On September 27, the United Soybean Board (USB) released data from their annual survey showing that Americans changing their eating habits due to health and nutrition concerns has risen dramatically to 72 per cent.
"That's the highest number we have seen in the last six years," said Geri Berdak, USB Director of Edible Programs. "There's an obvious trend toward healthy and nutritious food choices, and that's part of the growing popularity of soyfoods." Nearly 90 per cent of consumers are at least somewhat concerned about the nutritional content of the food they eat.
The study also shows a significant increase in awareness of heart health benefits of soy since the 1999 FDA approval of a cholesterol-lowering claim for soy protein. In 2001, on an unaided basis, 39 per cent of consumers say they are aware of specific health benefits of soy in the diet. Of those, 42 per cent are aware that soy may lower cholesterol and reduce the risk of heart disease as compared to 24 per cent in 1999.
With consumer awareness of soy's health benefits on the rise, 97 per cent are also aware of soy food products and many have tried them. Just over one-quarter of consumers use soy products once a week or more. As in previous years, the top soy-based products consumers have tried are tofu, soy veggie burgers and soymilk.
Furthermore, findings show that vegetable oil continues to be the most commonly used cooking oil in the United States, with 71 per cent of consumers saying they use it most often. "While the vast majority of consumers are using vegetable oil regularly, only five per cent know that soybean oil is the primary ingredient in their vegetable oil," said oil chemist Frank Flider.
Soybean oil is perceived by consumers to be "very healthy." In addition, the study found that there is still much confusion about fats and oils. Even though polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats are considered to be "good fats," approximately 42 per cent and 39 per cent respectively still believe these fats are unhealthy. Forty per cent of consumers do not know if trans fatty acids are healthy or unhealthy.
An independent research firm conducted the USB survey among consumers. The study's margin of error is +/- 3.5 per cent and has a confidence level of 98 per cent.