Keen on Beans: Establishing Edamame Awareness and Demand for Kentucky Consumers and Growers

Final Report for CS02-006

Project Type: Sustainable Community Innovation
Funds awarded in 2002: $8,712.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2002
Region: Southern
State: Kentucky
Principal Investigator:
Martha Lee
U of KY Cooperative Extension Service--Daviess Co.
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Project Information


Nutrition education and market development for edamame soybeans was conducted in Daviess County, Kentucky in 2002 for targeted groups. Following production, harvesting, and storage of test plot beans, the diverse team of producers, UK Cooperative Extension, state and local officials collaborated with marketing and industry officials in five states to produce significant marketing/ producer awareness milestones.


Kentucky producers are continually searching for alternative sources of farm income. Reduced income from burley tobacco quota cuts, unstable tobacco marketing conditions, and low grain prices continue to plague western Kentucky farmers. This edamame study focuses on a new potential crop, its potential markets, and nutrition education directed toward the potential users/buyers of the product.

Project Objectives:

Two primary objectives for the project were: nutrition education and new crop market development for the edamame soybeans in the Owensboro region. Based on the Food Drug Administration research information, diets that are low in saturated fats and cholesterol that include 25 grams of soy protein/day may reduce the risk of heart disease.
This health claim is one of approximately 12 food/health claims that can appear on nutrition labels in the United States. This soy/health connection is the primary nutrition message that our edamame soybean team targeted with diverse audiences in our region. In addition, the Kentucky edamame soybeans were prepared in recipes that appealed to awide variety of ages of clientele—even among low vegetable-consuming adults and children. Targeted clientele for the project included: heart patients, health care workers, nutrition educators, seniors, agribusinesses, teens, and consumers.

The market development goals for the project were based on trends outlined by University of Kentucky analysis of the edamame soybean/soyfoods potential. The objectives to increase public awareness of the benefits and taste of the soy product occurred simultaneously with the goal of marketing a new product through various marketing venues. The establishment of a product website was planned to inform and attract new food industries and markets for edamame.


Click linked name(s) to expand/collapse or show everyone's info
  • Jan Dougan
  • Matt Ernst
  • Sara McNulty
  • Dr. Janet Tietyen, RD
  • Dr. Tim Woods


Materials and methods:

Edamame Crop Summary:
April 12 planting target was delayed due to extensive rain
Soil tests revealed no fertilizer or lime was needed
First planting May 10
Planted Iowa State TNL 4020 non-gmo soybean
Plot where beans planted in first year in transitioning to organic
Planted four rows of beans, each row 36 inches apart; beans 3 inches apart in the row.
No chemicals added; weed control by hand or hoeing

Second planting June 10
Planted Iowa State TNL 4020 non-gmo soybeans
Planted four rows of beans, each 36 inches apart; beans planted 3 inches apart in the row.
No chemicals added; weed control by hand or hoeing.

In order to educate and promote the healthy green soybeans, 3,000 color brochures were reprinted that had been developed six months earlier. The brochures featured health information, storage and preservation data, and recipes for easy and quick dishes. All dietary information was reviewed and approved for accuracy by the University of Kentucky state nutrition specialist/registered dietician. Additional recipes were developed and printed at the Daviess County Extension Office by the staff. A table top exhibit was designed and equipment purchased to provide a professional appearance for numerous programs, health fairs, and educational events.

An edamame website was developed with the assistance of a local web designer to provide key information to interested clientele, producers, and industry managers. The website www. was established and will continue through November, 2004. The website tells vital information and links to the UK website for new crop opportunities and soy industry data.

Promotional and educational programs (total of 24) were developed to target key audiences that potentially could benefit from the new soy product. Edamame product and recipe testing occurred at 23 of the 24 programs. In-service trainings were held for county extension agents in western Kentucky, home economists in the state, and health professionals in the region. Teaching packets of materials were sent to interested clientele and educators, extension agents in Indiana, health professionals in Illinois, and the Missouri State Agricultural Conference. A soyfoods section was written for a Kentucky commodity cookbook that is scheduled to be released in fall, 2003, featuring the edamame soybeans. News releases were sent to local media, and regional agricultural reporters. News articles were prepared for local newsletters in the region, reaching 568 clientele. Train-the-trainer programs for regional health educators resulted in additional groups being reached with edamame information in 18 counties in Kentucky, Indiana, and Illinois, with teachers being provided product and/or educational brochures. Soy producer and agent team shared marketing, product development ideas at the 2003 Kentucky Women in Agriculture Conference. Two television programs were given by the project coordinator hosted by local cable TV professional. The programs aired 136 times during the fall, with an audience of 23,000 cable viewers in the region. Three radio programs were presented on local radio,with an average of 9,000 listening audience. Two programs were on the extension agent's weekly 30 minute interview program; and one was an hour interview presented by the Green River Heart Institute with the agent and the marketing director of the heart institute.

