Natural Foods Merchandiser

Solae, Monsanto working on 'improved' soybean

The Solae Co., a leading supplier of soy to the natural products industry, has inked a deal with Monsanto, the St. Louis-based biotech company that has been leading the fight to bring genetically modified foods to consumers worldwide.

"Using advanced plant breeding technology," the partnership will allow the companies "to develop and market a new line of soy proteins with improved flavor and solubility," according to a news release.

Keith Thomas, director of new business development and licensing for Solae, also based in St. Louis, promises that the new and improved soybean will not be genetically modified. "It truly is conventional breeding technology," Thomas said.

Thomas said the technology would be used to improve existing product lines. Solae soy protein is currently used in Balance, Gardenburger, GeniSoy, Lightlife, MoriNu, and Yves products, among many others. "We would expect this technology to be developed over the next couple of years and target being in the marketplace in the area of 2008," he said.

Sales of soy-based products have skyrocketed in recent years, based on its heart-health benefits and the U.S. government's 1999 approval of a heart-health claim on soy foods' packaging. Solae, created in 2003 through an alliance between DuPont and Bunge, saw sales of $800 million in 2004, according to Hoover's business information service.

"We would expect that as we continue to improve soy's taste and function in foods that I classify as mainstream products today, more and more people are going to be interested because of all the health benefits of soy," Thomas said.

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