The soybean had its beginnings in China and Chinese historical documents suggest that soybeans have been a diet staple in Asia since the 11th Century BC. According to the Soyfoods Association of North America, the soybean was introduced to North America around the 1760s. Today, soybeans are grown in many parts of the world with the United States being the largest producer of this crop, followed by Brazil, Argentina and China. The United States Department of Agriculture notes that the value of U.S. soybean production in 2008/09 was approximately US$29.6 billion, which represented the second-highest value among U.S. produced crops, behind corn. Soybeans are similar in size and colour to peas and are primarily cultivated for their oil and protein. Soybeans are the largest single source of edible oil and account for roughly 53% of the world’s total oilseed production in 2009. In addition to being a source of oil and protein, soybean meal is used in animal feed for the production of meat and eggs.
Soy protein isolates have been used as a food ingredient for many years. Soy protein isolate is used as a functional ingredient or fortifier in a wide variety of food products including protein shakes, power bars, soups and sauces, meats and meat analogs, and breads and baked goods. In addition to enhancing the protein content of foods, soy protein isolates are desired by food manufacturers for their functional applications. These applications include the ability to emulsify, whip, bind and add viscosity to foods.