Enhanced soybeans to meet health demands

By Sarah Hills

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Soybean oil Fatty acid Soybean Nutrition Us

A growing variety of enhanced soybeans and soybean oils becoming
available to food manufactures could increase consumer demand for
soy products, according to a new study.

The number of consumers who have tried soy products has more than doubled in the last decade to 40 percent and more than a third seek out soy products for health reasons, the United Soybean Board's 15th annual report showed. The report, called Consumer Attitudes About Nutrition: Insights Into Nutrition, Health & Soyfoods, also stated that in the last ten years an increasing range of products have entered the marketplace offering consumers more options and occasions for consuming soy. And when it comes to cooking oil, the USB said: "Consumers are becoming increasingly aware of enhanced soybean varieties. This number may grow as more companies like Kellogg and KFC switch to enhanced soybean oils for improved product functionality, health and nutrition." ​ It added that over the coming years, additional varieties of enhanced soybeans and soybean oil will be available to food companies for product formulation, "potentially influencing this trend of increased consumer awareness". Improved health and functionality ​ Examples of this include increased levels of oleic fatty acid which researchers are developing for improved oxidative and flavor stability. This is expected to benefit food manufacturers making products that require high heat during processing because of its "superior resistance to flavor breakdown"​. Products in the pipeline to help meet the growing demand for nutritionally improved oils include a new high oleic soybean oil trait developed by DuPont business Pioneer Hi-Bred as part of the Bunge DuPont Biotech Alliance. This is said to contain at least 80 percent oleic acid, significantly increasing the stability of the oil when used in frying and food processing. Like low linolenic soybean oil, high oleic soybean oil eliminates the need for hydrogenation, resulting in foods with negligible amounts of trans fats. It is on track for 2009 commercial introduction in the United States, pending regulatory approvals. Research is also underway into developing varieties of soybean oil with low saturate content to support cholesterol reduction and improve heart health, according to USB Similarly soybeans and soybean oil serve as the primary sources of omega-3 fatty acids in the US diet and researchers are trying to develop soybeans that have increased omega-3 traits. These are expected to be used as an additive to fortify traditional oils. In the US, 32 percent of Americans consume soy foods or soy beverages once a month or more, which is on a par with 2007, the USB survey showed. Most commonly that is soymilk, soybean oil soy veggie burgers and tofu. In 2008, 85 per cent of consumers rated soy products as healthy, compared to 26 percent in 1997. They also continue to seek out products containing soy for health reasons, at a rate of 35 per cent in 2008, compared to 37 percent in 2007 and 26 per cent in 2001. A growing market ​ A recent report by Packaged Facts found that total retail sales of soy foods and beverages in the US reached an estimated $2.1bn in 2007, up seven percent from the year before. The report covers all foods and beverages that are made entirely from soy - such as soy milk - or that have soy as a primary component - such as meal replacement bars, smoothies or cereal It said sales of soy foods and beverages increased 29 percent between 2003 and 2007, representing a compound annual growth rate of 6.6 percent. The group "conservatively forecast"​ that the market will continue to grow through 2012, to near $3bn.

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