Enzymes are proteins produced by all living organisms (microbes, plants, humans, etc.) that act specifically as catalysts to facilitate natural biochemical reactions in nature. Their origin in nature, proven safety, efficiency and specificity make them extremely important for the food and beverage industry. We have used enzymes for thousands of years to make delicious foods and beverages, the earliest examples being beer, wine and cheese.
The global food industry is undergoing a significant change, with COVID-19 quite likely to be the single biggest disruptive change that most of us will ever experience. As a result of COVID-19, consumers’ attitudes, preferences and behaviors have changed. The pandemic has led them to feel vulnerable and as a result, they focus on the foods they eat as an area of life they can control, actively seeking healthier and more nutritious food. Consumers have more time on their hands to read ingredient labels and research products. They seek out products with cleaner, shorter labels (i.e., fewer “chemical” names that they perceive as potentially unsafe, unhealthy or of low quality), which they perceive to be healthier for them. They also want food they can trust and are increasingly conscious of the environmental and societal impact of their food choices.
Just as consumers are seeking to change for the better, so can businesses. Enzymes, our most powerful tools in our toolbox can help us to make better food that is more nutritious and that has been produced in a sustainable and environmentally friendly manner while also reducing production costs.
COVID-19 Heightens Concerns Around Health and Wellness
COVID-19 has changed the way consumers are living their lives, making wellbeing a vital and universal goal. Driven by concerns about their health, 47 percent of consumers are taking supplements or vitamins to manage their health (Kerry Proprietary Consumer Research, 2019). According to Mintel, since the COVID-19 outbreak, 39 percent of Spanish adults are more interested in food that can support the immune system, while in Brazil, 58 percent of consumers agree natural ingredients would encourage them to buy a vitamin/supplement. Consumers are linking digestive health with an overall sense of wellness both physically and mentally. This has led to brands innovating with new products that are targeted at specific health issues and which improve overall well-being.
The role of digestive enzymes is to break down food-derived fats, carbohydrates and proteins into smaller substances that our bodies can use. Different types of enzymes facilitate the digestion of the various components of our food (carbohydrases, proteases, lipases). Although the body produces its own digestive enzymes, it may not be enough. For example, a person suffering from lactose intolerance is most likely not producing enough of the lactase enzyme to adequately digest dairy products. On top of this, our enzyme production decreases with age. Dietary supplementation with enzymes allow consumers to enjoy a far more varied diet, and by breaking down components of food efficiently, they avoid digestive comfort. Enzyme supplementation can help consumers maintain a healthy and functioning digestive system and lead a healthier restrictive-free diet and lifestyle.
This fundamental shift in focus on health and wellness is also driving enzyme innovation in developing healthier food and beverages. There is a strong focus on sugar reduction in both dairy and the growing dairy alternative category. The rise of plant-based beverages, in particular oat, appeals to consumers for their lower environmental impact, cleaner ingredient label and perceived healthfulness. Enzymes can be used to unlock the natural sweetness in cereal-based beverages, eliminating the need for added sugar or sweeteners yet providing the smooth mouthfeel and texture that consumers desire.
Regulatory implications around acrylamide reduction in food has presented a challenge for the food and beverage industry. Acrylamide, a naturally occurring carcinogen formed when carbohydrate-rich foods are baked, fried, grilled, toasted or roasted is now a proven health risk. Acrylamide reduction regulations are now in place in the U.S., Canada and Europe to mitigate the levels of acrylamide found in high-risk foods, in particular children’s foods. Enzymes and processing aids can provide an effective solution for reducing acrylamide. Additionally, consumers increasingly consider organic foods to be beneficial to their health and in particular seek out organic certified products when purchasing food for their children. A recent survey from the U.S. Organic Trade Association in Spring 2020, confirmed that 90 percent of “likely organic shoppers” believe that as a result of COVID-19, organic products are more important to them than ever. This market demand has led to the development of Acryleast, an organic suitable, non-GMO (genetically modifed organism) acrylamide reducing solution which has no impact on the taste or texture of a product with minimal changes to the manufacturing process.
One area where we see a lot of potential for enzymes is the dynamic and rapidly growing plant-based category. Exciting advancements are being made in developing novel plant-based solutions that are fully optimised for taste, nutrition and functionality.
Consumers Care More About Sustainability and Will Pay More for it
Globally, food waste adds up to between a staggering one-third and one-half of all food produced with an economic cost of $940B to the global economy per year. Within this startling figure, the U.S. represents some 40 percent of the total, accounting for the highest per capita quantity of food loss worldwide. In a world where one in nine people are undernourished, the fact that more than a billion tons of food never gets consumed is a travesty.
Looking at these staggering statistics, it is no surprise that the sustainability trend and heightened focus on food waste has remained paramount in consumers’ minds throughout COVID-19. Consumers are placing almost equal responsibility between government and brands to address this global issue, with 89 percent of global consumers expecting companies to invest in sustainability, up a from 65 percent in 2018 (Kanter, 2019).
