According to the two companies, the secret lies in the use of a soybean that has high levels of beta-conglycinin, a naturally occurring, texture- and flavor-improving compound.
Using plant breeding technology, Monsanto is to develop the new soybean, and Solae will then isolate the protein from the beans and refine it to best suit the needs of a variety of applications, including meat, and beverages.
"The new soybean will allow us to produce a protein that will have virtually no taste and better functionality, such as improved binding properties. This will make it more accessible to a number of manufacturers who do not currently use soy protein as it is not compatible with their products," said Andrew Shea of Solae.
"And because of the health benefits of soy this will allow companies to produce healthier products, in line with increased consumer demand for these products," he told BakeryAndSnacks.com.
Soy protein is already used by some energy bar manufacturers to enhance the products' health promoting effects.
The market for energy bars, which have the widest consumer profile of all sports nutrition products, saw a 23.5 per cent increase in 2004, according to market researchers Frost & Sullivan. Meal replacement bars have seen the most consistent growth of all products, with a 16.9 per cent rise over last year.
Global recognition of soy's potential health benefits has recently gathered pace. The US Food and Drug Administration has said that soy can reduce the risk of heart disease when included in a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol.
A variety of studies completed last year have also suggested soy may help to reduce the risk and spread of both prostate and breast cancer as well as stall the development of type 2 diabetes.
Recent data revealed by market researcher Freedonia suggests that in the US health claims will contribute to a 5.1 percent annual growth in demand for soy over the next five years, with soy protein products also expected to steam ahead with 5.9 percent annual growth.
Solae said the new soy protein line will be made from non genetically modified soybeans, but added that the technology can also be used with GM soybeans, and modifications can be made depending on individual customer's needs.
According to Monsanto, one of the reasons for the new soybean's improved properties is that because beta-conglycinin is a soluble protein, elevating levels of this in soybeans makes the soy protein more soluble, improving the texture.
"Beta conglycinin also does not bind flavors, so at higher levels it does not hold in the bean taste, creating a more neutral taste profile that can better hold flavorings that are added to the end product," said Monsanto's Christopher Horner.
The new soybean will be available for planting in 2007, with the soy protein expected to hit the market both in the US and internationally in the next two to three years.