L-Star, a non-GMO "naturally deodorized" soybean variety, was developed by the National Agricultural Research Organization in Japan through a conventional breeding program.
The new variety is free from lipoxygenase, the enzyme that produces the 'off-flavor' in some soy products, said food scientists at the University of Georgia (UGA) who are currently developing a number of products using L-Star.
"With L-Star, consumers can get the health benefits of soybeans' polyunsaturated fatty acids in better-tasting products. Until now, it's been good for the heart, bad for the taste buds," said UGA scientist Dick Phillips.
The new bean, which claims to be the only one of its kind currently set for use in the US food industry, is licensed exclusively to the American Soy and Tofu Company (ASTC) and the Georgia/Florida Soybean Association, a policy organization representing soybean growers.
"L-Star does not have to go through a harsh deodorization process to remove the 'beany' taste," said ASTC manager Nicole Phelps.
"That makes it much healthier as the bean is not robbed of its nutrients through processing. The variety also contains three times the vitamin E levels of traditional soybeans," she told FoodNavigator-USA.com.
The UGA scientists, led by Yen-Con Hung, have been working together with the ASTC to develop a number of products using L-Star, starting with a whole bean soymilk.
Traditional soymilk is made by grinding soaked soybeans with water and then filtering out solid and insoluble materials, said Hung. The new L-Star soymilk is made by grinding the soybeans with water and not filtering out the solids.
Sensory tests conducted on the product revealed that consumers found it to be of equal quality to soymilk currently available on the market. The color, appearance and taste were also well accepted, said the scientists.
"It's also a whole-bean product, so consumers get the nutritional and health-related benefits from consuming whole beans versus only the soluble part of the soybeans," said Hung.
Hung and his team are currently working on developing tofu and instant soymilk using L-Star.
In the meantime, the ASTC is working in partnership with a number of companies to develop soy rice, pasta and bread products.
"We can basically use L-Star soy flour to make anything normally made with wheat flour, such as donuts and cakes," said Phelps. The soy flour bread currently in development will contain little or no wheat flour, making it ideal for consumers trying to limit their carb intake, she added.
The ASTC said it is already in negotiations with several large corporations to share the technology and information on L-Star.
Phelps expects the first products made with the new soybean variety to hit the US market within the next year.
L-Star is particularly suited to the climate in the southern US, where annual production and harvest are expected to exceed 100 million bushels (three million tons) by 2012.
Demand for soy products has increased dramatically in recent years, following a growing awareness amongst consumers that the product is high in fiber, protein and minerals yet low in saturated fat and free of cholesterol.
Indeed, in 1999 the FDA approved an unqualified health claim linking consumption of soy foods to a reduced risk of coronary heart disease. According to a 2000 report in FDA Consumer, consumption of soy foods increased 20 percent per year since 1995 and the approval of this claim led to surging interest.
And according to market researcher The Freedonia Group, new research and the approval of health claims will contribute to 5.1 percent annual growth in demand for soy in the US over the next five years, with overall demand for soy products set to reach $8.65 billion by the end of the decade, compared to $6.75 billion in 2004.
For more information on L-Star, go to www.l-starsoy.com