past year, consumers in India have increased their nondairy yogurt consumption by 40%.[9]

The Convenience Quotient

Soymilk seems poised to connect with global industries like e-commerce. From 2020 to 2025, more than half the absolute value growth of the global retail sector is projected to be digital.[10] In fact, by 2025 the absolute value growth for the global retail sector is expected to reach $1.4 trillion.[11] Consumers can conveniently order shelf-stable soymilk to keep on hand as an affordable beverage and an ingredient for cooking. In addition, soymilk in aseptic packaging is available in sizes ranging from 8-ounce single serving cartons to 32-ounce and 64-ounce cartons and can be delivered right to the front door. Traditional soymilk has two ingredients—soybeans and water—so do-it-yourselfers can even order their own soymilk making machines online.

A Desirable Pedigree

Sustainability is a trend that continues to gather momentum worldwide, along with increasing interest in more sustainable protein crops.[12] Environmental factors have grown more important to an average of 21% of consumers globally. Research suggests that interest levels in sustainability are highest in Latin American and Asian emerging markets.[13] Growing soybeans has been found to be the most environmentally favorable way to produce protein, based on soy’s efficiency in delivering protein, and the amount of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions per gram of protein.[14]

When it comes to plant-based milk, fortified soy beverages (along with soy yogurt) are the only nondairy milk included as part of the dairy group in the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.  The Guidelines note that fortified soy beverages and soy yogurt are similar to milk and yogurt in nutrient composition, and in the way they are used in meals.[15]

The nutrition profile and traceability of U.S.-grown soy can help consumers make informed decisions about the food and beverage products they choose. U.S. Soy’s farming practices and the U.S. Soy Sustainability Assurance Protocol (SSAP)[16]  support the global United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.[17] These goals, in turn, help food and beverage companies develop strategies for sustainability planning. Consumers who expect food transparency want clear, accurate and useful food-related information from everyone to growers, producers and those who sell food products.[18] Additionally, 26% of global consumers look for the country of origin on food and drink labels.[19]

Soymilk maintains advantages in today’s competitive nondairy milk market where nutrition,

convenience, sustainability and transparency all come into play.

This article was (partially) funded by the United Soybean Board.

[1] Innova Market Insights. Plant-Based Spotlight on Dairy Alternatives, 2021.


[2] Nielsen. Fast Facts: Eat, Drink & Be Merry: Cold Drinks. December 2021. https://view.nielsen-email.com/?qs=b6a6539c344df197b66690b3d053df3f50ca6137dbf9c63942967fd5fff60b0dbb141ed4da780f69e6fdca6a3da3dda1debc064264c9ba7d711623cb4007ab3be93c31efaf6e711eb976f317b6925185b51d256ceab95b8d

[3] Innova Market Insights. Plant-Based Spotlight.

[4] Innova Market Insights. Plant-Based Spotlight.

[5] International Food Information Council, 2021 Food and Health Survey.

[6] USDA Food Data Central. https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/1999630/nutrients

[7] Innova Market Insights. Dairy or not, yoghurt set to break the U.S. $100bn mark,” Press Release. December 14, 2021.


[8] Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. History of soy yogurt, soy acidophilus milk and other cultured soymilks (1918 to 2012).



[9] Innova Market Insights. Plant-Based Spotlight on Dairy Alternatives, 2021.

[10] Euromonitor International. Global E-Commerce Market to Expand by $1Trillion by 2025.


[11] Euromonitor International. Global E-Commerce Market to Expand by $1Trillion by 2025.

[12] Innova Market Insights, Plant Forward: Evolving consumer demands drive innovation in plant-based eating. Press Release, September 29, 2021


[13] Innova Market Insights. Planetary health: Consumer concern for sustainability varies around the globe. Press Release. June 16, 2021.


[14] A.D. Gonzales, B. Frostell, A. Carlsson-Kanyama. Protein efficiency per unit energy and per unit greenhouse gas emissions: Potential contribution of diet choices to climate change mitigation. Food Policy 2011; 36:562-70.

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


[16] U.S. Soybean Sustainability Assurance Protocol.” https://ussec.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/20180416-U.S.-Soy-Sustainability-Assurance-Protocol-low-res.pdf. April 2018.

[17] United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs Sustainable Development: The 17 Goals.


[18] IRI Worldwide, “The Rise of Food Transparency,” 2015.


[19] Archer Daniels Midland. Top Five Global Food Trends in 2021.


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