The story of soy is one of great success. The humble bean can be processed into an array of high-protein ingredients that can be used to create delicious and nutritious foods that look, taste, feel, and smell like traditional animal-based meat and dairy products.
Currently the most developed plant-based protein segment, the soy protein ingredients sector was worth an estimated US$7.7 billion in 2022. By 2027, it is projected to hit a significant US$10.8 billion, recording a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 7%.
While soy has seen experienced a number of victories and is predicted to see more, the mighty bean is on the receiving end of some negative information, leading to a growing number of consumers avoiding products that contain soy ingredients.
In the latest New Food Hub article, ProVeg International dives into the global soy industry to investigate some of the most common misconceptions around soy. The article shares key insights to enable producers of soy protein products to address consumer concerns about soy ingredients and maximise sales.
Mitigate soy health concerns
One of the most damaging consumer misconceptions is that ‘soy is bad for health’.
- Health is a hot topic in the plant-based food scene. Often, new consumers to the space are concerned about whether processed plant foods are healthy or not. This is worsened by the fact that many consumer opinions of soy are formed on health-related issues linked to people close to them, like allergies.
- It’s important to communicate that, while soy allergies are very real (and consumers with soy allergies should avoid soy foods!), unless you have a soy allergy or intolerance, you should not experience any adverse side effects from eating it.
- In fact, when consumed as part of a balanced diet, soy can be great for health, being high in both protein and fibre. Soy beans are also low in fat, good for heart health, contain all nine essential amino acids (complete protein), and are highly digestible. When it comes to the protein quality of different foods measured by the PDCAAS (Protein Digestibility Corrected Amino Acid Score), soy protein is equivalent to egg, milk, casein, and whey proteins.
- Data backs up health claims, with scientists finding that soy is rich in isoflavones and nutrients, including B vitamins, potassium, and magnesium, and can provide many health benefits when eaten in place of red meat. Plus, soy protein, high in fibre, has the ability to help consumers feel ‘full’, appealing to consumers who are concerned about weight control.
- Currently, satiety is the second most desirable attribute for functional foods (functional foods being those that provide more than simple nutrition; they supply additional physiological benefits to the consumer, like energy, cell-damage reduction, and satiety).
- Promisingly, there are many consumers who view soy protein as health-boosting – with 70% of participants in a study agreeing with the statement that ‘soy milk is a healthy food’.
Ultimately, it’s important to highlight soy’s health benefits on product packaging and websites. Studies show that consumers regard soy products that are labelled clearly with healthful claims more positively than those without.
Highlighting soy’s benefits and making information on the protein accessible, is something that plant-based meat brand, Heura, does very well. Heura’s Regulatory & Nutrition Manager, Jonathan Sliney, explains: “We believe in empowering consumers through information. Whenever we sense concerns regarding our ingredients or manufacturing processes, we clear things up with data-based studies. In the case of soy, we make sure to highlight that studies show how complete, high-biological-value plant-based protein sources are not inferior but superior to animal-sourced protein.”
When using soy in your plant-based products, address health concerns by:
- Using your website, social media platform(s), and marketing resources to improve soy’s image and educate consumers on its preparation.
- Highlighting the nutritive values and health benefits of soy ingredients on your product packaging and on your brand’s website.
Learn how to address other consumer perceptions of soy by reading the New Food Hub’s full article. For more information on product formulation and strategy, get in touch with ProVeg at [email protected].