Gary Brenner, the vice president of marketing and development at Israeli-based soy ingredients specialist, Solbar Industries, said the fact crude oil was being sold for less than $50 a barrel had dramatically cut demand for biofuels, causing a drop in the price of crops such as corn and soy.
The price of soy beans has dropped below $10 (€7.95) a kilogram, from levels around $16 (€12.7) per kilogram earlier in the year. Soy beans were listed on the Chicago Board of Trade in the mid-$8 (€6.35) range today.
These savings are being passed on to food and supplements makers via cheaper soy isolates and concentrates, although premiums still apply in certain cases.
“Non-GMO (genetically modified organisms) soy still comes with an extreme premium,” Brenner said. “Factors such as colour, bean quality and size also affect the price but there is no doubt the overall trend is downward. There is a lot more soy available for food uses now and that is benefiting the soy foods sector.”
Brenner said the food industry “would be the last to be hit” by the precarious state of global financial markets, and said non-meat protein sources may benefit from an across-the-board tightening in consumer spending.
“Meat is a relatively expensive protein source and so when budgets are stretched people may look to alternative protein sources,” he told FoodNavigator.com.
More threatening is the publication of scientific studies questioning the benefits of soy isoflavones in areas such as women’s health and cancer reduction.
The German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) has said the long-term intake of food supplements containing isoflavones carries a risk to menopausal women after reviewing a number of animal studies.
“This is very frustrating for us as these statements are not based on the totality of evidence available,” Brenner reflected. “It has had a negative impact, particularly in Germany.”
Despite such missives, approved health claims exist for soy in some European markets such as the UK where products can bear a claim stating:
“The inclusion of at least 25g soya protein per day as part of a diet low in saturated fat can help reduce blood cholesterol.”
Soy claims also waited adjudication under the European Union nutrition and health claims regulation. These verdicts were expected by the January 2010.
However in the US a soy/cancer reduction claim is under review by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and has been for several years, since Solae withdrew a claim petition in 2004.
“There doesn’t seem to be much movement on that at the moment, but one of our competitors was recently asked to submit data,” Brenner said.
“We are concerned but the industry has changed and is no longer the fashion industry it was. The industry is very positive about the outcome of this process.”
Brenner observed that the soy market had settled down after coping with over exaggerated expectations in the 1990s, but needed to continue developing its formulation and applications potential.
“We need to invest more in the nutritional properties and story of soy,” he said, noting areas such as satiety and diabetes offered development potential in the near future.