Soy for life

THE SOY FOOD INDUSTRY IS POISED FOR GROWTH

SOY FOR LIFE is a new communications campaign launched by Canada’s soy food and beverage manufacturers, to help boost sales.  Their products represent a $340 million business in Canada, making soy foods and beverages part of the grocery mainstream. 

This mainstream presence came as a result of the advent of a 1999 US government labeling claim for soy, but sales have slowed somewhat in the past couple of years.  “We need to raise the profile of our products and show how they can play an important role in great-tasting, everyday healthy diets,” says Peter Joe, President of Sunrise Soya Foods and head of the Soyfoods Canada board of directors.  “We need to re-introduce Canadian families to soy.”     

Soyfoods Canada encourages growth and sustainability in the Canadian soy food and beverage industry by promoting these products to consumers.  “As an association, we had been focusing on encouraging a labeling health claim for Canadian soy food and beverage products similar to the one that exists in the US,” points out Joe.  “But recently we’ve shifted our focus back to marketing and communications activities targeted to consumers and consumer influencers.”

TARGETING THE CONSUMER
While soy food and beverage processing is a relatively small market channel for Ontario-grown soybeans, there are indicators that the sector is poised to grow, especially among younger consumers.  Already, market leaders in the tofu and soy beverage categories are using IP non-GMO and organic Ontario soybeans in response to consumer demand. 

Dr. Brian Wansink of Cornell University’s Food & Brand Lab was the keynote speaker at Soyfoods Canada’s Soy Symposium, held recently in Toronto.  He advised the gathering of marketers, retailers, distributors, and other soy industry stakeholders to target young women in the 18 to 35 age group, using an incremental usage approach. 

“Great cooks with tasty recipes that incorporate soy into everyday menu items will help consumers to develop a taste for soy,” summed up Wansink.  He predicts that in twenty-five years soy products will evolve to be much more commonly accepted ingredients in Canadians’ family meals than they are today. 

Results of an Angus Reid September 2009 online survey of 1,000 Canadians about soy foods aligned with Wansink’s recommendations.  The poll showed that consumption of soy food products is highest among young Canadians, higher income households and women.  It also showed that women in the 18 to 34 age group, who tend to be more frequent soy consumers, are particularly attuned to messaging about soy, both positively and negatively. 

NUTRITIONAL BENEFITS
Dr. Alison Duncan, Canada’s leading soy nutrition researcher, provided a thorough update at the symposium.  Duncan and her human nutrition team at the University of Guelph recently released results of a study showing soy protein helps lower cholesterol and reduces the risk of heart disease in adults with Type 2 diabetes.  The study, published in the Journal of Nutrition, is encouraging news for the almost two million Canadians who have Type 2 diabetes, a disease that often develops in adulthood and is linked to lifestyle factors such as diet. 

Despite some of the negative stories about soy nutrition recently reported in the popular media, Duncan’s research clearly shows that soy has a very positive nutrition story to tell.  “Soy has been shown to play a preventative role in specific areas, including heart disease, breast cancer, prostate cancer and cognitive function,” she says. 

THE CAMPAIGN
The Soy for Life campaign is designed to re-introduce Canadians of all ages to the benefits of soy.  Soy will be presented as a tasty, nutritious, easy to use ingredient in family-friendly meals.  “On-the-go families are more health conscious than ever before, and we are going to remind them that they can give their health a real boost by including any of the wide variety of readily-accessible, great-tasting Canadian soy food and beverage products in their everyday menus,” says Todd Hoffman, President of Soyaworld, and Vice-President of Soyfoods Canada.  

The campaign will use seasonal moments to re-introduce Canadians to soy-inspired menu ideas.  Soyfoods Canada member companies will work with distributor and retail partners to promote soy food and beverage products during April, which is Soyfoods Month in North America.  Retail advertising flyers, in-store displays and tasting events will all feature soy food and beverage products. 

New ways to include soy food and beverage products as ingredients in everyday favorite meals will be featured  on the Soyfoods Canada website:  www.soyfoodscanada.com as well as on member companies’ websites and in their point-of-purchase marketing materials.  Nutrition professionals and food writers will be provided with credible resources and health messaging to help them underscore soy’s nutrition and     functional food benefits in regards to  heart health, weight management and disease prevention. 

Soyfoods Canada members are pleased with industry and government support for their collective market development activities.  The Ontario Soybean Growers have supported the association from its inception; this support will be carried forward in the new Grain Farmers of Ontario.  The group’s Soy Symposium received speaker funding support from Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s Advancing Canadian Agriculture and Agri-Food Program, delivered in Ontario by the Agricultural Adaptation Council. The Soy for Life campaign, which will roll out over the next two years, has received funding support from OMAFRA’s Ontario Market Investment Fund. •