UFS Launches Affordable Soya Dairy Alternatives to Combat Food Insecurity

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UFS Launches Affordable Soya Dairy Alternatives to Combat Food Insecurity"
UFS Launches Affordable Soya Dairy Alternatives to Combat Food Insecurity"

The Food Innovation Laboratory at the University of the Free State (UFS) has introduced a range of affordable, protein-rich soy-based dairy alternatives, aiming to alleviate food insecurity in South Africa.

Led by Prof Wilna Oldewage-Theron from Texas Tech University (USA) and the UFS Department of Sustainable Food Systems and Development, this community-focused initiative aims to provide economically feasible, high-protein snacks and dairy substitutes using locally sourced soybeans.

Founded by Prof Johan van Niekerk, UFS’s Vice-Dean of Agriculture, and Dr Brandon van Rooyen from the Department of Sustainable Food Systems and Development, the lab has been pioneering innovative products since its inception in early 2023. These include soya sausages, mince, and roasted soya nuts. Recently, they expanded their offerings to include flavored soymilk drinks (strawberry, banana, vanilla) and soymilk-based yogurts (berry, banana).

Dr Van Rooyen highlighted their sustainable approach, utilizing soybean byproducts like ‘okara’—rich in protein and nutrients—to create additional products such as ‘vetkoek’ dough and savory biscuits, minimizing waste and maximizing nutritional benefits.

Health Benefits of Soybeans:

Soybeans used in the lab’s products are naturally cholesterol-free and contain essential amino acids vital for human growth and development. Dr Van Rooyen emphasized soy protein’s superior amino acid profile compared to other plant sources.

Addressing Nutritional Challenges:

“In low-income communities, affordable protein is scarce, contributing to nutritional deficiencies,” noted Dr Van Rooyen. “Our products aim to fill this gap by offering cost-effective, nutrient-rich alternatives to combat over-nutrition and associated health issues like high blood pressure and insulin resistance.”

Cost-Effectiveness:

Dr Van Rooyen stressed the financial advantage of soybeans, stating, “One kilogram of dried soybeans can yield 2-3 liters of soy milk, costing less than R10 per kilogram. This affordability makes it a viable option compared to animal meats, dairy, and eggs.”

Empowering Communities:

Funded by UFS and the Oil & Protein Seeds Development Trust (OPDT), the project supports small enterprises in low-income communities. By educating locals on soy’s nutritional benefits and processing methods, the initiative not only enhances economic empowerment but also promotes healthier dietary choices.

The Food Innovation Lab at UFS aims to revolutionize food accessibility in South Africa, paving the way for sustainable nutrition solutions and community development.

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