Joy of Soy
by Pamela Accetta Smith
The popularity of this milk alternative continues to grow — and is not lost on dairy processors.
From humble beginnings to today’s multimillion-dollar industry, the soy foods sector has come a long way.
According to Washington, D.C.-based Soyfoods Association of North America (SANA), early soy foods companies were often small family-run organizations that sold tofu or soymilk door-to-door to small segments of the population. These days, soy foods are in the mainstream, found throughout the United States in restaurants, supermarkets and even your area pizza parlor and coffee shop.
Total sales in the kefir/milk substitute/soymilk category approached $432 million in 2006, according to Chicago-based Information Resources Inc. (IRI), an increase of 7.2 percent over the previous year, with nearly 139 million total units sold.
While soy is seen by some as erosive to dairy’s market share, dairy companies started getting into the act in 2002, when mega processor Dean Foods purchased soymilk maker White Wave and began distributing soymilk nationwide along with its dairy offerings. As companies looked to develop soy foods that appealed to western tastes, SANA reports, advances in processing has allowed for foods to be made from components of soybeans such as soy protein concentrates and isolates.
Technological advances have lead to a wide range of second-generation soy foods that appeal to a variety of consumers across the United States, moving away from the “beany” flavor of soy’s pioneer days.
Consumers seeking non-dairy alternatives will find soymilk, soy-based cheese alternatives, cultured soy and frozen soy products that are free of lactose and milk protein. According to SANA, new food-production technology and new varieties of soybeans have resulted in foods with flavors that rival the taste of those made with cow’s milk.
While the dairy industry continues to promote milk’s inherently healthy pedigree, soy’s proponents do the same with their product’s profile, also leveraging the needs of consumers claiming lactose intolerance or milk allergies.
Soymilk is lactose free and a good source of essential fatty acids. It contains no cholesterol and little or no saturated fat. Soymilk can be a good source of high-quality protein, B vitamins, potassium, iron, dietary fiber and bio-active components, including isoflavones. Many are fortified with calcium, vitamins A and D, riboflavin, zinc, and vitamin B12.
SANA says important bio-active components, found naturally in soybeans, are being studied in relation to relieving menopausal symptoms, such as hot flashes, maintaining healthy bones and preventing prostate, breast and colorectal cancers. The content and profile of bio-active components varies from product to product, depending upon how much soy protein is in the food and how the soy protein is processed.
And soymilk (a name that irks some in the dairy industry) is a healthy, high-quality protein source, SANA says, that contains all essential amino acids needed for growth.
Further, scientists have found that consumption of soy protein can contribute to reducing the risk of heart disease, supporting the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s approval of a health claim stating that 25 grams of soy protein in a daily diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol can help reduce total and LDL (“bad”) cholesterol.
On the flip side, dairy milk naturally contains nutrients like calcium that exist in soymilk only through fortification, which has been known to separate out of soy-based beverages and remain at the bottom of the container rather than be consumed. Additionally, some studies suggest that too much soy can lead to health issues including dementia, thyroid disorders and even cancer due to soy’s isoflavones, which mimic estrogen.
Who’s Who of Soy
Dean’s White Wave Foods Co., Broomfield, Colo., maker of Silk soymilk, is persistent in taking advantage of the demand for soy-based products by continuing to innovate within the category. Silk is the top-selling soymilk brand, according to IRI, with sales in 2006 topping $300 million — an increase of more than 11 percent over the previous year.
“Continuing to innovate is one important way we hope to increase interest in and demand for soymilk, says Doug Radi, Silk’s director of marketing. “For example, we just launched two new varieties of Silk — Silk Plus Fiber and Silk Plus Omega-3 DHA.”
The new line is nutritionally dense, Radi says, combining all the vitamins, minerals and heart-healthy soy protein of Silk, plus added fiber and omega-3 DHA.
