In a report, Soyfoods: The U.S. Market 2009, SPINS, in conjunction with consultant, Soyatech, noted the soy food market’s resilience as increasingly knowledgeable consumers voted with their feet even as the financial crisis has set in.
“Consumer awareness of the health benefits associated with soy and its expanded presence in multiple distribution channels are leading factors in soyfoods’ continued success,” SPINS said.
Perhaps bucking expectation about where sales have occurred, SPINS noted the greatest sales growth had occurred in Wal-Mart, club stores and foodservice operations.
In these outlets sales grew three per cent as opposed to 1.8 percent in supermarkets and natural food stores, where soy foods have bee present for longer and in greater variety.
Most popular foods were soymilk, meat alternatives, tofu and healthy bars
“Refrigerated soy-based entrées and sushi, tracked for the first time this year, also fared well and debuted in the top 25 largest soyfoods categories, with $11.5 million in sales,” SPINS observed.
"With soyfoods now a $4 billion industry, Soyatech and SPINS anticipate that opportunities for innovation will enable the industry to continue to grow,” said Philippe de Lapérouse, director of Soyatech’s global food and agribusiness practice.
The report investigates opportunities in the sector, assesses the strategies of major players and their impact on the market impacting the marketplace and future developments in soyfoods.
More soy data
Last year market researcher, Packaged Facts, in a report titled Soy Foods and Beverages put the market for soy foods at $2.1bn in 2007, up 7 percent from the year before.
But that report only covered foods made entirely from soy - such as soy milk - or that have soy as a primary component - such as meal replacement bars, smoothies or cereal.
Excluded from the report were products whose only soy ingredient in soy lecithin, which is added for texture rather than nutritional benefits, as well as 'unhealthy' soy products, such as soy sauce, which is considered unhealthy due to its high sodium content.
According to Packaged Facts, 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 forecasts" that the market will continue to grow at a "healthy pace" through 2012, to near $3bn.
Health drives sales
Health remains a main driver for the category, according to the report, with soy products slipping into the mainstream as more and more consumers become aware of the specific health and nutrition benefits linked to soy.
"One of the biggest boons to the market came in October 1999, when the Food and Drug Administration gave food manufacturers permission to put labels on products high in soy protein indicating that that these foods may help to lower heart disease risk," Packaged Facts said.
"As with health claims for other foods, this claim provides consumers with a solid 'seal of approval' regarding the benefits of soy protein and helps them make informed choices to create a 'heart healthy' diet."
As well as heart benefits, soy has also been linked to a positive effect on bone health, menopause symptoms and cancer.
During the past decade, consumer awareness of soy as a healthy food has increased from 67 percent in 1998 to 85 percent in 2007, according to figures from the United Soybean Board's 14th Annual National Report (2007), Consumer Attitudes About Nutrition: Insights Into Nutrition, Health & Soyfoods.