There’s no joy in Soyville

598tThe market for soy food and beverages dropped a whopping 16 percent in the last two years,  according to a report from market researcher, Mintel.

Soy watchers blame rising prices, new alternatives and the fickleness of health-conscious consumers. I'd add one other ingredient: taste. Yuck!

Having dabbled with such foodstuffs as soy milk and soy ice cream over the years, I can personally attest to being part of the 16 percent drop. You couldn't pay enough me to buy soy stuff.

The pocketbook's also playing a huge role in soy's demise. When times are good, consumers will pay extra for what they perceive to be a healthy alternative. They'll also buy ‘green' products because, well, who doesn't want to reach out and give Mother Earth a great, big hug?

But, when the Great Recession hit, yucky-tasting, high priced food began gathering dust on store shelves. Ditto with all those higher-priced green products. I've always believed that, whether it's a global multinational or a multi-tasking housewife, green is a nice-to-have, and not a must-have. And, when sacrifices have to be made, a nice-to-have is the first to go. (Note: That same Repman truism holds for PR in a down economy.)

So, what's a soy boy to do? Well, according to the Ad Age article, the industry's not doing much to rally the troops. First, they've been extremely slow to react to what Carlotta Mast of says has “…been a lot of innovation in the vegetarian and vegan markets.” Second, says Ad Age, the industry has had “…to deal with conflicting news reports about cancer.” Ouch. Smart, fleet-footed competitors, yucky taste, high prices AND a possibility of an increased risk of breast-cancer recurrence in survivors? Talk about the perfect storm.

Phil Lempert, who runs summed it up beautifully: “Gluten-free products are fueling their own growth through innovation. Soy got lazy.”

So, we've got a lazy, yucky-tasting, high-priced product linked to cancer whose competition is eating its lunch. Or, we've got what we in PR call an opportunity.

So, putting on my branding hat, let me take a stab at a few re-positioning campaign themes for the soy industry:

– 'Soy stinks. Life is short. Let's both move on.'
– 'Soy: We'll be back' (with the Governator as its new spokesman)
– 'Tastes bad. Costs more. There we've said it.' (This might be a nice co-branding opportunity with Big Tobacco, BTW).

I'd love to hear suggested campaign themes from Rep readers, especially Lunch Boy. Hey Lunch? Do you do soy?

10 thoughts on “There’s no joy in Soyville

  1. You’ve confirmed the exact reason why soy’s market share is dropping faster than Donald Trump’s remaining hair folicles, Trish.

  2. When I did PR for the National Dairy Council, we called it soy juice – come on, it’s not milk! Milk from what?
    There was a study that showed in order to get anywhere near the amount of nutrients from soy like you do from milk, you have to shake the soy container as much as a paint can shaker shakes paint – otherwise it is a sludge at the bottom that you throw out. No thank you – I’ll take my cow’s milk. I want to like soy milk and then I tried almond milk the other day. I’m glad to see I’m not the only one who doesn’t like the taste of those ‘other’ milks.

  3. There was a soy backlash in the healthfood community — some folks said it was great for you; others said it wasn’t. Whatever. I enjoy eating tofu and shall continue to do so. Whatever gets you through the night…

  4. I love Soyanara. Good stuff, Ms. B. Re: green products, my point was strictly financial. When Americans need to cut costs, they’ll opt for the least expensive brand, not the one that’s best for the environment. And, that’s said with all due respect to Mother Earth.

  5. How about “soyanara”?
    I don’t think you should conflate a nasty tasting drink with green products. The latter — at least the real ones — are meant to preserve the planet. Have you looked at the weather lately? I’d rather have fewer household goods and foods that are better for me and the earth than overpackaged, overprocessed alternatives.

  6. Brilliant, Aaiello. Positively brilliant. Or as a former Italian watchmaker client of mine used to say, ‘Bravissima!’

  7. To repurpose a satirical beer commercial I heard long ago from some comic ad writers, here’s something that could be used for soy milk: “When you want a drink real bad, we’ve got a really bad drink.”
    How about “Soy: the other white food.”
    Or, for the Soyfoods Association of North America: “We may not be good, but we’re open from 9 to 5.”
    Finally, a riff on a line we used to use to describe some of our products in my past life: “Soy: You can buy better, but you’ll never pay more.”