Marketing: Personal contacts about the soy product/marketing were made by the producer and coordinator to university professionals, industry leaders, State Department of Agriculture officials, local and state legislators, county officials, health department, coronary care professionals, hospital wellness center, local media, bankers, Chamber of Commerce, President of American Dietetic Association, registered dieticians, and other key leaders in the community/state. Product was provided to 3 area restaurants, 6 regional soy business prospects, and local vocational school chef for recipe/consumer testing.

Research results and discussion:

Nutrition Education/Outreach: Edamame presentations at educational programs, promotional displays, field days, and health fairs resulted in 5,897 clientele contacts by the edamame grant team in the region/state in 2002. Website responses yielded 45 contacts, 4 of which involved interest by producers and other food businesses. Media contacts included 23,000 cable TV potential viewers, and 9,000 radio listeners in the region.

Significant programming efforts included live food/health demonstrations at the Kentucky State Fair for 3 days in August (reaching 1,078), and Gourmet Garden demonstrations at the KY State Fair with agent presenting “Sirloin Edamame Pasta” for 152 viewers. Two presentation sessions at the UK Cooperative Extension Multi-Area Conference reached 31 local extension agents in all program disciplines about the edamame trials and health benefits. “Keen on Beans” was presented to 81 University of Kentucky county agents at the state food-nutrition training in May in Lexington by Matt Ernst, UK extension associate, and Martha Lee, Daviess Co. extension agent. Edamame progress update was highlighted with 45 leaders (including state legislators and county officials) at the Daviess County Extension Council meeting in November. “It’s Soy Good, Using Soyfoods” (including edamame) received favorable evaluations from the 15 participants that attended in Henderson, KY. This class was taught by the Henderson Co. Extension Agent, a member of the edamame team. Consumer/general public interest in the healthy green soybeans has been very positive, with people wanting to know how/where to purchase them in their cities.

Five edamame soy programs were given to 154 health care professionals and patients during 2002, with enthusiastic comments and interest. Health care professionals at the Green River Heart Institute received bean samples, requested more information, and referred 12 clientele to the Daviess County extension agent for FCS for more soy recipes after hearing the presentation and tasting the product. Forty-nine (49) patients with Type 2 diabetes wanted to know where to purchase the edamame beans (fresh and/or frozen) following edamame programs in the “Dining with Diabetes” series offered jointly by the Green River Area Diabetic Support Group and the UK Extension Service. Post-session evaluations indicated that the clientele learned new facts about soy from the presentations. Thirty-one (31) participants in a St. Mary’s Hospital (Evansville, Indiana) program on edamame/soy learned how to increase soy consumption in their diets. The program material was provided to the registered dietician at the hospital by members of the edamame team. In addition, surviving cancer patients were eager to learn about the benefits of soy/edamame at a weekend retreat program presented by the Daviess Co. Extension Agent for 27 area women. They rated the health program the best educational presentation of the entire three-day weekend, according to written surveys taken by the Kentucky Cancer Program.

Additional outreach presentations about the benefits/growing of edamame have been given by members of the team to diverse groups in the state/community. The Kentucky Women in Agriculture Conference presentation for 12 interested growers/ agricultural leaders focused on the edamame soybeans and how the product awareness has been developed and promoted to date. Five different senior adult groups (attended by 215) in different sites in the community learned the benefits of soy for both men’s and women’s health. Three programs for local garden club, herb club, and extension homemakers groups reached 95 additional clientele in the community. Comments from the additional groups have been consistent with other health-conscious groups contacted: 1) people like the taste of the beans, 2) they are impressed with the health benefits of the soybeans, 3) they want to buy the beans,and 4) they want to know where they can purchase them locally or in their groceries.

