Soy is currently one of the most important food crops in the world (considering both economical and nutrition areas) - all that in addition to being Brazil's main export product. Under analysis of the last four decades, the product has kept growing in a curve of quantitative and qualitative evolution.
Soybeans are an oilseed from the leguminosae family and are cultivated by the genus Glycine max (L.) Merril, originating in the Asian continent with great ancestry in present-day China . Due to its high food and nutritional value, soybeans expanded to reach the American continent and, precisely there, had its greatest development.
Brazil and the United States lead the worldwide soy production rankings. In Brazilian lands, the oilseed began to be cultivated in the states of Bahia, São Paulo and Rio Grande do Sul, expanding to the Midwest with Mato Grosso as a reference.
Data collected from studies carried out by Embrapa (Brazil’s Farming Research Firm)  and by Conab (Brazil’s National Supply Company)  provides guidance on the process of understanding the economic and, later, nutritional importance of the grain in Brazil.
The latest data (2021-2022 harvest) points to a world production reaching 355.588 million tons, with Brazil being responsible for 123,829.5 million tons (May 2022). Mato Grosso (Brazil's largest soybean producer) pledged 39,961.1 million tons of this total.
Regarding its quantitative importance, soy occurs not only at a time of evolution in production methods, but also along with a growing demand from consumers. As people increasingly look to nutritious, plant-based foods, a positive impact has been observed on the market.
It is worth noting that soybeans’ numerous uses and applications have changed over the years. Before, the oilseed was used essentially for the production of vegetable oils and animal food.
On the other hand,it assumes a new role in the market. While the versatility of the raw material is being explored, its application continues to expand into different types of human food (sausages, sweets, breads) and animal nutrition - such as the creation of enriched formulas. In addition to that, the fact that soy is a substitute ingredient for meat of animal origin is highlighted.
To this extent, BRF Ingredients has developed several soy-based ingredients and products through research and innovation - including Soy Flours and Proteins, whose applications and benefits we will present later.
First, however, it is necessary to know the nutritional value of grains and understand their nutritional importance and the rise of world production. Soy in natura, that is, in its original form, has 40% proteins, 30% carbohydrates and 20% lipids .
Therefore, soy is revealed to be a fundamental crop both in terms of economics, expansion, demand and supply, as well as nutritional values that, combined with technological processes, cooking, grinding, among others, become richer, more attractive and versatile.
Differences between soy proteins and flours
Before addressing the applications of soy flours and proteins in human nutrition, it’s important to define the existent differences between ingredients and their origins. Both have soybeans as a common base.
BRFi’s Food Ingredients specialist Rodrigo Nardi, interviewed by BRFi Talks , states that what will differentiate flours from proteins is the use of the grain. In the case of flour, it is fully processed giving rise to whole wheat flour soybeans, or processed for oil extraction and hulling, a more complex process that gives rise to defatted soybean meal.
The majority of the raw materials’ protein components are derived from ground and sieved defatted soy bran, the first of which, according to Nardi, is defatted soy flour.
Thus, soy flour is made from roasted soy beans that have been ground and sieved with a specific granulometry to produce the ingredient that, when ready, will have several applications in the food industry.
These applications will be both to increase the protein content of various foods, such as in baking, and to increase the viscosity, absorption of water and fat, the emulsifying properties that will also favor sweet foods .
An important key factor of the flours is the enrichment potential of the ingredients due to the protein content originating from this product, which varies between 48% and 50%.
Soy proteins undergo an extrusion cooking process, which uses mechanical pressure and heat to modify the structure of this protein, as clarified by Rodrigo Nardi in an interview for BRFi Talks .
This extrusion process favors that soy proteins also absorb more water and thus have a different texture and expansion, which provides a similarity to the texture of meat protein, but maintaining a protein content between 48% and 50%.
Also according to Nardi, BRFi's Food Ingredients specialist, in other products, whether concentrated or isolated flours, processes are carried out to remove undesirable components that increase the protein content of the final product.
It should be noted that flour, bran and defatted come with 48% of protein and depending on the process — concentration or isolation, eliminating substances — the protein level is enriched and can reach 68% in the case of the concentrated process, and 88% in the case of isolates, removing sugars and fibers.
