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Margarine with a claim seen as ‘better than butter’

By Jess Halliday , 22-Jul-2010

American consumers are more likely to choose margarine over butter if it carried a heart healthy claim, found the United Soybean Board’s annual survey on consumer attitudes towards nutrition.

The board has conducted the survey for the last 17 years, until 2005 by telephone and since then online with over a thousand consumers questioned.

In the latest edition, the results of which were made available at the IFT trade show in Chicago this week, sought views on different kinds of fat. This year about 48 per cent of consumers said they consider butter to be healthier than margarine because it is “more natural”.

However when a margarine carries a health claim, 60 per cent said they considered it more healthy than butter.

This, the United Soybean Board says, indicates “an opportunity for margarine manufacturers to educate via product packaging”.

Is soy healthy?

The FDA has approved a health claim for soy which states that consuming 25g of soy protein a day reduces the risk of coronary heart disease. Thirty-one per cent of respondents said they were aware of this health claim, and 45 per cent agreed with it.

The percentage of consumers who said they were aware of soy as a healthy food was 84 – the same as last year. Awareness has grown considerably over time, however; in 1998 it was at just 67 per cent.

They were seen to associate soy most often with being heart healthy, low in fat, a source of protein, good for you, and cholesterol-lowering.

The top soy product by awareness in 2010 was soymilk, with 90 per cent awareness, followed by soybean oil and plain white tofu at 56 per cent each.

In general consumers tend to order the same soy products in restaurants as they do at home, but after soymilk, tofu, soy veggie burgers and edamame were the most popular foods.

The popularity of miso-eating in restaurants has more than doubled in the last year, from 7 to 15 per cent.

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