“Silk Plus Omega-3 DHA is a great option for those looking to incorporate omega-3 into their daily diet, and is an excellent source of 100 percent vegetarian omega-3 DHA (containing 32 milligrams of DHA per serving),” he says. “DHA is the specific omega-3 most closely linked to a wide range of important health benefits, including heart health, brain function and development, and eye health.
“Silk Plus Fiber provides 5 grams of fiber per 8-ounce serving. Since most Americans consume only about half of their recommended daily fiber intake, Silk Plus Fiber is a smart choice for optimum digestive health and contains as much fiber as a whole apple.”
The company’s Silk Light products — available in Plain, Vanilla and Chocolate, and containing half the fat of regular Silk — continue to show great growth, Radi says.
Also in the dairy community, Londonderry, N.H.-based Stonyfield Farm also dabbles in the soy category. The pre-eminent organic and natural cultured processor has a brand profile that’s well suited to soy alternatives that appeal to its health-conscious, naturally inclined consumer base. Its popular O’Soy cultured soy product has 7 grams of soy protein per 6-ounce serving and is a good source of lactose-free calcium.
Minneapolis-based 8th Continent LLC, the makers of soymilk that is “is not only healthy, but tasty,” produces rich, creamy and slightly sweet soymilk in three flavors — Original, Vanilla and Chocolate. Available in Regular, Light or Fat Free, 8th Continent soymilks provide 6.25 grams of soy protein per serving. And inspired by The Best Life Diet, limited edition 8th Continent Chocolate Strawberry Banana Soymilk Smoothie is only available in grocery stores until May 2007.
8th Continent — the No. 2 soymilk brand, with 2006 sales of $55 million, according to IRI — is owned by General Mills, maker of Yoplait, the top-selling yogurt in the United States.
Meanwhile, South Hackensack, N.J.-based ZenSoy has taken a major step in transforming the soymilk category with its Soy on the Go line of beverages that offer soy and omega-3 fatty acid in convenient single servings. Made from whole, organic soybeans, ZenSoy’s product is shelf stable, 100 percent vegan, free of genetically modified ingredients, certified kosher and certified organic by the USDA.
Developed to offer a next-generation beverage that children will enjoy as much as adults, Soy on the Go is available in Chocolate, Vanilla and Cappuccino flavors. Its delivery of omega-3 DHA provides an important polyunsaturated fat lacking in typical American diets.
“Research supporting the many anti-aging benefits of soy is already here,” says Elizabeth Somer, a registered dietitian, editor of Nutrition Alert and author of nine nutrition books, including “Age-Proof Your Body.” “We know that omega-3’s are an important nutrient we don’t get enough of but should, especially to support brain health throughout life. Increasing your intake of DHA with a fortified soymilk such as Soy on the Go makes a lot of sense, as it allows you to get the benefits of DHA, healthy soy protein, calcium and vitamin D all in one.”
Shelf stable for about nine months from its packaging date, Soy on the Go is available nationally in natural food stores as well as select supermarket chains.
“In speaking with customers, we saw a need to break down consumer barriers to the soy category as a whole in terms of packaging, portability and taste,” says Bruce Goria, director of marketing for ZenSoy. “There’s nothing on the market like Soy on the Go — it can be stocked, stored and easily transported for kids’ lunches, trips and really anyone who’s always on the go but still wants to get all the benefits of a healthier milk.”
In the frozen segment, Cranford, N.J.-based Tofutti Brands Inc.’s pint-size ice cream-like treats have been available around the country for years. In fact, Tofutti consistently ranks among the top 10 brands and vendors in the frozen yogurt/tofu category, according to IRI data.
Tofutti also makes a wide variety of other dairy-free soy-based products, including Better Than Cream Cheese spread in an assortment of flavors and Sour Supreme, a sour cream alternative, as well as soy-based cheeses and dairy-free pizza.
