AUSTIN, Texas (April 1, 2002) Soy protein plays an important role in a heart healthy diet. According to research, soy may also provide antioxidant protection and may aid in ailments including osteoporosis, menopausal symptoms and cancer. The result? Sales of soy foods are soaring as more Americans are incorporating a vast array of soy products into their diets.

With the many known and potential health benefits of soy, nearly all major food companies have sought ways to incorporate this bean into everything from cereals and crackers to entrées and ice cream. And more people are aware of these benefits. According to a recent survey by the United Soybean Board, consumer awareness of soy's health benefits continues to rise. More than 95 percent of those polled have consumed or are familiar with soy foods. One in four people eat soy products weekly while 42 percent eat soy products at least once per month.

So what soy foods are selling in today's marketplace? Whole Foods Market's Tim Sperry, director of purchasing for the Northeast region, has observed some interesting trends as soy gains popularity and the number of soy products increases.

“Soy dairy products and, in particular, soy milk seem to be the hottest categories right now, followed by protein powders and meat alternatives,” Sperry said. “The other significant trend we see evolving is with soy snacks, including soy chips, nuts, protein bars and yogurts. These products are doing well because they blend consumers' needs for convenience with their quest for healthy snacks.”

And the proof is in the numbers: Soy milk sales have escalated, with sales in the U.S. growing from $1.5 million in 1980 to almost $550 million in 2001.

Today's soy success stories are the result of improved flavor profiles and product enhancements to subdue what consumers formerly cited as the “bean-like” flavor of soy. Sperry added, “After many soy cereals failed, we're finally seeing consumers buying up brands that have mastered the flavor issues. We know that consumers will buy all forms of soy foods but the taste benchmark still needs to be met, and it's pretty consistent with the way they judge other foods.”

Whole Foods Market offers the nation's leading selection of soy foods; consumers can find everything from sesame tofu in the prepared foods sections to soy protein powders, cookies, crackers and cheeses. The key to incorporating soy into the diet, according to Whole Foods Market nutritional consultant Alana Sugar, C.N., is experimentation and learning the basics of enjoying soy without a lot of time in the kitchen.

“Soy foods are a great way to add healthy protein to your diet. Prepared foods such as soy cheese slices, baked tofu, soy crackers and soy smoothies can easily fit into anyone's lifestyle,” said Sugar. “If you try a soy product that isn't pleasing, keep experimenting with new products and flavors. There are many great-tasting choices and it's just a matter of finding one that suits your preference.”

Like all other aspects of a healthy diet, Sugar encourages a balanced approach to incorporating soy, along with eating plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables.

Other tips for enjoying soy include: Breakfast Splash soy milk on cereal, make a breakfast smoothie with soy protein powder and/or soy yogurt, or spread soy nut butter on whole wheat toast. Snacks Enjoy a serving of soy nuts, soy crackers or a soy protein bar to curb your hunger. Lunch Sprinkle flavored tofu or shelled edamame over a salad, or make a grilled soy-cheese sandwich or a soy-bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwich. Dinner Grill soy burgers or tofu hotdogs, add silken tofu to flavorful, clear-broth soups, or try soy spaghetti with your favorite pasta sauce. Dessert Top soy ice cream with your favorite fruit, nuts or syrup. Baking Substitute soy flour for wheat flour. Cooking Use soy milk cup for cup in any recipe using milk.

Avoiding Genetically Modified Soy

As consumers learn more about the genetic modification of crops, or GMOs, there is increasing concern that biotechnology may be moving faster than what is safe and prudent for our long-term health. The effect genetic engineering may have on our environment and whether long-term human health issues have not been thoroughly addressed; the company is actively engaged in efforts to establish mandatory labeling of foods with genetically modified ingredients. Certified organic items are, by national organic standards, free of GMOs.

While the FDA does not require labeling of foods containing GMOs, it is the only way to ensure informed decision making for consumers. Whole Foods Market's position regarding genetic engineering has remained unchanged since the company first alerted consumers in 1992 about the potential risks of this new technology. Some companies have already taken the initiative to label their products as being free of GMOs, so Whole Foods Market reminds consumers to check labels when purchasing soy products.

Whole Foods Market is committed to avoiding genetically engineered ingredients in its own private label product lines including the Whole Foods™, 365 Every Day Value™ and Whole Kids™ brands.


Editor's Note: Whole Foods Market can provide a spokesperson on soy foods, store tours, products for taste tests and trend round-up stories in addition to chef-created recipes.