Soy Gets Specific
By SARAH THEODORE
Niche markets create new opportunities for soy products
The soy industry rode the wave of heart health for several years, but according to soy ingredient suppliers, consumers have become aware of soy for a variety of other factors, including weight-loss, satiety, protein enhancement and relief of menopausal symptoms.
The Food and Drug Admin-istration ignited interest in soy in 1999 when it approved a health claim that said 25 grams of soy protein per day (or 6.25 grams per serving) as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol can help reduce the risk of heart disease. While that still is an important message for many consumers, soy beverages, like so many other parts of the beverage industry, are becoming more segmented for specific consumer targets.
“In general, there is a perception that consumers want things that are more healthy, so the reason for using soy is to create products that are better for you,” says Deborah Schulz, market development manager at Cargill, Minneapolis. “What you’ll find differentiates people is how they define better for you. Some people will go to the specifics of soy heart health, others will go to the more generic halo effect of ‘soy is good for you.’ Some people may not mention soy at all, but go down the protein route, so there are a lot of different ways of positioning it and to differentiate it in the marketplace.”
Cargill recently conducted research on consumer attitudes toward soy as part of its effort to create awareness for its Prolisse soy protein isolate, which was developed to have a mild flavor. Prolisse isolates are created using a proprietary physical method to separate the protein from the rest of the soybean as opposed to more traditional acid precipitation methods.
“We believe that’s a more natural way of manufacturing the protein,” Schulz says. “It also provides a little bit different functional characteristic as far as solubility is concerned, and the most important is that it’s a better-flavored product.”
The company created a new logo for Prolisse and is in the early stages of promoting the ingredient to consumers. The research the company conducted shows that balanced nutrition and sustained energy are two of the messages that resonate with consumers in regard to protein. This likely is a result of the low-carb phenomenon and the emphasis on the energy peaks and lows emphasized by the glycemic index.
While the low-carb trend has died out, it resulted in an overall better understanding of protein and its contribution to the diet, and provided a broader outlook on soy. “Consumers are becoming increasingly aware of and more knowledgeable of the benefits of protein in the diet, recognizing the important role it plays in helping manage hunger, sustain energy levels and maximize performance,” says Jean Heggie, director of North American marketing at the Solae Co., St. Louis. “Consumers, too, are beginning to distinguish between sources of protein, gravitating more and more to ‘lean,’ high-quality proteins, such as soy.”
No longer competitors
The combination of soy with other types of protein has long been used in the meat industry, and Kerry Ingredients-Proteins & Nutritionals, Waukesha, Wis., has developed technology, in the form of co-processed soy and dairy proteins, to bring that capability to beverages.
“At the moment, this whole blending thing is right at the beginning in terms of beverage applications,” says Terry Gieseke, business development director at Kerry Ingredients-Proteins & Nutritionals. “You have massive case history in the food industry if you look at meat and soy. Dairy and soy have always competed for the same space. To put the benefits of both of them together is pretty significant.”
Because Kerry is involved in both dairy and soy ingredients, the company has full control over both supply streams. “All of the quality and security is in place, so if you don’t want antibiotics and you don’t want growth hormones and you want grass-fed cattle and all of that, [Kerry can provide that],” Gieseke says.
For organic products, Kerry offers organic soy protein, and while its dairy proteins are not organic, they can be organic compliant. The co-processed proteins provide a clean flavor and heat stability, and they allow beverage companies to create products with high protein content that are not as thick as traditional protein shakes, but closer to the consistency of 2 percent milk. “With this combination, you can get what I would call almost a refreshing viscosity,” Gieseke says.
Solae’s Heggie says her company also is seeing increased use of dairy and soy combinations. “We are doing a lot of work with blended protein systems for performance nutrition beverages as well as weight-management beverages,” she says. “Blending soy and milk proteins, for instance, often delivers better mouthfeel, better flavor, better economics and unique nutritional positionings vs. all-dairy or all-soy formulations.
“Nutritionally, milk and soy are quite complementary,” she adds. “They have complementary amino acid profiles, which are relevant particularly in performance nutrition. They also have complementary metabolism rates, which, when blended, have potential implications for more sustained energy management, hunger management and muscle-building benefits.”
Soy can be particularly helpful in weight management because it is naturally low in fat and cholesterol free. Protein aids in a feeling of satiety and it helps build lean muscle mass and speed muscle recovery, as well as promoting sustained energy levels.
Other types of products that could benefit from soy include juice and soy blends, which are seen by many soy providers as a promising category for future beverages. “We continue to see a growing number of beverages featuring a combination of soy protein and fruit juice, and these beverages are generally intended to appeal to the health-conscious consumer,” says Annette Higgins director of beverage marketing and strategy at Solae.
Juice and soy both have naturally healthful qualities, but the combination of the two is not necessarily a natural one, and requires a bit of finesse to get them to cooperate.
