The current high-protein craze in the US food and beverage market is driving continued demand for soy-ingredients, with particular growth opportunities in sports nutrition, food for kids, and weight management, says one leading supplier.
While some market researchers have pointed to lackluster sales of soy milks/desserts as evidence that consumers are ‘bored’ of soy (almond milk is sexier), worried about GMOs, or concerned about soy’s impact on hormones, DuPont's soy protein business is growing nicely, says the firm.
Speaking to FoodNavigator-USA as part of our Nuts, Pulses & Legumes special edition, Annette Higgins, Director of Strategy and Business Development for protein solutions at DuPont Nutrition & Health, said:
“In dairy alternatives [plant-based milks, desserts etc] category, I think it’s just the case that there is so much more choice now [soy milk has to compete with almond/rice/coconut/hemp/oat milk], but when you look at the options for formulators that want to add protein to bars, beverages, cereals and snacks, soy remains very attractive.
“In the early years there was a lot of focus on soy in meat products and meat-alternatives, but today we’re also seeing exciting growth opportunities in sports nutrition bars and beverages - where customers like to blend proteins; bars, snacks and breakfast cereals for children; and weight management products.”
While rival plant-based proteins such as pea and rice have had a lot of positive PR in recent weeks, soy is a more complete protein, comes with an FDA-backed heart health claim and is “incredibly versatile”, added Higgins.
“It’s also more reliable and predictable from a pricing perspective than other proteins, where there is a lot of volatility.”
75% of consumers regard soy as healthy
Meanwhile, significant technical strides have enabled firms to include higher-than-ever levels of soy protein in bars and beverages (flagging up protein grams on front of pack was a hot trend at Expo West) without compromising taste or texture, which can be a challenge with some proteins, she said.
“The texture of soy proteins used in meat alternatives is very different today vs 15-20 years ago. On taste, which is key, we have also made big advances. We do a lot of consumer testing and we’ve got a trained sensory panel in St Louis that has helped ensure we deliver on taste expectations.
“We’ve also spent years developing tailored products that target specific applications, so we can help customers include soy protein in everything from juices to breakfast cereals. We have incredible depth and diversity in our portfolio.”
As for attitudes to soy, a recent survey of 1,000 adults commissioned by DuPont showed that 72% of consumers were positive or neutral about soy, with that figure rising to 74% among Millennials, she said. Meanwhile, a 2013 United Soybean Board survey showed that 75% of consumers regard soy as healthy, she added.
We have not seen an increase in customer requests for Non GMO soy ingredients
So what about GMOs?
While DuPont offers non-GMO soy options, it has not seen a surge in demand for them despite all the recent media attention, claimed Higgins.
“We have not seen an increase in customer requests for Non GMO soy ingredients [but] DuPont will continue to offer a choice of both Non-GMO and GMO soy ingredients to customers to provide the best solution to meet their needs.”