The World Initiative for Soy in Human Health (WISHH) bills itself as a benevolent institution with a two-fold mission: “improving diets and encouraging the growth of food industries” in developing countries. Based in the headquarters of the American Soybean Association in St. Louis, this arm of the US soy industry has been actively reaching out for new markets in 23 countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America.
WISHH is particularly proud of its work in Kenya, where it has been training bakers and meat processors to use soy flour to “extend” bread and meat products and encouraging entrepreneurs to develop “health food” products. According to Mary Kanyingi, WISHH Project Officer in Kenya, “This is an exciting time in marketing development for soy. The future of soy in Kenya is promising because more people understand the benefit of soy and its application to various foods.” Although the 15- to 20-ton shipping containers of defatted soy flour come from far-away Minnesota, soy flour is promoted as a “sustainable solution” for the protein demands of the people.
WISHH’s choice of Kenya as the recipient of its benevolence is not accidental. Kenya has a population of 30 million potential customers and is a strategic hub for trade throughout East Africa.
WISHH announced yet another charitable undertaking on December 1, World AIDS Day. A double-blind study to be carried out at the University of Stellenbosch in South Africa has been designed to show that a “balanced diet containing appropriate protein and other ingredients can help reduce the risk of poor outcomes and progression of disease in AIDS patients.” The theory is that soy is such a good source of antioxidants and high-quality protein that it will help ward off immune deficiencies and prevent the opportunistic infections that often cause death in AIDS patients. Researchers plan to give a soy protein powder fortified with micronutrients to one group and a protein-poor beverage containing only the micronutrients to the control group.
The research will be completed by fall 2007 and rushed to publication in a peer-reviewed journal. If that sounds speedy, remember that the conclusions are already determined and only the busy work remains. Andres Shea of the Solae Company, the largest industry representative within WISHH, told NUTRA USA reporter Jess Halliday that the study’s primary purpose is “not market research” but “anytime you develop something like this there is a possibility of it being well-received. There could be a significant humanitarian opportunity for bringing a product to market in Africa.”
A New Vegetable Fat
Cargill, meanwhile, has high hopes to feed another “significant market for food manufacturers”–the world’s 1.5 billion Muslims. Its latest product is a restructured vegetable fat that will replace the pork fat used in many meat products. This will make it possible for Muslims to enjoy chicken and turkey sausages without violating halal dietary laws. The product, called Adrogel GR, is white, has a consistency similar to pork fat back and is said to “improve organoleptic characteristics such as texture and succulence.” What’s more, it can soon be promoted to Jews adhering to kosher laws and ultimately to all of us as a “healthy” vegetable alternative to pork, blessed with a lower fat content and no cholesterol. The oil most likely will be soy oil.
In Europe, the push is for soy drinks. According to the Organic Monitor, Europeans have traditionally consumed soy drinks as dairy alternatives but “producers are re-positioning their products as health drinks to broaden consumer appeal.” Alpro, the market leader, has revamped its image with contemporary new packaging, the message “A Healthy Decision” and a budget of EUR 44 million for television and print media advertising . So Good, another leading producer, is “raising consumer awareness” with EUR 6 million. Unilever plans to invest EUR 17 million on its first new major brand in 12 years, Adez. The blend of soy milk and fruit juice is being positioned as a health-enhancing “functional beverage.” Apparently, soy drink “penetration” has already reached 3.4 million households in Europe. In 2005 the German market overtook the British market to become the largest in Europe. The fastest growing market is in Spain.
Targeting American Consumers
In the US the “next big thing” may be soy nuts. Although market growth has slowed for soy milk and most other soy foods, soy nuts are experiencing runaway double-digit growth, with Nature’s Select dry-roasted soynuts set to take the lead. “Soycrisp and Soycrunch never tasted so good.” say the cheerleaders at the Soy Daily, the World’s Largest Online Newspaper Devoted to Soy and Natural Products.”
According to Soy Daily, “Pioneers in this industry couldn’t figure out how to dry roast soybeans–so they fried ‘em. A deep fried soynut is an oxymoron and totally contradicts the concept of healthy eating, A fried soynut may be a bit healthier than other fried snacks, but can’t hold a candle to the health benefits of dry roasted soynuts. . . Not only are these snacks heart healthy, each has only 3 grams of fat per serving, contains all natural ingredients, has no cholesterol, no trans fats, but does have 7 grams of soy protein per serving.”
The fact is, soy nuts are notoriously hard to digest whether deep fried or dry roasted. What’s more, just 1/2 cup of soynuts contain 128 mg of soy isoflavones. That’s a whopping dose of plant estrogens, well over the 35-45 mg per day shown to cause thyroid and reproductive system derailment in healthy adults.
This article appeared in Wise Traditions in Food, Farming and the Healing Arts, the quarterly magazine of the Weston A. Price Foundation, Winter 2006