Background Considerable research has been conducted on the potential health benefits of soy foods. However,
there is a lack of information available on Australian consumer knowledge of soy foods and their perceived health
benefits. In particular understanding how negative media portrayals of soy intake with a potential link between soy
and cancer may have impacted consumers attitudes and beliefs has not yet been explored.
Objective This study aimed to assess Australian consumers understanding of soy foods and the potential health
benefits or concerns about their consumption.
Design Five semi-structured focus groups were conducted using a purposeful non-probability sample including: (1)
health food shoppers, (2) organic food shoppers, (3) soy consumers, (4) non-soy consumers, and (5) people who
suffer from or live with someone who suffers from some type of food allergy. Thematic content analysis and
constant comparison by two coders was conducted.
Outcomes Four themes were identified from consumer responses which encompassed: influences on shopping
habits; understanding of soy foods; influence of media and provision of credible information about soy. Participants
were aware of the potential health benefits linked to soy consumption with some reservations. Soy foods were
viewed as healthy and recognised as part of the Asian cuisine. Food consumption habits were primarily dictated by
house hold composition and their respective food requirements. Taste featured highly in terms of a perceived barrier.
A lack of understanding how soy foods are produced and their role in the diet were raised. Participants were
interested in credible information on soy foods. Media coverage regarding soy was not perceived as reliable.
Conclusion Australian consumers generally view soy foods as healthy and consumption of all foods in
moderation as being the key to healthy eating. Issues raised have implications for designing communications and
providing opportunities for trialling soy foods.