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Asia continues to dominate soy milk consumption

By Shane Starling , 20-Apr-2011
Last updated the 20-Apr-2011 at 13:58 GMT

Eight of the top 12 soy drink consuming countries are Asian with Hong Kong residents consuming the most at 17 litres per year each, according to TetraPak data.

Next were Singapore (almost 12l/day), Thailand (just over 10l/day), China (9.5l/day) and Malaysia (9l/day). The data were presented at a soy conference in Taiwan recently by Michael Loh, the business development director at supplier, London Agricultural Commodities.

The highest level of soy drink consumption among non-Asian nations were Australia, Canada and Spain all at about 3l/day.

US consumption, which market researcher Mintel has noted is falling for all soy foods and beverages, was lower at about 1.5l/day.

Commenting on the figures, European soy expert Ignace DeBryne, from Ignace Debruyne & Associates, noted that Spain had passed Belgium (just over 2l/day) to become the highest soy drink consumers in Europe.

“There is more competition from other milk substitutes such as almond, hemp and rice and so the soy market is changing,” he said. “In Spain for instance the healthy sell is more prominent than the straight milk substitute.”

“But everyone is dealing with the negative European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) opinion on soy potein and cholesterol last year – that is having an effect too.”

That opinion had prompted leading soy drink maker Alpro to add phytosterols to its drinks to benefit from the positive cholesterol-reducing claim opinion that the nutrient had won from EFSA.

Mintel’s US report suggests soy’s loss of superfood status has contributed to a 16% slide in sales between 2008 and 2010. Read more about on FoodNavigator-USA.com today.

Street soy

Loh’s presentation noted that while soy drink sales remained high in Asia, manufacturers there were faced with the challenge of converting street soy drink sales of raw product into end-product sales.

“Soy drinks are sold in the streets and in packs and this is a typical consumption trends in each country in Southeast Asia,” he said.

“An emerging business opportunity lies in converting people from consuming ‘street soya’ to packed soy drinks. Hence it is important to know the size of each market segment.”

Examples included Vietnam where packed soy drink sales accounted for 30% of the market, Malaysia and Singapore where it was 40% and Thailand where it was 70%.

But TetraPak figures showed 13% growth in all these markets.

He noted the his company had seen a sharp decline in Japanese demand for high-isolflavone soy varieties after negative press linking the nutrient with negative health effects.

“We have a plant breeder who developed a soybean variety that is higher in isoflavone content by about 50% and now we do not have a market for it,” he said.

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