South African consumers opinions and beliefs regarding the health benefits of soy and soy products
Badham, Jane Melissa
Bosman, Magdalena Johanna Catharina
Ellis, Susanna Maria
Jerling, Johann Carl
Van der Merwe, Magdalena
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Studies linking diet and health and consumers' demand for health information, has led to an increasing awareness of the role of nutrition in health and disease. Interest in soy foods and an awareness of its health benefits has also increased. The objective was to assess South African (SA) consumers' opinions and beliefs regarding the health benefits of soy and soy products using different statements. This cross-sectional study randomly selected 3001 respondents from metropolitan and rural areas in South Africa. Data of 81% of respondents (n = 2437), who had heard of soy, were used. Trained fieldworkers administered questionnaires as face-to-face interviews. Fifteen statements probing consumers' opinions regarding the health benefits of soy were used. The data were weighted to be representative of the total South Africa adult population (n = 18 251 000) based on gender, age, living environment and race distribution in 2000. Effect sizes were used to determine the strength of associations (practical significance), since statistical significance could be attributed to the large study population. No practically significant differences between either gender or age groups, or between rural and metropolitan respondents' opinions were found. Most respondents in the total study population (50–75%), as well as within all race groups agreed that soy has many health benefits; soy is good for you; soy lowers cholesterol; soy is good for people with a milk allergy; soy helps keep your heart healthy; soy is good for diabetes and soy is good for growing children. Medium to large practically significant differences were found between racial groups regarding some of the statements. Practically significantly more adult Black consumers believed that soy is only for people with a low-income, and fewer that soy milk is good for people with a milk allergy than did White, Indian and Coloured consumers. Whites were relatively more positive towards the use of soy for people with a milk allergy opposed to Blacks, while Blacks were relatively more positive than Whites towards the statement that soy helps keep your bones strong. The results indicate that SA consumers held positive opinions and associate consumption of soy with several health benefits. The role of soy is seen more as being preventative than curative. It may represent a challenge to the food industry to design soy-containing products that appeal to a broader spectrum of consumers.