A Look Into The Soy Protein For Food Industry

A Look Into The Soy Protein For Food Industry

Soy is among the handful of plant-based food sources containing all the nine essential amino acids constituting complete proteins. According to one review, soybean constitutes approximately 40% crude protein.

Second, one publication on soybean protein utility in the food industry established that pure soy isolate is at least 90% protein. Moreover, the report highlights that the soybean isolate’s exceptional quality makes it ideal for improving food quality during processing.

So, which other functional and edible uses does soybean protein isolate serve in the food industry? Keep reading to discover more soy protein-based food industry applications, including where to purchase the best soy protein online.

Soy Protein Functional Properties

Soybean protein isolates high protein content, making it ideal for enhancing the nutrient profile in manufactured food. The protein isolate and other soybean products like concentrates (65%-70% protein), soy grits, and defatted flour (50%-54% protein) enhance the amino acid profile in manufactured food.

Therefore, soybean protein helps food manufacturers to respond to the public’s demand for more nutritious food options.

However, besides increasing the nutrient value in food, sustainable farming of soy products have functional properties that improve diverse food qualities. Such qualities include taste, texture, flavor, color, and shelf life. Below is an overview of essential soy protein’s functional properties utilized in the food industry.


1. Gelation

Gelation entails converting liquids into solids, and its primary function in the food industry is to give food a desirable texture. Proteins are the primary gelling agents used to facilitate the gelation process.

According to one publication, soy protein isolate is a popular gelation agent in the food industry due to its high water retention capacity. Soy protein isolate is effective in heat-induced gelation processes.

2. Emulsification

An emulsifier’s role in food manufacturing is maintaining miscibility and stability among two typically immiscible components like oil and water. Emulsification food additives have amphiphilic or a combination of hydrophilic (water-soluble) and hydrophobic (water-repellent/ oil-soluble) properties.

Therefore, they function as a bridge between lipid and water molecules in the oil-water interface of a typically immiscible solution, facilitating miscibility.

One literature review on soy protein’s emulsification properties established that the protein comprises 7S and 11S globulin molecules, protein molecules utilized in emulsification. Moreover, the review highlighted that soy protein’s polysaccharide molecules enhance emulsion stability.

3. Water Absorption

Water absorption is the capacity of food ingredients to take in water during processing, improving their texture and final product quality. One publication on the effects of soy isolate highlights water absorption among soy’s functional properties.

According to the publication, soy protein isolates hydrophilic properties that allow it to absorb water, causing an ingredient to swell to the desired texture or consistency.

4. Coagulation

Coagulation/thickening is crucial in industrial food production, imparting wood with sensory characteristics like texture, crumb, and mouthfeel. It occurs when soy protein isolate molecular bonds get disrupted, turning liquids into solids.

5. Aeration/Whipping

Aeration in food production incorporates air into the ingredient mixture, increasing the volume and lightness of the final product. The process is essential for achieving the perfect food texture, consistency, and foaming properties.

One study established that soy protein isolate modification using heat treatment and hydrolysis improved the aeration in foam foods like baked goods.


Soy Protein Functions Role In Food Processing

The soy protein functions highlighted above facilitate numerous food processing activities. Below is an overview of soy protein uses in specific food processing industries.

1. Soy Protein In Infant Formula

Protein is a significant macronutrient for infant formula to mimic breast milk. Infant formula is primarily a derivative of animal protein sources like cow’s or goat’s milk. However, soy protein-based infant formula is a viable alternative for babies born intolerant to animal-based feeding formulas.

Unlike soy milk with an odor and tastes some infants may find disagreeable, soy protein isolate is tasteless and odorless due to defatting in its production process. Also, the soy protein isolate production process includes phytic acid removal.

The low phytate content in soy protein isolate enhances mineral absorption, particularly zinc, copper, and calcium, guaranteeing the formula meets the baby’s nutrient intake.

2. Soy Protein In Industrial Baking

Soy protein serves nutritional and functional purposes in the baking industry. For starters, soy protein concentrate is a viable non-fat dry milk alternative. Additionally, baking relies heavily on aeration to achieve the perfect texture, density, and mouthfeel, among other sensory features in the final product.

One study on soy protein isolate in baking sponge cakes established that adding less than 20% to the batter increased its consistency and volume while lowering its density. The study also demonstrated that soy protein isolates used in baking positively impacted the cake’s crust color, crumb, and height.

3. Soy Protein In Meat Analogs

Meat analogs are animal meat product substitutes made from plant-based foods. As a complete protein, soy protein is an ideal meat analog ingredient, supplying a similar nutrient profile to animal-based meat products.

However, besides their nutrient profile, eating analogs must have a similar structure and texture to animal-based meat products to appeal to target markets. So, texturized soy protein achieved via production techniques like spun fiber processing meets the texture and flavor tests for meat analogs.



Soy protein’s applications in the food industry entail elevating the nutrient profile and functional characteristics that enhance food’s sensory appeal. Moreover, soy protein is an affordable alternative to additives with similar properties, lowering food production costs. Therefore, soy protein is crucial to enjoying affordable, delicious, and functional foods.

Steffy Alen

Steffy Alen