Misconceptions about soy
By Lilian Schaer
A recently established Canadian marketing council, led by Soy 20/20, hopes to raise awareness of Canadian soy food products with several new initiatives.
By Lilian Schaer
These include a new website, outreach efforts to dietitians and food industry professionals, and a market research study to gauge existing awareness and attitudes towards soy foods among Canadian dietitians.
The Canadian Soy Food Marketing Council, whose growing membership includes seed researchers and developers, seed companies, farmers, grain handlers, food and ingredient processors, and soy food and beverage manufacturers, was founded last fall to help position the Canadian soybean industry as a global leader in soy food innovation.
“The soy food category is underdeveloped in Canada and there are many opportunities to grow the soy industry in this country,” says Jeff Schmalz, president of Soy 20/20. As a council, we’re excited to be launching these new initiatives to promote soy foods in this country.”The primary goal of the Council is to grow demand for Canadian manufactured soy food products by advocating for the health benefits and nutritional advantages of soy foods, developing education and awareness initiatives, facilitating the flow of information among value chain partners and promoting the use of Canadian soybeans and soy protein as ingredients in food products.
A key step in its new marketing plan is gathering information from dietitians to determine their awareness and knowledge of soy food through a multi-stage research study. The Council received support from the Canadian Agricultural Adaptation Program (CAAP), a federal initiative that aims to help the Canadian agricultural sector adapt and remain competitive. In Ontario, the regional component of CAAP is delivered by the Agricultural Adaptation Council (AAC).
The qualitative phase of the market research study, which has just been completed, involved one-on-one interviews with select dietitians from British Columbia to the Maritimes. This will be followed by a quantitative survey of 100 dietitians in both institutional and private practice settings across Canada.
One of the key goals is to gauge the dietitians’ current knowledge and understanding of soy food and beverages and determine where the gaps are, so that the proper information and resources can be provided to meet their needs. Dietitians are considered a well-respected and credible source of information related to health and nutrition, so the Council wants to keep them up to date with the most current details about soy and soy food products.
The results of the research, expected later this summer, will serve as the basis for the Council’s efforts to clear up misconceptions about soy among dietitians. Work has already begun with the launch of a refreshed Soy For Life website this spring that features updated content, current health and nutritional information, and a blog at www.soyforlife.ca. The blog includes regular posts by agricultural writer Karen Davidson and by Maxine Seider, a graduate student in the
Department of Human Health and Nutritional Sciences at the University of Guelph.
The Council has also begun shooting footage for a new video that will follow soy from farm field to consumer plate using farms and soy food manufacturers in southern Ontario. The video will help consumers understand where their food comes from and the steps involved in growing, processing and preparing soy food.
“We’re going to use the visuals to explain farm to plate production on our website, through social media and media relations outreach and our presence at the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair,” says Nancy Cogger, director of business development for retail and food service with Soy 20/20. “We will take consumers into a farmer’s field and into a food processing plant to see what goes on, which most of us never get the chance to do.”
Additional promotional outreach is focused on journalists. A basket of Canadian soy food products was distributed (see picture) to approximately 60 food writers and media influencers in March to highlight new soy foods and make them aware of the newly available online resource. The consumer video is being complemented by a media tour this fall that will give food writers and other food industry professionals the chance to tour a soybean farm and a processing plant, and talk directly with farmers and food manufacturers. “We really want to highlight the local food system and show people that soy is grown in their backyard. By consuming it, you’re not only eating healthy but you’re also supporting local farmers and businesses, which is a win for everybody,” explains Cogger. Plans are also underway for the Council to be part of the “Food Innovations for Health” luncheon and forum at the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair for dietitians, nutritionists and others who work in food and health fields. Soy 20/20 participated in the successful event last year, which attracted over 140 participants and was part of the fair’s Journey to Your Good Health programming to promote healthy eating.
The Canadian Soy Food Marketing Council was created in 2011 by Soy 20/20, Grain Farmers of Ontario and Canadian soy food companies following the integration of the former Soyfoods Canada organization into Soy 20/20. Membership is open to businesses in the soy value chain and new members are always welcome, says Schmalz.
“There are many opportunities to grow the soy industry in this country and we’re counting on both original and new supporting members to help us with those efforts,” he says. “It is rewarding to see the collaboration amongst Council members and the unity of purpose. We believe their collective input will result in new wealth creation for the entire Canadian soy value chain.” Council members include Pioneer Hi-Bred Ltd., SunOpta, Parrish & Heimbecker, Monsanto, Bunge North America, Whitewave Foods, London Ag Commodities, Solae, Sevita International, Hilton Soy Foods, Grain Farmers of Ontario, Manitoba Pulse Growers, Syngenta Seeds Canada, Hain Celestial Group, Sol Cuisine, Sunrise Soya Foods, Earth’s Own Food Company Inc., Soy 20/20 and Thompson’s Limited.