Sustainability Protocol boosts U.S. food soybean demand

There’s export demand for sustainable U.S. soybeans in Northeast Asia, which includes Japan and Korea. Rosalind Leeck, the U.S. Soybean Export Council (USSEC) director for that region, calls Japanese and Korean demand for U.S. soybeans “relatively stable,” despite the pandemic.

“The one that we have observed over the course of the last two years, particularly as a result of COVID, has been the increased demand for soy foods, and particularly, fermented soy products,” said Leeck, speaking during a recent USSEC webinar. “As a result, that has actually increased what we’ve been able to supply to Japan from a soyfoods standpoint.”

The same is true in Korea, according to Leeck. “We have seen the food bean business and the food bean demand increase, and in both cases, the U.S. enjoys a very high market share.”

There is increased awareness among Northeast Asian consumers about sustainability, said Leeck. Japan and Korea were late to the game in the sustainability conversation, but an attitude shift with greater attention to sustainability has taken place, especially since the Tokyo Olympics. That, she said, has translated to companies taking a greater interest in sustainable soybean sourcing.

“We’ve been able to, as the U.S. soy industry through our Soy Sustainability Assurance Protocol, provide that solution, to provide that verification of sustainable sourcing, the sustainable production for the consumers and for the industry in Japan and Korea,” she said.

Specifically, the South Korea-based Lotte Food Company saw increased business when it began labeling as sustainable its vegetable oil made from U.S. grown soybeans. That labeling is seen as a key marketing opportunity for the food company, demonstrating to consumers the company’s sustainability criteria.

Several companies in Japan have adopted the Soy Sustainability Assurance Protocol, displaying the logo on their products. “Japan leads the world in having the most companies utilizing the logo and the most consumer-facing products with hundreds of them with the sustainable U.S. Soy logo on it,” said Leeck, “so we’re quite excited about that.”