Eric Wenberg, Executive Director of the Specialty Soya and Special Grains Alliance joined Tony Andrew, global business unit leader of International Flavors and Fragrances on stage during the 2021 U.S. Soy Global Trade Exchange held in St. Louis. (Photo credit: Joseph Hopper/Iowa Soybean Association)

GTE 2021: Soy’s nutritional role grows

September 9, 2021 | Joseph Hopper

During the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, trends and taste in food for many Americans shifted. Demand for animal protein-based foods exploded, and demand for plant protein-based foods also saw an uptick according to a group of food industry professionals leading the U.S. Soy Global Trade Exchange and Specialty Grains Conference’s Future of Food panel.

When consumers shop for either type of protein at the grocery store, soybeans likely had a role to play. In a recent consumer study, 57% of global consumers indicated an interest in trying foods and beverages with soy protein, according to Tony Andrew, global business unit leader and protein solutions at International Flavors and Fragrances. Andrew told the GTE audience — both watching online and in person — that interest in plant-centric food is due to perceived health and sustainability benefits.

These trends typically start in North America, Andrew says, then are ‘exported’ to other markets.

“We see customers in Asia and other parts of the world that adopt or look to capture trends they see catching fire with consumers and then using those in their own markets,” he said.

Soy’s long history as a safe protein source in baby formula should eliminate nutritional myths, Andrew said.

The increased interest in soy-based or plant-based protein didn’t just translate to fads and new products. Tofu, one of the longtime soy-based staples originated in Japan, also rode the wave. Jon Tanaka, senior project manager at Morinaga Nutritional Foods, said sales for tofu have grown by 40% since 2019. He says innovation will continue to evolve quickly to meet the changing palettes of customers.

“Using American soybeans, we’re able to export tofu all throughout the world,” Tanaka says.

He expects the use of soy products to grow in the food sector not just as a finished product like tofu but also as an ingredient.

Looking at where soybeans stand in the global plant protein market, Andrew told the GTE attendees soy’s growth and relevance in the market are ensured due to key advantages it has over other plant protein competitors, such as its level of availability and the maturity of the global soy supply chain.

“You find soy in everything,” Andrew says.


Look for more in-depth coverage of this year’s U.S. Soy Global Trade Exchange in the October edition of the Iowa Soybean Review.