“Generally, juice is pH-challenged,” Kerry’s Gieseke explains. “Soy works great in neutral beverages, and is a little more of a challenge in an acidic beverage.”
The key to preventing the sedimentation that can occur with these “pH challenged” products, according to soy suppliers, is to use soy ingredients specifically designed for acidic formulations, use the proper processing methods, and in some cases, include a stabilizing ingredient such as pectin.
In addition to juice blends, soy lends itself to other nutritional beverage concepts as well. “We have developed several concept products using our soy proteins, and combining them with other functional ingredients, such as green tea extract, high antioxidant fruits like pomegranate, prebiotic fibers and probiotics,” Solae’s Heggie says. “These concepts demonstrate how you can build upon the nutritional benefits of soy protein by combining it with other healthful, functional ingredients, enhancing the health and nutritional appeal of your product.”
Cargill’s Schulz says nutritional shots such as those on the market in Europe and Japan could be another potential “what if” concept for soy. And she says we shouldn’t rule out traditional soymilk products just yet.
“I still see huge potential in milk-like products,” she says, pointing out that, despite strong growth, soymilk sales still are relatively low compared with dairy milk sales.
“There are soymilks out there that are made from isolate and from the traditional bean, but one of the advantages that the isolate gives you is flexibility in your formulation,” she says. “When you come from the whole bean, you have your nutritional profile and that’s pretty much it; it’s more of a challenge to vary the protein content. Having the flexibility of an isolate can also provide opportunities in how to formulate a product.”
Easing the change
Soy’s ability to ease menopausal symptoms has been touted by naturalists for some time, and Archer Daniels Midland, Decatur, Ill., is using that capability to market its NovaSoy soy isoflavones. The ingredient, it says, closely matches the soybean’s natural isoflavone ratio of 50 percent genistein, 40 percent daidzein and up to 10 percent glycitein.
“We have recently been working with several beverage companies to include NovaSoy soy isoflavones in their new healthy formulations for adults,” says Liza Pepple, product manager for NovaSoy. “By including soy isoflavone extract, companies can ensure a consistent dose of isoflavones in an amount that has been clinically proven as beneficial for relief of certain symptoms such as hot flashes.”
ADM has begun a campaign to educate “health influencers” and consumers about soy isoflavones. Pepple says Menopause, the Journal of the North American Menopause Society, recently reviewed isoflavone supplements and how well they relieve hot flashes, and concluded that supplements containing at least 15 mg. of genistein were more consistently effective in reducing symptoms.
In addition to NovaSoy, ADM produces CardioAid plant sterols, which are plant-derived compounds intended to help block the absorption of cholesterol. CardioAid is GRAS-approved for a range of categories, including beverages and dairy products. And it says its NutriSoy organic whole bean powder allows almost any dairy operation to produce its own soymilk using existing dairy milk processing equipment and packaging. The ingredient incorporates the entire bean, so ADM says the natural nutrition of the whole soybean is maintained.
When formulating a soy beverage, it is important to remember that one protein does not fit all, says Solae’s Higgins. “Soy proteins are highly specialized and application specific,” she says.
Key considerations for a ready-to-drink neutral beverage, for example, include flavor performance, solubility, viscosity, dispersibility, mouthfeel and nutrition. As mentioned earlier, the pH differences in juice and soy blends require the use of a stabilization system and proper processing. Solae, she says offers a range of proteins, from those recommended for high-protein beverages (more than 4 percent protein) to those for lower protein products.
“Proteins that exhibit good solubility produce beverages with better mouthfeel and suspension stability,” Higgens says. “Proteins with higher viscosity produce thicker beverages. Those with good dispersibility support optimal processing.
“Creating and launching a successful protein beverage requires more than simply selecting the right protein — one must also refine the product’s processing, total formulation and market positioning. It is important to define the consumer target audience and to understand their needs and motivations.” BI
High hopes for hemp
Soymilk is the main competitor to dairy milk in the United States, but a Washington, D.C.-based group called Vote Hemp is lobbying to allow U.S. farmers to grow hemp for food products under state or federal regulation. According to the organization, hempmilk is high in protein like soymilk, but hemp does not contain phytic acid and trypsin inhibitors. It says hempmilk is a good source of balanced omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids and contains a range of naturally occurring vitamins and minerals, such as vitamin E, folic acid, iron, niacin, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, thiamin and zinc.
Industrial hemp is said to contain very low levels of the THC cannabinoids present in marijuana, with virtually no psychoactive effect. Hemp farming is permitted in Canada, and Vote Hemp says products derived from hemp seed such as Living Harvest Hempmilk and Manitoba Harvest Hemp Bliss are set to hit the Canadian market in early 2007. Both will be available in Original, Vanilla and Chocolate flavors.