Edamame promotional displays at agricultural field days, health fairs, and community events expanded the awareness of the cholesterol-lowering product. A total of 2,695 people were personally contacted via manned displays and bean sensory opportunities. Enthusiastic response was generated at the University of Kentucky Princeton Experiment Station field day as clientele, agribusiness people learned about the beans. The local hospital’s women’s health fair attracted 120 women and 2 physicians to learn about reliable sources of information concerning edamame and soyfoods. Hands-on tasting session exhibits were also held at these locations. Kenergy Rural Cooperative Annual
meeting (807 visited the booth); Owensboro Multicultural Fair (1,114); Taste of Ohio County community festival (150); and Hardin County Farm to Table program (40). Additional programs on the edamame soy were presented by county extension agents in Grant Co., Monroe Co., Hart Co., Shelby Co., and 7 Pennyrile Area (west KY)
counties, using the brochures developed with the grant and bean samples. Brochures and edamame teaching packets were distributed to 45 Indiana extension agents in the region. 150 brochures were sent to the Missouri Agricultural Conference in Jefferson City, Mo. 568 newsleters were sent to local extension clientele featuring the product. Packets were sent to 18 clients requesting information from the Daviess Co. Extension Office. Note: Educational program for the Kentucky Dietetic Association proposed in the original grant did not occur due to previous organizational plans. Agent shared the program information, however, with the state president of the Kentucky Dietetic Association and their national president elect of the American Dietetic Association (membership of 70,000 registered dieticians).

Marketing: Potential edamame growers were contacted by phone, email, and personally by the local grower on the team. Follow-up responses to website inquiries by the grower resulted in expanded marketing potential in 5 midwest states. The edamame grower worked personally with a local industry’s research and development team to provide information on new soy products and opportunities. The edamame group teamed with local industry, university officials, legislators, chamber of commerce and state department of agriculture officials to formulate product potential, and to research industrial funding sources, patent information, nutrition labeling requirements, and opportunities for the emerging product.

Participation Summary

Educational & Outreach Activities

Participation Summary:

Education/outreach description:

Publication reprints of Kentucky Edamame color brochure were provided through 2002 grant funds. Copies of these brochures are available through the website: www. Single copies of the brochures are enclosed with the final report.

Project Outcomes

Project outcomes:

Nutrition Education/Outreach: Consumer fascination and health interest in the “wonder bean” have tended to surge ahead of US production/marketing of edamame in 2002. Magazine articles in consumer/food/health periodicals (Better Homes and Gardens, Cooking Light, Martha Stewart Living, Readers’ Digest, Environmental Nutrition, University of California Wellness Letter, and Chef) have fueled interest and awareness in edamame. Latest editions of college nutrition textbooks and the United Soybean Board 2002 Soyfoods Guide are featuring pictures/articles on edamame. Yet, most of the beans available in the US market are frozen, imported from Asia. This Keen on Beans project has made successful milestones in pushing the regional production and awareness of edamame beans forward.

Results of the edamame beans project in Daviess County, Kentucky have provided key health/nutrition information for 5,897 clientele in the region/state in 2002. According to informal evaluations provided at Extension programs, clientele are more knowledgeable of the benefits of edamame/soyfoods products following the educational presentations. According to 3 focus groups of clientele, people prefer the taste of edamame to many other soy products they have tasted because of its sweet, nutty flavor
specific to this Iowa State variety and because of its appetizing appearance. Like many other soy products, edamame absorbs the flavors of other foods in a recipe, thus is very versatile to use in a wide number of American and ethnic dishes. Consumers who have tried the edamame and recipes (even with imported edamame products) report that they have had success in getting their families to try the beans in new ways. Women are especially eager to purchase the beans locally and want to use more of the product because of its taste and health benefits. Children and teens who have tasted the edamame in extension nutrition programs really like the taste and especially like to pop the beans from the pod into their mouths. It seems to be a “fun to eat” food for children because of its hands-on features. People who eat a wide variety of vegetables, fruits and other foods are the most accepting of the taste of the edamame. Medical professionals have responded positively to the bean sensory panels and have called the Extension Office for more brochures, programs, or clientele information. Extension agents from Kentucky and Indiana who have received the brochures are educating clientele about the soy health benenfits and taste characteristics to regional groups. There has been a significant increase in clientele and professional calls, and website inquiries in the past year to get additional information, seed sources,product, and recipe information for the beans.

