Products produced with soy-based ingredients continue to expand and improve. At the same time, they offer an earth-friendly alternative to many of their traditional petroleum-based counterparts.

Over the past year, 18 new, industrial soy-based products were introduced to the market — all developed in part through research funded by the soybean checkoff.

Today there are more than 40 different categories of soy-based products ranging from lotions and cleaning solvents to industrial items like plastics and biodiesel.

“We've had some home run products, like biodiesel. But there are also many base-hit products that, even though are on a smaller scale, still bring a lot of usage to the soybean industry,” says Karen Andersen, marketing director for the Iowa Soybean Promotion Board.

In Iowa for example, soy candles are an industry that has been successful. “We have 75 soy candle manufacturers in our state, and that industry has the potential to use the oil from 110 million bushels of soybeans each year,” Andersen says.

Other small soy products that are making it big include beauty products with soy extracts, now appearing regularly on retail store shelves. These products tout benefits for skin and hair. Aveeno's Clear Complexion Foaming Cleanser; RoC Age Diminishing Daily Moisturizing lotion, new from Vaseline; and Neutrogena's After-Sun Treatment all now include soy as a selling point on their labels.

Buzz-Off, an all-natural insect repellent made with 80% soybean oil and a mix of peppermint, rosemary, wheat germ oil and vitamin E, was introduced to the market last year. Soy-based industrial solvents are also making a notable impact in the cleaning industry. Numerous “green” solvents are now available for hand, parts and industrial cleaners; dishwashing detergents and mastic removers. Specialty products include Aggre-Solv, a soy-based asphalt debonding product; Bean-e-Doo, a mop cleaning material; private label ink cleaners; and Soygreen Polystrip, a methyl soyate paint stripper. Even more soy products are added to the market each year.

PLASTIC POWER

On the other end of the spectrum, some of the most exciting and marketable new products have been in the soy plastics and soy polyols market.

The soy polyol called SoyOyl is being used in carpet backing, spray insulation for homes, seating and furniture applications, and as a plastic resin for body panels of combines.

“The ways this product can be used are amazing,” says Andersen. “It's a very meaningful product that has been a major breakthrough in plastics, at lower cost than alternative products.”

Many products, such as the carpet backing and insulation, are recognized in the commercial and residential building and construction industries for their environmental, economic and safety benefits over traditional products.

For instance, BioBase 501, a new spray-in-place foam insulation product with a soybean oil base, earned the 2003 Outstanding Green Product of the Year award at a conference hosted by the National Association of Home Builders. The product is not only environmentally friendly, it offers energy efficiency that can reduce utility bills up to 50%.

Another energy saver gaining attention is a soy polymer roof coating called the Environmental Liquid Membrane System, Natural Bitumen Jacket. The coating is formulated to help restore waterproofing to low-sloped roofing systems. Its bright white color deflects ultraviolet rays to reduce the amount of energy needed to cool a building.

The roof coating was successfully applied to Chicago's Shedd Aquarium in 2003 — with a marked savings on the facility's air conditioning demands. Several school districts are now showing interest in this roof coating as well, reports Eric Niemann, United Soybean Board New Uses Committee Chair.

BUILDING SUCCESS

In the building industry, soy-based wood adhesives are also emerging with new and improved properties. Through soybean checkoff-funded research, Heartland Resource Technologies and the Iowa Soybean Promotion Board have developed a low-cost soy adhesive called Soyad. It has the potential to replace traditional resins for use in engineering panel-board resins like plywood and the molded wood industry for products like picture frames.

Another successful soy adhesive currently in the market is PRF/Soy 2000, a two-part adhesive system used to finger joint lumber, making it waterproof and stronger than the original wood.

It's reported that adhesive and engineered wood manufacturers are showing interest in these products due to the excellent performance and cost savings.

One more new soy application for wood: A new soy wood preservative process that will be a safer sealant for different wood end-products, such as utility poles, railroad ties and outdoor lumber. The agriculture-based industrial lubricants research program at the University of Iowa has recently received a patent on it.

ENVIRONMENTal RECOGNITION

The Department of Interior's 2003 Environmental Achievement Award winners include four bio-based product users, including soy biodiesel, lubricants and cleaning supplies.

The winners were commended for their help in reducing dependence on foreign oil, benefiting the environment and boosting the U.S. economy.

USB New Uses Chair Eric Niemann calls the use of such biobased products “a good example for all government agencies as well as the private sector.”

Those recognized include:

Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge in Montana. The staff netted a 23% increase in fuel efficiency by switching from gasoline to B20 (20% soy biodiesel and 80% diesel) diesel-powered vehicles at the 1.1 million-acre refuge. Staff also reduced a waste oil stream by 700 gal./year by converting to soy-based lubricants in its heavy equipment.

Denali National Park and Preserve in Alaska implemented a multifaceted program that includes the use of bio-based and biodegradable hydraulic oil, chainsaw bar oil and two-stroke injection oil.

Mammoth Cave National Park in Kentucky has used soy biodiesel in ferries and all other diesel equipment throughout the park for more than a year.

Forever Resorts' Signal Mountain Lodge in Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming, uses a variety of soy-based cleaning products, ranging from furniture polish to dishwashing detergents and all-purpose cleaners.

HEALTHier BEANS

Research is also moving forward to produce soybeans that provide healthier, more flavorful oil for the food industry.

A new variety developed at Iowa State University through the checkoff-funded Better Bean Initiative should reduce the need to hydrogenate oil from soybeans. (Hydrogenation produces the trans fats found in certain foods that many researchers believe can lead to heart disease.)

The soybean industry will now be working with food companies to test this promising new oil and determine if it produces fewer trans fats in foods. Seed for 1 million acres of this 1% linolenic soybean could be available in 2005.

Lou Honary, director of the Agriculture-Based Industrial Lubricants research program, expects we'll see more biotech soybeans like these developed for specific markets in the near future.

“Hopefully, the next generation of seeds and technology will allow us to develop soybeans tailored to specific types of use,” he says. “That's how we are going to grow the bio-based market and help American farmers remain competitive.”