Each year since 1994, the United Soybean Board has published the results of an annual survey conducted to assess consumers beliefs and behaviors regarding nutrition. This survey, Consumer Attitudes about Nutrition, also includes information on consumer attitudes about soy. I wanted to take this opportunity to share some of these survey results.
According to the 2010 survey, 84% of consumers rate soy products as healthy. This is similar to survey results collected since 2007 with 84-85% of consumers rating soy products as healthy each year. While this is a substantial increase compared to 10 years ago, the current steady level over the last few years suggests that more can be done to increase the awareness of soy’s benefits. According to the 2010 survey, consumers link soy to being good for the reduction of heart disease risk (FDA heart health claim for soy) (25% of consumers), being low in fat (17%), being a good source of protein (16%), and being ‘good for you’ (14%).
Another part of this survey asked consumers how they learned about the benefits of soy. Not unexpectedly, the most common source of soy information cited was television news (47% of consumers). Internet news was the second most common source of news on soy (44%) followed closely be magazines, family & friends, and newspapers. The number of consumers getting information from these sources increased in every instance compared to 8 years ago with the exception of magazines, which decreased. This nearly across-the-board increase suggests that information about soy is more widely available. Interestingly, one of the lowest sources of information about soy is the health professional. Only 17% of consumers learn about soy from their doctors, which is only 5% higher than in 1994.
Overall, the 2010 Consumer Attitudes about Nutrition survey indicated that only 37% of Americans eat soyfoods or drink soy beverages at least once per month, while another 35% of consumers indicated that they never eat soy products. The survey asked consumers about both their awareness of soy products and their consumption of soy products. In regards to soy product awareness, the best known soy products were soymilk (90%), soybean oil (56%), plain white tofu (56%), soy veggie burger (54%), soynuts (40%), soy protein bars (37%), soy infant formula (36%), soy latte (36%), edamame (34%), and dried or canned soybeans (33%). As one might expect based on product awareness, soymilk is the most regularly consumed soy product at home with nearly 25% of Americans claiming to drink soymilk on a regular basis. The second most consumed soyfood was edamame followed by plain white tofu. Like home consumption, soymilk is the top soy product consumed in restaurants. Trailing after soymilk in restaurant consumption is tofu, soy veggie burgers, edamame, and miso.
One of the last aspects of soy information assessed in the 2010 survey was when consumers liked to eat their soy products. Similar to previous years, dinner (39%) and breakfast (30%) remained consumers’ most popular times to eat soyfoods. The other times soyfoods were consumed included lunch (22%), mid-afternoon snacking (19%), late evening snacking (13%), mid-morning snacking (9%), and desserts (5%). This clearly shows that soyfoods are consumed most frequently with our three main meals. This might reflect the fact that soymilk is the most consumed soy product and many of us still consume a beverage with or as part of our meals.
In addition to examining consumer attitudes about soy, this survey also assessed general consumer attitudes about nutrition, use of nutrition facts panels, obesity concerns, and awareness of dietary fats. It is an enlightening survey that can be downloaded for free by anyone interested in reading it.