Global Breakfast Trends Offer Opportunities for Soy Foods to Rise and Shine

By Linda Funk, Executive Director, The Soyfoods Council

Emerging retail trends, changing restaurant menus and new product categories indicate that consumers are rethinking breakfast. The breakfast evolution may benefit the soy foods market, given that U.S. Soy’s nutrition attributes and sustainability mesh with many of today’s food trends.

The global breakfast food market was valued at $398.1 billion in 2020, and is anticipated to rise to $729.5 billion by 2030, representing a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 6.3%.[1]  Breakfast foods currently include cereals, eggs, yogurt, and ready-to-eat items available through various distribution channels, including supermarkets, convenience stores and online.

Plant protein remains a major food trend, and morning meals are no exception. In a crowded plant-based food market, protein represents a key opportunity. Consumers consider food and drink products with plant-based claims to be healthy. The majority of consumers of plant-based foods are looking for more high-protein plant-based dairy alternatives.[2]  Fortified soy beverages (soy milk) and soy yogurt stand out as quality choices because they are already included as part of the dairy group in the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.[3]

Soy milk and soy yogurt are similar to their dairy counterparts in nutrient composition and the way they are used in meals. Product opportunities may include offering new flavor options for them, ranging from exotic tropical fruit flavors —lychee, dragonfruit, persimmon—to dessert flavors. Many restaurant dessert menus feature breakfast-flavored desserts, such as coffee and doughnuts tiramisu.

Waking up to Plant Protein

Plant protein product options continue to proliferate, with 52% of global consumers now considering themselves flexitarians whose diets incorporate both animal-based and plant-based proteins.[4] In addition to already established plant-based breakfast meats like bacon and sausage products, plant-based eggs are among the product categories to watch. In restaurants across much of the world, egg sandwiches are one of the top post-pandemic menu trends for 2022.[5]  Plant-based egg products experienced rapid growth in 2021, with a 42% increase in dollar sales and have grown more than 1,000% in the past three years.[6] In 2021, plant-based eggs earned nearly 0.6% share of the total egg market, compared to their 0.05% market share three years ago.[7]

Plant-based eggs often include soy ingredients, such as tofu, soy flour, soy protein isolate and concentrate, and soy lecithin.[8] Besides eggs, other plant protein breakfast options include globally-inspired recipes like tofu scramble and tofu souffle, prepared in a way similar to eggs.

Sustainable U.S. Soy ingredients and products like soy milk also offer breakfast solutions for consumers who are concerned about the environmental impact of the foods they choose. Globally, as many as 20 to 25% of consumers have changed their product choices for environmental reasons; they also look for sustainably grown products with environmentally responsible packaging.[9] In Indonesia, for example, 76% of consumers agree that climate change affects the foods and drinks they buy, and 59% of German consumers believe their behavior can have a positive impact on the environment.[10]

Grab-and-Go Keeps on Going

The grab-and-go breakfast trend continues to gather momentum, dominated by the bakery products segment.[11] Soy ingredients such as soy flour, soy milk, and tofu add high-quality plant protein to baked goods. In the U.S., upcycling pulp byproducts such as okara is a predicted consumer food trend for 2023.[12] New product introductions featuring okara include gluten-free consumer baking cake and brownie mixes made with okara flour. Okara is a mild-flavored soy pulp produced in the making of soy milk and tofu. In addition to baked goods, other grab-and-go breakfast options include smoothies made with soy milk or tofu, soy yogurt, and breakfast sandwiches.

Snacking Trends in the A.M.

Breakfast snack options represent another potential opportunity, with hybrid workers looking for convenient and time-saving morning snacks. The trend is expected to redefine global snacks through 2027,[13] as consumers spend more time at home. Breakfast solutions include morning protein bars. For example, a newly introduced line of breakfast bars in the U.S. is positioned as an indulgent breakfast snack, made with a few simple ingredients and offering 10 grams of protein.

Breakfast flavors, inspired by childhood favorite cereals, are also splashing over into other snack foods, such as flavored popcorn. Sustainability is another snacking trend. It encompasses the marketing of sustainability certifications like U.S. Soy Sustainability Assurance Protocol as well as sustainable product packaging.[14]

For those who make their morning meals at home, soy foods also make it easier to stretch breakfast budgets. It’s simple to add a plant protein boost to cereal with TSP (textured soy protein, also called TVP or textured vegetable protein), or enhance fruit smoothies or egg dishes with silken tofu.

This article was partially funded by U.S. Soy farmers, their checkoff and the soy value chain.

[1] Allied Market Research. The Breakfast Food Market, 2020-2030. October 2021.

[2] Mintel. Emerging Trends in the Plant Based Industry. 2022.

[3] USDA and HHS, Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020-2025.

[4] ADM Global Consumer Trends for 2023, Business Wire Press Release, Nov. 1, 2022.

[5] Technomic, 2022 Global Restaurant Trends Forecast.

[6] Good Food Institute/Plant Based Foods Association/SPINS. U.S. Plant-Based Retail Food Sales Reach All-Time High. 2021.

[7] Good Food Institute/Plant Based Foods Association/SPINS. U.S. Plant-Based Retail Food Sales Reach All-Time High. 2021.

[8] The Good Food Institute. Plant-based Egg Alternatives: Optimizing for Functional Properties and Applications.

[9] Innova Market Insights. “Consumers Expect Shared Responsibility for the Health of the Planet.” Press release, June 30, 2022.

[10] Mintel, Global Consumer Trends 2023.

[11] Allied Market Research. The Breakfast Food Market, 2020-2030.  October 2021.

[12] Whole Foods. The Next Big Things: Our Top 10 Food Trends for 2023.

[13] Euromonitor International, “These Five Trends Will Redefine Global Snacks to 2027,” July 29, 2022.

[14] IRI Worldwide, The Global Appetite is Growing for Sustainable Snacks, 2022.