ST. LOUIS, Aug. 16 Americans increasingly recognize soyfoods' ability to reduce the risk of heart disease and appear primed to embrace emerging biotech soybean oils with even more heart health benefits. The United Soybean Board's (USB) 17th annual Consumer Attitudes about Nutrition survey reports that 34 percent of consumers recognize soy's heart-healthy properties, up significantly from 27 percent in 2009. Eighty-five percent of respondents consider heart-healthy soybean oil (commonly labeled as "vegetable oil") as very or somewhat healthy. Soybean oil naturally contains zero grams of trans fat per serving; however, there is always room for improvement through innovative technology.
"High-oleic, low-saturate and increased omega-3 traits will soon be available to food companies for better-for-you product formulation and the resulting benefits for the consumer could potentially increase Americans' appreciation for heart-healthy soybean oil even further," explains Lisa Kelly, MPH, RD for the United Soybean Board.
The Consumer Attitudes study found that, among respondents who are familiar with agricultural biotechnology, one-quarter are aware of the resulting health and nutrition benefits, such as increased vitamin and mineral content. Half also said that they view biotechnology's role in food production very to somewhat positively. Biotech innovations allow farming practices that grow more food on less land with less water, fuel and pesticide/herbicide use - resulting in cleaner air and water as well as healthier soil.
Heart Health Concerns Probed
Consumers respond positively to products carrying heart-health claims on their packaging, which makes sense since over 90 percent believe they have the power to alter the course of their heart health with interventions such as diet and exercise, according to Mintel (Attaining Optimal Heart Health, December 2009). For example, the USB study found that 38 percent of consumers consider margarine to be healthier than butter; however, when the product includes a heart-health claim, attitudes reverse with 60 percent considering margarine to be the healthier of the two.
In response to consumer receptiveness to heart health claims, data from the Institute of Food Technologists shows a three-fold increase in new heart-healthy product launches over the last five years. The introduction of more biotech soybean oils to the market, such as those with higher omega-3 content, will likely increase these numbers even further.
Attitudes about Soy & Nutrition Explored
Americans overwhelmingly look for foods that maximize health and nutrition; in fact, 86 percent of Americans express concern about the nutritional content of the food they eat and 93 percent consider nutrition important when purchasing foods at the grocery store.
Overall, soyfoods received a positive consumer report card, as 84 percent of Americans rate soy as healthy, up 25 percentage points over the last 13 years, and one-third of Americans say they purchase foods specifically because they contain soy. Americans indicate they seek out soy products because they are heart-healthy, low in fat, provide good sources of protein and can help to lower cholesterol.
Awareness and usage of soy protein products continue to climb as 37 percent of consumers eat or drink soyfoods once a month or more (as compared to 32 percent in 2009). Soymilk remains the most popular, with nearly one-quarter of Americans reporting they drink it regularly. Consumption of edamame (13 percent) and plain white tofu (9 percent) round out the three most popular soyfoods.
About the Study
USB's 17th annual Consumer Attitudes about Nutrition was conducted by an independent research firm. The study includes 1,005 random online surveys conducted in February 2010, providing a sample that is consistent the total U.S. population. The study's margin of error is +/- 1.9 to 3.1 percent, with a confidence interval of 95 percent.
The United Soybean Board is a farmer-led organization comprised of 68 farmer-directors who oversee the investments of the soybean checkoff on behalf of all U.S. soybean farmers. For more health information about soy, visit USB's SoyConnection.com. You'll also find soybean oil innovation news (including information about biotechnology), up-to-date health research, recipes and two Soy Connection newsletters for the food industry and health professionals.
SOURCE United Soybean Board