While recent research suggests too much soy is not good for the average consumer, White Wave’s Radi calls attention to substantial scientific research outlining the beneficial effects of soy-based foods on health and well-being. “As the science and research communities continue to study the potential health benefits of soy consumption,” he says, “there is intriguing evidence suggesting that when integrated into a balanced diet, consuming soy may help promote heart health and bone health, alleviate the symptoms of menopause and reduce the risks of certain types of cancer.”
It’s difficult to project the future of soy, Radi says, “but I do believe that the body of research around its health benefits will continue to grow, which in turn will lead to continued growth in the category.”
Asked to what extent soy will erode dairy sales, Radi is quick to point out that the two are really in leagues of their own. “It’s important to keep in mind that sales of soymilk are a drop in the bucket compared to sales of conventional dairy milk,” he says. “Even if Silk were to triple its business, we would only sell 7.5 ounces of soymilk to every gallon of dairy milk.”
According to IRI data, sales in all categories of real dairy milk exceeded $10 billion in 2006, more than 20 times the total sales of soymilk and milk substitutes.
“I think what Silk does is provide consumers with a choice that can complement their dairy selections,” Radi says, “as well as help meet different needs and tastes for those who prefer not to consume dairy for a variety of reasons.”
Sales and Trends
•From 1992 to 2004, soy foods sales have increased from $300 million to $3.9 billion over 12 years. This increase can be attributed to new soy food categories being introduced, soy foods being repositioned in the market place, and new customers selecting soy for health and philosophical reasons.
•Dramatic growth followed the FDA approval of a health claim linking soy with heart disease reduction.
•Between 2003 and 2004 there was a 2 percent increase in overall soy foods sales. This represents a general leveling off of sales, but some categories, like soymilk, have experienced greater growth and others such as energy bars have not. Since many consumers have now incorporated soy into their diets and supermarkets have brought soy foods to their shelves, new growth spurts for soy will come with more consumers making a commitment to following healthier diets and more consensus evidence linking soy with disease prevention.
•Sales of some categories of soy foods have slowed down in growth in the retail market, but other categories have experienced more significant growth. The growing opportunities in foodservice should also boost sales of meat alternatives, soymilk, tofu and other soy foods. New soy food categories (e.g., soy-based drinks, drinkable cultured soy, non-dairy frozen desserts, soy entrees, pastas and snack foods) are emerging with strong and steady growth. The wide variety of soy foods has helped consumers meet the 2005 federal Dietary Guidelines that call for eating foods like soy that are high in fiber, omega-3 fatty acids, key vitamins and minerals and lower in saturated fat, cholesterol and calories.
SOURCE: “Soyfoods: The U.S. Market 2005,” published by Soyatech Inc. and SPINS. For more information, contact Soyatech at email@example.com.
New Soy Products
•From 2000 to 2005, food manufacturers in the United States introduced more than 2,100 new foods with soy as an ingredient, averaging about 350 new products per year. The 1999 FDA-approved health claim for soy and heart health brought many new introductions, leading to 406 new products in 2001, 278 in 2002, 336 in 2003, and 448 in 2004, according to Mintel’s Global New Products Database.
•Soy products have historically been associated almost exclusively with natural foods stores. However, supermarkets have recently begun carrying both national soy food brands and their own store brands of soy products. (www.soyfoods.org)
•Three quarters of the sales of soy foods and drinks now come from supermarkets, according to Mintel’s June 2006 Soy-based Food and Drink Report.
•30 percent of Americans consume soy foods or soy beverages once a month or more.
•82 percent of consumers perceive soy products as healthy. In addition, 31 percent of consumers specifically seek out products that contain soy for health reasons.
•More than half of consumers have tried soy foods or beverages in restaurants, and more than one-third said they would order soy products in restaurants if they could find soy on the menu.
•Soy oil, commonly sold as vegetable oil, was recognized by 76 percent of consumers as a healthy oil.
SOURCE: Soyfoods Association of North America, www.soyfoods.org.
ON THE WEB
For more about soy, read “Soy Gets Specific” in the December 2006 issue of Beverage Industry at www.bevindustry.com