Soy suits 'healthier eating' trend

Articles
September 14, 2010

Soy suits 'healthier eating' trend

Rising consumer perception of soy foods as 'healthy' could drive more frequent purchase and consumption of soymilk, edamame, plain white tofu, yogurt and other products containing soy or soybean oil.

Rising consumer perception of soy foods as 'healthy' could drive more frequent purchase and consumption of soymilk, edamame, plain white tofu, yogurt and other products containing soy or soybean oil.

The context: Some 86% of Americans are concerned about the nutritional content of foods they eat; 93% weigh nutrition in their grocery purchases; and 91% read the Nutrition Facts Panel on packages when deciding what to buy, according to findings of the 17th Annual Consumer Attitudes About Nutrition survey released by the United Soybean Board (USB). These motivated 'health purchasers' also believe soy has heart-healthy properties (84%) and other benefits, the study suggests.

Could retailers and soy foods manufacturers leverage this interest and charge a price premium today? They are less able to do this than at anytime since 2006, the data show. Just 53% of consumers surveyed said they were willing to pay more for healthier versions of food, down from 60% in 2007, 56% in 2008 and 54% in 2009, noted the online poll of 1,005 respondents conducted in February and released this summer. Nearly half (46%) said, "they'd like to, but can't afford it."

However, retailers and CPG could amp up the association between soy and its perceived health benefits in merchandising and messaging to help stimulate demand for a range of products, believes F3. Consumers most often associate soy with being heart-healthy, low-fat, a protein source, cholesterol-lowering and good for you, the USB study shows.

One consumer in three (31%) is aware of the FDA-approved health claim - that consuming 25 grams of soy protein daily reduces the risk of coronary artery disease - and 45% believe it. This latter figure has held steady the past four years, said the USB report.

On consumers' list of 'healthiest cooking oils' are olive oil (89%), flaxseed oil (72%), canola oil (70%) and soybean oil (69%). Soybean oil, which is commonly termed as vegetable oil, trails only olive oil in frequency of use, said 72% of respondents.

Looking ahead to the marketplace presence of biotech soybeans, Lisa Kelly, MPH, RD for the USB, said, "High-oleic, low-saturate and increased omega-3 traits will soon be available to food companies for better-for-you product formulation. The resulting benefits for the consumer could potentially increase Americans' appreciation for heart-healthy soybean oil even further."

Among survey respondents familiar with agricultural biotechnology, one-quarter are aware of the greater vitamin and mineral content accruing from the process, and half view the role of biotech in food production 'very to somewhat positively,' the study said.

Some 37% of Americans consume soyfoods or soy beverages at least once a month, up five points from the 2006-2008 period.

With the exception of soymilk (90% consumer awareness), soy foods have some distance to go before they are on everyone's minds. Rounding the Top Ten soy products in consumer awareness are: soybean oil (56%), plain white tofu (56%), soy vefgie burger (54%), soynuts (40%), soy protein bars (37%), soy infant formula (36%), soy latte/soymilk in espresso drinks (36%), edamame (34%) and dried or canned soybeans (33%).