The recent findings of the 13th Annual Consumer Attitudes About Nutrition National Study demonstrate that continued interest in health and dietary issues is driving increased demand for functional foods such as soy, the United Soybean Board (UBS) has said.
An aging population, increased health care costs and advances in science and technology are some of the factors behind growing consumer awareness of functional foods.

The study, sponsored by the UBS, found that 87% of consumers reported being at least “somewhat concerned” about the nutritional content of the food and three-quarters said that health concerns have prompted them to change their eating habits in the past three to five years.

The soy industry is attempting to fill the growing demand for functional foods through soy foods, oils and beverages. Through an initiative called QUALISOY, USB is working to create new oils that will help the food industry address consumer concerns and manufacture healthier products

Steve Poole, USB’s director of soy foods and soybean oil programs, said soy oil has a number of advantages: “Examples include lowering trans fat and saturated fat content, and one day even increasing heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids in soy oil.”

According to the survey, the perception of soy as a healthy food jumped significantly in 2006, with 82% of respondents believing it to be a healthy ingredient – up 15% from 67% who thought so in 1998. Thirty percent of consumers consumed soy foods once a month or more. Over half of respondents have tried soy foods or beverages in restaurants and over one-third said they would order soy products if they could find them on the menu.