Soy beverage market depends on taste, consultancy

By Jess Halliday

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Soy, Nutrition

Volumes of soy beverages consumed in North America, Western Europe
and Japan have more than doubled since 2002, according to Zenith
International, but further growth will be stirred only if
manufacturers rise to the taste challenge.

In its new 2007 Zenith Report on Soy Beverages, the consultancy said consumption was 1,188 m litres in 2006, with a retail value of €3.3bn. It predicts growth to 1,900 litres and €5.35m by 2011. But the analysts say that if soy is to be a mainstay of the beverage market - the direction in which it has been moving in recent years - the consultants say that work remains to meet consumer taste expectations. Soy has long enjoyed a reputation as a healthy food, and technological advances in the last 15 years have helped it shrug off the reputation of soy milk as a product with a beany taste and rubbery texture that only die-hard healthy eaters will stomach. Although more and more people are motivated by healthy eating these days, taste remains paramount in luring in consumers and securing repeat buys. "Increasing numbers of consumers are drawn to the health appeal of soy,"​ said Zenith director Gary Roethenbaugh. "With increased availability through major supermarkets and strong innovation by some of the major drinks manufacturers, soy beverages are finding their way into the shopping trolleys of the mainstream consumer."​ One particular area that Roethenbaugh expects to do well is in soy and fruit combinations - and he said that the lines are blurring between soy, dairy and fruit beverages. This means that careful product positioning will become more important. New technologies that can help companies develop soy products to meet consumers' exacting demands include plant breeding, soy processing, microfiltration and filling and filling techniques. One factor that may have a negative effect on the market, however, is the entry into force of new health claims. Soy has been extensively studied for several aspects of human health, including heart health, cancer risk, and helping alleviate menopause symptoms. But science is always subjective, and health claims can be hard to definitely prove. What is more, in Europe there is considerable consumer resistance to genetic modification - and the majority of the world's soy crops are now genetically modified. The markets of North America, Western Europe and Japan are the largest for health food, but Zenith anticipates that more opportunities are likely to open up in South East Asia, as obesity starts to take a toll on people's health - as has happened in other parts of the world.

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