The last three years have been a roller-coaster for the global economy, with COVID-19 to the war in Ukraine plunging the globe into a financial crisis. According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), global inflation currently stands at 8.8%, meaning goods prices are doubling.
Inflation affects prices in almost every industry, and the food industry has not been spared. Consequently, consumer food shopping and consumption habits are changing to adapt to ever-soaring food prices.
One significant change in the US food industry is increased soy product consumption. Below is an overview of how soy can help fight inflation.
History of Soy Foods In The US
Soy is a legume native to China but has been part of the US horticultural scene for over 200 years. The first historical mention of soy in the US was in the 1760s when a US farmer, Samuel Bowen, received soy seeds from London and planted them.
The soybean began its journey in the US as a fodder crop for livestock rearing. However, soybean studies in the early 1900s led to the discovery of its potential as an alternative protein and edible oil source. The discovery led to increased US soy production; hence the US ranks second in global soy use ratings.
Soy is a highly nutritious legume and is a complete protein, containing all nine essential amino acids. Consequently, soyfoods are popular animal protein alternatives for Americans following a vegan or meat-free diet.
According to one statistical report, 28% of Americans consume soy foods and dairy products at least once weekly. Although traditional fermented soy products like tofu and tempeh are popular, American-centric soy products like burger patties are also available.
The number of Americans consuming soy increased during the pandemic as Americans wanted healthier food options to maintain optimum health. Moreover, as stated earlier, the US is a leader in sustainable soy production.
Therefore, soy foods remain relatively affordable while food prices for most US staples, including meat, spike. Soy foods are diverse and substitute various ingredients. Below is an overview of emerging popular soy foods and why they may be the saving grace families need to keep food on the table during the ongoing global financial crisis.
Shelf-stable Soy Foods
One report on changes in consumer food consumption practices during the pandemic and the resultant inflation shows that consumers across the globe tended to shop less frequently for food. Consequently, consumers shopped less for fresh foods while increasing consumption of foods with longer shelf lives.
While shelf-stable foods get a bad rap for excess sodium and sugar content, shelf-stable soy foods are nutritious and offer delicious flavors akin to traditional shelf-stable foods. Soy-based shelf-stable foods are significantly cheaper than conventional meat sources like pork and ground beef.
Moreover, soy’s nutritional benefits complement the attractive price point. Hence soy is a highly nutritious and delicious shelf-stable animal protein substitute.
Textured Soy Protein
Meat production in the US was expensive, even before the pandemic and inflation struck. According to one report, the US is the fifth-largest importer of animal feed preparations and spent $666 million on animal feed imports in 2020. Moreover, animal feeds and grains are among the US’s top five agricultural imports.
While the investment in livestock feed makes meat rearing expensive, the pandemic only aggravated matters. COVID-19 restrictions affected meat production and disrupted supply chains causing a price hike in animal protein products. Moreover, panic buying meat products increased demand for meat products, further increasing prices.
However, textured soy protein products like soy chunks, soy sausages, burgers, and chicken strips are viable meat alternatives. Textured soy protein is a defatted soy flour product with a protein content equal to meat products and savory meat-like flavors. Consumers can use textured soy protein as a meat substitute in sauces and other meat-based dishes.
Soybean oil is an edible oil substitute for vegetable oil. According to one report, global vegetable oil prices hit an all-time high after a 23% increase in March 2022. Consequently, some eateries, including popular fast food chains in the US, are turning to soybean oil as a viable vegetable oil alternative.
Soybean-derived oil is ideal for deep frying, sauteing, and salad dressing. Second, unlike vegetable oil, soybean oil has a high unsaturated fat content and a high smoking point of 234 degrees Celsius (453 degrees Fahrenheit). Soybean oil is more affordable than most edible oils, and consumers can use it at home as a cheaper, healthier alternative to the currently prohibitively-priced vegetable oil.
Besides meat, the pandemic and inflation rates caused a spike in dairy products. Second, customers’ reduced frequency to grocery stores creates the need for a shelf-stable dairy alternative. Shelf-stable soy milk is an affordable dairy alternative.
Tofu and Tempeh
Tofu and Tempeh are versatile soybean products that function as ingredients in multiple recipes, including salads, curries, soups, and noodles. Moreover, you can prepare the two soy foods and enjoy them as snacks.
The overall global inflation paints a grim future for consumers as food prices keep rising. However, sustainable soy food production provides a cheap nutrient alternative to meet various nutrition needs and may help cushion families against inflation-induced food price hikes.