MicroSoy Corporation aims to capitalize on soy milk boom

Certified non-GMO soyflakes designed to save manufacturers time and labor, enhance quality

For MicroSoy Corporation the decision to certify its MicroSoyTM flakes as non-GMO was a no-brainer, according to plant superintendent Jeff Kienast. "We wouldn't be able to sell to Japan if our product wasn't non-GMO," he says.

Based in Jefferson, Iowa, MicroSoy Corporation is intimately familiar with the needs of the Japanese market, having been formerly owned by MYCAL Group based in Osaka, Japan. Earlier this year, a group of U.S. investors led by former MYCAL general manager Itaru (Terry) Tanaka acquired the company.

Eliminates processing steps

MicroSoy exports 95 percent of its MicroSoy flakes to Japan. Manufacturers there process the soybeans into tofu, soymilk, and other soy products. MicroSoy flakes are essentially de-hulled soybeans that have been dried, cracked, rolled, and packaged. The key advantage to food manufacturers is that they can incorporate the benefits of soy into their products without having to deal with the difficulties of processing raw soybeans. The processing of MicroSoy flakes eliminates the cleaning, soaking, grinding, and milling steps involved in conventional soybean processing, which saves manufacturers significant time. In addition, none of the nutritional benefits of soybeans are lost in processing MicroSoy flakes because the heating temperature never exceeds 55 degrees Centigrade.

MicroSoy flakes are available in three product types: XLRB, which are made from whole, clear hilum, non-GMO soybeans to standardized protein, fat, and moisture specifications; OCIA, which are certified organic by the Organic Crop Improvement Association; and Ultra, which are made from triple-null, lipoxygenase-free non-GMO soybeans and result in soyfood products free of any "beany" flavor.

MicroSoy flakes are produced without the use of any chemicals, preservatives, or additives. All soybeans used are certified non-GMO.

Non-GMO certification

The Japanese people value soyfoods as essential in their diets, and they want them to be non-GMO. MicroSoy Corporation recognized the concerns of Japanese consumers early and decided to certify its soy flakes through the Cert ID Non-GMO Certification in 1998. Cert ID integrates GMO testing with the traceability of an ISO-compliant identity preserved system. The program allows MicroSoy to track any or all stages of production to preserve the non-GMO identity of products or entire product lines. It incorporates sampling and GMO testing at critical production points and documentation that traces products back to their source.

The combination of GMO testing with IP protocols provided MicroSoy with the assurance they needed. "We felt that certification was the most comprehensive solution for us and provided the strongest assurance to our customers," say Kienast.

To meet the requirements for certification, MicroSoy implemented measures to prevent contamination from GM soy varieties. MicroSoy's contract farmers were trained in IP practices to ensure that non-GM soy was segregated from GM varieties from seed to harvest and storage. The company also worked with its grower cooperatives, Heartland Organic Marketing and West Central Cooperative, to establish systems to segregate non-GM soybeans. Each bag of MicroSoy flakes contains a production date that allows tracking back to the storage silos and even the farmers' fields.

Harder to find non-GM seed

According to Kienast, GMO contamination in seed is becoming a bigger problem. "We've seen more contamination over the past two years," he says. "The levels of contamination are not very high, but they exceed our standards."

To solve the problem, MicroSoy flakes purchases foundation seed varieties from Iowa State University and works with seed companies to test seed and find varieties that will meet the standards. In addition, some of MicroSoy's contract farmers save their seed for the next growing season, a practice that Kienast says is effective to preserve non-GMO purity. "We have a known quantity to work with," he says.

In addition to testing seed, GMO tests are done on soybeans after harvest and on the finished soy flakes. Tests are performed at Genetic ID's laboratory using the DNA-based PCR method. MicroSoy flakes must contain less than 0.1 percent contamination to be certified.

Kienast says the certification process has been worth it. "By certifying our product, we are able to capitalize on the market demand for non-GMO soy flakes. The fact that we certify our product shows our customers we are a responsible processor who responds to their needs," says Kienast.

Latin American opportunities

While Japan continues to be the primary market, the company is supplying U.S. companies and beyond. MicroSoy recently signed a contract to supply its soy flakes to Leyenda, S.A., a manufacturer of soymilk and soyfoods based in Villa Nueva, Guatemala. According to Mark Conlon, sales and marketing director, MicroSoy flakes were a perfect fit for Leyenda. "MicroSoy flakes provide the opportunity to get into the industry with a low capital investment," he says. Equipment requirements are less because there is no soaking, grinding, or milling of soybeans, which make MicroSoy flakes ideal for companies that can't heavily invest in processing equipment. MicroSoy is now pursuing other market opportunities in Latin America.
(November 2002)