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Will Demand for Soy Foods and Soybean Oil Rise With Inflation?

By Linda Funk

Soy foods might prove to be a bright spot in this era of rising food prices and concerns about how climate change may affect the global food supply. As the world faces dual challenges to feed a growing population, soybeans offer the highest protein yield per hectare.

The surge of plant-based

Even though consumer priorities are evolving, U.S. Soy remains relevant. Soy foods are already a staple in Asian cuisines, and are now riding the crest of the burgeoning demand for plant-based foods. Reportedly, 42% of U.S. shoppers are making an effort to select plant-based foods or beverages.Between 2015 and 2021, the number of new packaged consumer goods with a plant-based claim grew by nearly 700%.

In Latin America and Asia, the environment is a top purchase driver for those whose financial circumstances allow them to choose sustainable and ethical products.

In the U.S., 72% of Gen Z consumers (18 to 24 years of age) follow eating patterns such as clean eating, mindful eating or a plant-centric diet. This group defines wholesome food as being a good source of nutrients (35%), fresh (34%) and food that contains fruits or vegetables (30%), with soy foods such as edamame—a plant protein often presented as a vegetable— addressing these preferences. Additionally, soy protein and soybean oil are ingredients in many of today’s newly introduced plant-based fish and chicken products.

Soybean oil’s staying power

Soybean oil is an all-purpose ingredient that helps home cooks and foodservice professionals control their food costs by cross-utilization. Soybean oil can be used for everything from baking to sautéing and frying, or as an ingredient in dressings, soups and sauces. 

Europe was the leading regional market for air fryers in 2018 and  is estimated to remain dominant through 2025, due to increasing health consciousness and high product demand. Asia Pacific is expected to expand at the fastest CAGR (compound annual growth rate) of 8.7% from 2019 to 2025.

Soy-friendly opportunities

The soy foods diet-and-nutrition connection is poised to strengthen as consumers become increasingly aware of research about potential health benefits of soy. In China, for example, 68% of adults agree that plant-based foods can help reduce the risks of high cholesterol, high blood pressure and high blood sugar.

Protein represents a key opportunity for plant-based products, yet another factor that favors soy foods. U.S. Soy is distinguished by its high-quality protein.

Of the top 10 new food and beverage product launches in 2021, eight were beverages. The top two food products were plant-based burgers made with soy protein concentrate, and a line of frozen convenience meals with global flavors, targeting consumers who follow low carb, high protein, meatless or gluten-free lifestyles. One of the high protein meals is a Korean-inspired bowl with beef and edamame, an example of soy’s compatibility with animal proteins.


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