The soya bean is a powerhouse for the food and beverage industry – a cost-efficient crop with unmatched versatility that can help manufacturers make the most of the fastest growing consumer trends. So, take a minute to get familiar with this fascinating raw material and discover what makes it a perfect choice for many product categories.
The soya bean is a legume and oil crop that originates from East Asia, and farmers plant the seeds during the spring and harvest the beans during autumn. Two countries dominate production: the United States and Brazil1, and the growing world population and increased prosperity in developing economies are set to increase the global trade of soya beans.2
1 https://ourworldindata.org/soy 2 https://www.ers.usda.gov/amber-waves/2016/may/major-factors-affecting-global-soybean-and-products-trade-projections/
Soya is one of the most widely used plant-based ingredients for food applications, and it's easy to see why. It has unique moisture and binding properties, making it just as suitable for solid foods, such as tofu, as it is for beverages. Soy milk makes up over 70% of the market volume, so drinking is the main consumption style for how we, humans that is, use soya. But despite being one of the first widely used plant-based raw materials, 12% of innovative product launches from May 2021 to the same period the following year contained soya1. So, the chances are we will see a greater variety of products relying on soya over the coming years.
1 Journal of Agricultural and Food Research, January 2022; 2 GlobalData 2022 Q1 global consumer survey
Soya is associated with numerous health benefits, not least when transitioning to a diet richer in plant-based foods, and as it happens, soya is one of few plant-based sources that contains all the essential nutrients our bodies need. Those nutritional properties make soya the number one source of plant-based protein globally. It also contains monounsaturated fat, which has been linked to reducing bad cholesterol, and by extension, heart disease. Moreover, the isoflavone in soya has long been a popular ingredient in the Asia Pacific region for anti-aging products, and many use soya for personal care due to its moisturising effects and vitamins.1
1 Journal of Agricultural and Food Research, January 2022;  GlobalData 2022 Q1 global consumer survey
The environmental impact of soya is somewhat complex. Many have pointed to the crop’s role in accelerating deforestation, leading to declining biodiversity and carbon emissions. However, only 7% of soya produced globally is used for human consumption, whereas 77% feeds livestock for meat and dairy production. The rest is used for applications such as biofuels or vegetable oils.1 Interestingly, looking only at soya for direct human consumption, the production involved requires significantly less land area and resources.2 And now, processing methods utilising the whole bean give soya products an even better sustainability profile by lowered water consumption and better raw material utilisation.3
1 https://ourworldindata.org/soy 2 https://www.foodunfolded.com/article/is-soy-bad-for-the-environment
Then we strongly recommended our soya handbook. Besides learning more about the plant itself, including its properties and nutritional composition, you’ll also get the opportunity to explore quality aspects, processing, packaging, and more technical-oriented information.
The versatility and unique nutritional contents hint at a bright future for soya products. From a staple food in plant-based diets to spurring future product innovation, the soya bean is somewhat of a plant-based multi-tool. But what consumer trends, exactly, does it allow you to tap into?
Global data. Ingredient insights: Soy. July 2022
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