Health awareness boosting soy food consumption

By Caroline Scott-Thomas

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Soybean, Soy milk, Tofu

Aging populations are driving growth in the global market for soy foods, as more people turn to soy for its health benefits, according to a new report from Global Industry Analysts, Inc. (GIA).

The report, entitled "Soy Foods: A Global Strategic Business Report”​, said that the global market could be worth $42.3bn a year by 2015. Whole soy foods, such as soy milk, tofu and meat analogues, represent the biggest market segment. However, the soy ingredients sector, including protein ingredients used in cereal bars and fortified drinks, is expected to register strong compounded annual growth, forecast at 3.4 percent to 2015, GIA said.

According to figures from the Soy Foods Association of North America, the soy foods market was worth $4.5bn in 2009 in the United States alone, as food manufacturers introduced a range of innovative soy-based products to the market.

“Formerly, soy products found in retail stores were limited to tofu, bitter-tasting soymilk and poorly textured meat analogues,” ​GIA said. “With advanced technology, development of tasty soy products has become easier. Several types of tasty soy beverages and snacks continue to hit the market every year.”

Soy foods were also given a significant boost in the US in 1999, when the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved a health claim linking soy foods with heart disease risk reduction. As well as heart benefits, soy has also been linked to a positive effect on bone health, menopause symptoms and cancer.

The US is the second largest market for soy foods, behind the Asia-Pacific region, and the GIA report said that emerging economies in Latin America are likely to drive further growth in the global market as soy foods have begun to enter the mainstream.

“Even in developing markets, soy foods have found a place in the mainstream market and are provided as packaged foods in several varieties,”​ the market research firm said. “The shift of soy foods from small-sized natural food outlets to mainstream markets in developing countries could be attributed to market liberalization and improved supply network.”

GIA said that the latest trend is to target women with combinations of soy, and herbal, vitamin and mineral supplement ingredients for hormonal conditions.

“Companies are increasingly turning towards soy products addressing women health​,” the researchers said. “Several soy supplement manufacturers introduced unique formulations, including breakfast cereals and bars marketed as rich sources of soy protein.”

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