Types and applications of brf ingredients soy flours and proteins
BRF Ingredients’ soy flours and proteins are classified as defatted and textured, respectively. Both the Proteins and the Soy Flour formulated by BRFi are obtained from grains thermally treated with a specific technology.
Both have nutrients and important extender functionalities, which promote the maintenance of the texture, the retention of liquids and help in the juiciness of the different final products.
Specifically, BRF Ingredients has two flour lines in its portfolio that add value and enrich the ingredients with the application of the products.
Defatted Soy Flour supper-M
The Defatted Soy Flour supper-M is produced from soy bran processed from the extraction of oil from the oleaginous plant, which, when undergoing specific heat treatment, presents a reduction in enzymatic activity. Its main applications are: sauces and soups, baking, sausages, chocolates and fillings.
Originating from the same raw material, the bran from soy oil, soyMax-M Active Degreasing Soy Flour has in its properties the enzyme lipoxygenase, which helps in the whitening of flours and improvement of doughs. Its main applications are: cakes and fillings, pasta and bakery products.
Textured Soy Protein
Processed by extrusion – which, by combining heat, humidity and mechanical work, profoundly alters the raw materials – Textured Soy Protein has differentiated texture characteristics, allowing the use of the ingredient as an extender in meat-based products and/or analogues to meat.
This Protein from BRF Ingredients has versions with different granulometries for specific application according to the need of the product.
Following the same processing (extrusion), there is also Textured Soy Protein with Poultry Skin, which is available in powder and granulated versions. The inclusion of poultry skin in the ingredient formulation makes the taste different.
Both Textured Protein and Textured with Poultry Skin have their main applications in sausages, hamburgers, breaded products, meatballs and sausages, such as mortadella. In addition, these ingredients increase the protein content of the food products that are applied.
Applications in sweet foods
The versatility of soy proteins and flours is extensive and the benefits are diverse. However, in the food industry, there is a consolidated habit of application in essentially salty ingredients. But the use of proteins in sweet foods is increasing.
There is an increasing demand for clean label products, which present a reduction in chemical additives and have cleaner labels. As Rodrigo Nardi, specialist in Food Ingredients at BRFi, points out, the addition of soy proteins can provide stable emulsions to replace chemical emulsifiers in ingredients.
Nardi explains that, in fillings, for example, soy flour favors the emulsion, which means a gain in body viscosity, favoring aeration which in ice cream is an interesting result because the more aerated the ice cream is, the softer and creamy will be the sensation on the palate.
It should be noted that the inclusion of BRF Ingredients Soy Flours and Proteins also favors the reduction of what is called fat bloom in fillings and chocolates. Fat blooms are those white spots that appear on chocolates, giving the product a dry appearance.
With the use of flours and proteins, this effect is reduced because a bond is formed between the chocolate and the BRFi ingredients, allowing the fat in the filling/chocolate to migrate to the surface, maintaining the texture and color of the ingredient.
Another very typical application sector for Soy Flour and Proteins is in bakery foods, in which there is a favoring in the formation of color and aroma, especially in the case of bread. Active Soy Flour, for example, has the potential to lighten bread crumbs, and can partially or completely replace chemical whiteners.
Finally, in addition to all the benefits and advantages of BRF Ingredients Soy Flours and Proteins, there is another relevant point to be considered: the decrease in production costs, since soy proteins tend to be cheaper than animal proteins and can replace the use of milk and eggs in various items of the food industry.
Therefore, the advantages of using BRF Ingredients Soy Flours and Proteins are not restricted only to applications in the Food Ingredients sector, but can also be used in the Animal Nutrition industry sector.
This market niche, especially pet food, has shown a lot of strength in recent years , manufacturing formulas aimed at dogs and cats - such as snacks and biscuits that, in addition to providing a high protein nutritional factor, work with the creation of more complex and attractive foods.
A careful look at the market points out another factor of including Soy Flours and Proteins in Food Ingredients and Animal Nutrition feeds: demand growth.
Finally, it is estimated that the global market for soy flour will record, by 2024, a growth of 6.13%  and, for the soy market, Conab estimates that in 2023 exports of the grain will grow by more than 22% in reference to 2022.
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