Processing and Products

Soybean is processed into a very wide range of products to realize its astonishing potential as food, feed, pharmaceutical and industrial products. Traditionally, soybean has been utilized mainly as fermented (e.g. sauce, miso, natto) and non-fermented (e.g. oil, milk, tofu, flour) foods. During the 20th century, however, with the increased demand for meat and eggs, the use of soy products as feed has been extensively developed, mainly in Western countries and to a lesser extent in Asia. In addition, during the 1980s, 1900s and 2000s, there have been tremendous improvements in soybean processing and utilization technologies and significant developments in marketing. Technologies are constantly being adapted to produce better-quality milk and milk products and soy protein isolates. New findings also include the physiological functions of soybean for human nutrition and health.

The global goal for soybean processing and utilization is to strengthen the development of new food, feed, pharmaceutical, cosmetic and industrial products, including co-products and ingredients for speciality applications. As of now, soybean derivatives are gaining importance not only in nutritious food products, but also as sources of phytochemicals and nutraceuticals to reduce the risk of coronary heart disease, osteoporosis, cancer, diabetes and so on. The emphasis in the non-food or industrial products markets is on biodegradable adhesives, plastics, coatings, inks, lubricants, biodiesel and more.

Scientific advances made in characterizing the phytochemical properties of molecular components of soybean, with the aid of sophisticated research instruments and processing equipment, are leading to the discovery of new structural and functional properties of ingredients and product performances. The advances made are related to chemical and physiological properties of soybean oil and protein and relating them to changes that occur because of breeding programmes or genetic development, growing-season variations, agronomic

Table 16.5. Exploiting soybean food potential: technology and products (fermented and non-fermented) (Gandhi et al, 2008; reprinted with permission).

Form of soybean Technology


Whole soybean (direct food uses)

Partially de-fatted soybean (oil and cake)

Fully de-fatted soybean (oil and meal)

By-products of soybean (hull, okara and whey)

Separation, soaking, blanching, boiling, drying, size reduction, fermentation, extrusion, packaging, storage, marketing

Mechanical expression, physical refining, enzyme, cooking, size reduction, packaging, storage, marketing

Solvent extraction, refining, hydrogenation, size reduction, separation and concentration, packaging, storage, marketing

Size reduction, fermentation, separation, packaging, storage, marketing

Full-fat soy flour, milk, paneer (tofu), curd, ice-cream, tempeh, sauce, sprouted and roasted snack, extruded snack foods, soy fortified bakery, fermented foods Oil, margarine, medium-fat soy flour, bakery foods

Oil, vanaspati, soy meal, de-fatted soy flour, lecithin, soy protein concentrate, isolates and hydrolysates, speciality and health foods Dietary fibre, single-cell proteins, citric acid, enzymes, alcohol factors and processing parameters. The restructuring of separated and modified triglycerides of oils and polypeptides of proteins with unique properties and chemical-enzymatic modifications of components to enhance functionalities, such as foaming, emulsification, film and adhesive properties, are enhancing the continued development of new food, feed and industrial applications.

Soybean is generally used as a raw material in the form of whole beans or partially or fully de-fatted cake or meal for making various soy-based food products. Whole beans are used for making full-fat soy flour, dairy analogues and fermented and snack foods. Soy flour can also be made from partially or fully de-fatted beans (cake/meal) and used in making baked products, texturized soy proteins, protein isolates and concentrates, extruded snack foods and so on. A range of technologies - physical, chemical, biological or a combination of these - are used in making various soy-based fermented and non-fermented foods (Table 16.5). However, the option of technology depends on the type of product and its use.

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