South African consumers' opinions and consumption of soy and soy products


Magdalena J.C. Bosman, North-West University, Potchefstroom, 2520, South Africa.


Interest in soy foods has increased with consumer awareness of its health benefits, especially with soy-related ingredients being utilized as one of the major sources of high-protein fortification. The aim of the present study was to assess South African (SA) consumers' opinion of soy and soy products through different statements on consumption, taste, protein value and healthiness. The respondents (n = 3001) for this randomized cross-sectional study were randomly selected from metropolitan and rural areas in South Africa. Trained fieldworkers administered questionnaires by conducting face-to-face interviews. Fourteen statements from four sections of the questionnaire (consisting of 17 food-related topics in total), probing information on consumers' opinion on soy and soy products, were used. Data on 81% of the respondents (n = 2437), who had heard of soy before, were used for statistical analyses. The data were weighted to be representative of the total SA population based on gender, age and race. No practically significant differences among metropolitan and rural respondents' opinion, gender or age variables regarding any statement were found. A practically significant higher percentage (>60%) of respondents in the total population and within all race groups were positive about soy and agreed that soy is a good source of protein, has many health benefits, associated soy with meat substitutes, were aware of a number of meat substitutes and agreed that soy can replace meat in their diet. Medium to large practically significant differences were found between racial groups regarding certain statements. More Blacks and Indians (76% and 68% respectively) than Whites (25%) use soy. Almost two-thirds of Indians (65%) and Blacks (64%) eat or drink soy products, compared with only 22% for Whites, indicating that the potential target market for soy products should be chosen accordingly. Higher percentages of Blacks than Whites also indicated that they liked the taste of soy, would use more soy if it was readily available and if a bigger product range existed and would replace cow's milk with soy milk, confirming that Blacks are more positive about soy and would use even more soy if a bigger range of soy products were available. The findings from the current study indicated that more than 70% of SA consumers believe that soy has many health benefits and more than 60% already use soy. Insight gained from this first study of its kind in SA provided valuable information to developers and marketers, and signified that consumer segmentation should be taken into consideration to focus on developing more acceptable soy products that appeal to these consumer segments that are more positive towards the taste of soy and might consume soy regularly. Within the discipline of Consumer Science, efforts to inform consumers about the advantages of soy in terms of its health benefits, and to support it in terms of a greater availability of more acceptable soy products at reasonable prices, would support the ideal of informed, responsible buying decisions across all socio-economic groups.