When consumers talk, the food industry listens. And, trans fats proved to be no exception. With added consumer pressure in 2006, the U.S. government approved regulation requiring trans fats be labeled on food products. This prompted food companies to begin reformulating their products to eliminate trans fats from their label, thus removing partially hydrogenated soybean oil from the ingredient list.
As food companies made the switch to oils without trans fats, soybean oil lost considerable market share. In fact, soybean oil lost 15% of its market share, while other oils gained in popularity.
When it comes to soybean-oil demand, the food industry tops the list, with no other use coming close to matching it. The increased use of competitive oils represents a serious threat to soybean farmers' profitability. Now, the soybean industry looks to take back some of that demand with new soybean traits, specifically high-oleic soybeans.
Seed companies plan to introduce high-oleic soybeans as Pioneer Plenish, already contracting in select regions of Ohio, Michigan, and Indiana, and Monsanto Vistive Gold.
"Soy's consistent supply made it attractive to the food industry early on," says Herb Miller, a Michigan soybean farmer from Niles. "Michigan soybean farmers can help draw the attention back to soy with these new varieties, increasing the value of our crops."
High-oleic soybean oil offers food companies stability without the need for hydrogenation, resulting in no trans fats. High-oleic soy's healthier oil offers food companies less saturated fats, a longer fry life and a longer shelf-life than other food oils. And, high-oleic soy's growing region focuses in the U.S., offering a locally-sourced oil.
High-oleic soy also represents an opportunity to increase consumer acceptance of biotechnology. This newest, enhanced-trait soybean represents the first biotech soybean trait with direct consumer health benefits: healthier food oil.
Successful commercialization of high-oleic soybean oil could help soybean farmers recapture 3.8 billion pounds of soybean oil demand. That gain in market share would enhance the market value of soybeans, adding to soybean farmers' profit potential.
"When we think about competition, it's not just farmers in other countries, it's other food oils, as well," adds Miller. "For high-oleic soybeans to be successful, we need prompt and widespread adoption to keep this new soy oil affordable and attractive to the food companies that want it."
That affordability comes with timely and broad adoption of high-oleic varieties. These varieties can meet food companies' demands without lowering farmers' expectations in the field.
Seed companies recognize the need for new varieties to perform similarly or better than existing varieties. High-oleic varieties will provide farmers with the built-in trait and disease packages they already expect from current choices.
High-oleic soy followed an extensive research timeline prior to commercialization. And, seed companies plan to make these traits available in several maturity groups and with a range of agronomic packages.
"The high-oleic trait focuses on the end-use for soybeans, providing direct benefits to that customer," adds Miller. "But, it also opens market opportunities for U.S. soybean farmers that were closing."
A national, industry-wide coalition QUALISOY helps build acceptance for these varieties as they become available on the market. To find out more about QUALISOY, visit www.qualisoy.com.
For more information on the MSPC, visit www.michigansoybean.org.