Edamame Production. The growing season for 2002 was a challenge, especially with the weather extremes. The seeds chosen were the Iowa State varieties because of their excellent germination rates and much lower prices, compared to old world bean varieties that germinate less and are much more costly. The old world beans are also less adapted to US soils and growing conditions. The grower (McNulty) planned to plant soybean seed the second week of April in order to have fresh beans for the season. Daviess County, Kentucky, is in growing zone 4. Because the ISTNL 4020 is a zone 3 bean and can be planted earlier, it is an ideal variety for the fresh market. However, heavy rainfalls prevented McNulty from planting the beans on schedule. Finally on May 10 the first beans were planted, followed by the second planting on June 7. There was no significant rainfall for the remainder of the season. Daviess County experienced drought conditions. McNulty irrigated the beans as needed with sprinkle irrigation.

Because of stressful growing conditions, the soybean plants were shorter and stubbier than normal growing conditions. In both plots the soybean stalks averaged 50 bean pods per stalk. About one third of the pods contained three beans, one third of the pods contained two beans, and one third of the pods contained one bean in 2002.

The plants were a rich green color and produced strong steady root systems. We had very few pest insects. Beans in the second bean plot developed cercospora leaf blight (CLB), according to UK plant pathologist Paul Bachi. The fungus was not apparent until after the second picking; bean pods with the fungus developed a yellowish tint and beans tasted bitter. Therefore, none of the second beans were used for demonstrations or freezing.
The beans were hand picked because a soybean pod picker was unavailable and too expensive for test plots. Moreover, hand picked beans had several advantages to machine picked beans. For example, the picker sorts beans as they are picked and since this variety of beans is indeterminate, beans mature over a period of three weeks at different rates. This year the first planting was picked 4 times. Although there was an ample supply of beans in the second plot, only two pickings were used because of the leaf blight damage. Because of the method of irrigation chosen, beans on the lower portion of the stalk were heavily soiled due to water splashing soil onto the beans. Extensive rinsing was a necessity before storing, using, marketing, or freezing the beans. Drip irrigation will minimize this problem.

ISTNL 4020 was a new 2002 release from Iowa State. The grower, clientele were pleased with the taste of these beans and the larger pod size compared to previous year’s varieties. Consumers prefer a larger pod, which this variety provided. The beans produced good yields considering the wet spring and drought for the remainder of the season.

Market Impacts: Impacts in the marketing objectives have been centered with the fresh market interest with eastern US markets, as recommended by UK economists consulting with the producer. Leads to new market opportunities in five different states have been followed up immediately by the producer by personal calls, emails, and visits. Producers in other states have found the local producer/project through the edamame website. In addition, a food company in the region has shown significant interest in the edamame product and other soyfoods products that are not currently produced or sold in the US. Due to patent and business interest concerns, information on this business venture is confidential and in the company’s research and development department as of March , 2003. The edamame team has expanded its approach to the new business interest by involving the UK agriculture economists and researchers, additional producers, KY department of agriculture, local chamber of commerce, state & local government officials, and banking interests in the community. Inquiries about the edamame business research results can be addressed to: Dr. Tim Woods, Agribusiness/Horticulture Marketing Specialist, Room 402, CE Barnhart Building, UK College of Agriculture, Lexington,
Kentucky 40456 or by email at [email protected].
Edamame harvesting equipment needs and modifications are currently being researched at the University of Kentucky Agricultural Engineering Department by Tim Stumbaugh at the request of the local edamame team.


Future Recommendations

Future research/practical demonstration programs on edamame soybeans will need to explore: 1) transitioning existing acreage to organic plots, 2) transitional economic incentives for producers who desire to grow edamame for the local company/markets, 3) additional niche marketing opportunities in the region beyond the current food industry’s research and development, 4) harvesting, sorting, storage facilities for fresh/frozen organic products, 5) preservation techniques for the fresh/ frozen product, 6) meeting future demand of industry for edamame beans with interested producers/organic plots, and 7) additional nutritional/food industry education and market exposure with multiple potential users. Funding strategies for all of these future projects will be challenging, but rewarding as edamame consumers, industries, and growers benefit from the healthy and potentially profitable product.

Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.