Consumers still desire convenient fresh, high-quality goods, however produced in a sustainable and ethical manner. This requires food producers to demonstrate forward-thinking in efforts to improve sustainability in terms of raw materials used, production processes, energy efficiency, food waste, packaging and distribution.
By skillfully applying enzymes during the production process of food products, significant improvements can be made in terms of process efficiency, reduction in food waste and a decrease in energy and water consumption as well as product quality and consistency. To give one tangible example, by using enzymes, a cracker manufacturer reduced their food waste by 20 percent, increased line efficiency to 90 percent, decreased energy and water consumption and improved product consistency to achieve the desired brown colour and crisper texture.
Another enzyme application ripe for sustainability improvements is brewing. Beer production is an extremely resource-intensive process, during which a tremendous amount of water and energy is used and a considerable amount of waste is generated. Consumers want to purchase beer products from breweries that address the impact they have on the environment. In fact, a study from Indiana University suggests that 59 percent of people would pay extra for sustainably produced beer, yielding an extra $1.30 per six pack. Enzymes allow the brewer to use a greater percentage of unmalted barley versus malt and maintain consistent brewhouse performance and yield. Using unmalted barley will reduce water and energy requirements during the brewing process and provide significant cost-saving benefits. For example, Kerry’s Bioglucanase XF can help brewer’s produce beer with 35 percent barley instead of 100 percent malt, saving ~6,333 mtCO2e per annum (based on a 6M hectolitre p.a. brewery). This is equivalent to the energy used to power c.700 homes for one year!
In short, along with quality and efficiency benefits, enzyme solutions can lower costs and reduce waste taking companies a step closer to their sustainability targets.
The Rising Challenge of Clean Label Products
These days, the most sought-after solutions are clean-label ones, consumers want short simpler ingredient declarations. Our recent Kerry Future of Food survey on consumer attitudes to clean labelling found that 76 percent of food service consumers say clean-label foods are healthier than their traditional counterparts. The same survey confirms that a significant majority (74 percent) of consumers frequently read product labels when purchasing food and beverages.
This introduces another benefit of enzymes for those seeking a cleaner label. Enzymes are not considered as “food additives” in a majority of countries globally, this means it is not necessary to list them on labels. When we add the recent challenge of COVID-19 where widespread consumer stockpiling, supply chain disruptions and altered consumption patterns became the norm, food producers have been under intense pressure to boost output, quality and, importantly, shelf life. The need for consumer-friendly shelf life extension solutions, that maintain quality and taste over time has never been more acute than it is right now and enzymes can meet this need.
Donut manufacturing is one example of where enzymes can add value. All donut producers face similar challenges with regard to maintaining product softness and moisture, along with consistent volume, dough tolerance and a uniform texture—in short, shelf life issues. When used optimally, our Biobake enzyme range can more than double the donut shelf life—from seven to 15 days—while maintaining the desired softness and texture and greatly improving distribution reach and reducing waste.
Despite their safe use to produce food and beverages for thousands of years, a challenge for enzymes is the lack of uniformity across the global regulatory landscape. It is a complex landscape, where different countries can have different viewpoints on data requirements. All enzymes–irrespective of their downstream application—undergo rigorous safety evaluation and must meet strict safety standards for the country. For food producers to operate globally, it is extremely important that they have access to enzyme regulatory experts, who keep up to date with enzyme regulations in each country and can advise on their adherence.
In the food and beverage industry today, manufacturers are faced with changes in the quality, quantity and price of raw materials needed to produce their product. Furthermore, as the world adjusts to living with COVID-19 and we move towards new food consumption patterns, manufacturers worldwide will continue to heed the call to increase production while decreasing waste. This means producing products in a cost-effective manner which meet consumer expectations in terms of quality, health, sustainability and clean label. Customers want suppliers who can deliver robust solutions to them, with demonstrated efficacy data and validated application data. At Kerry, we are committed to providing the best technical and scientific support we can and by partnering with our customers to develop customized solutions to the precise challenge that they face. NIE
What Are Enzymes?
• Enzymes are proteins, not living organisms
• Biological catalysts that are ubiquitous in nature
• Essential for life
• Environmentally friendly
• Extracted from plant, fungal and animal sources or by fermentation from microorganisms
• Used in many industrial processes
• Enzymes are so useful because they are specific and predictable; this gives us process control
• Efficient under mild conditions
Clean label compliant
• Deactivated during the production process and do not need to be listed on ingredient labels
• Not GMO
• Clean-label, as they are found in nature
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Functions of Enzymes
• Used as alternatives to traditional chemical-based technology allowing advantages in environmental performances of process by lowering energy consumption levels and biodegradability of products.
• More specific in their action than chemical reactants, with fewer by-products.
• Can catalyse reactions under mild conditions allowing mild processing without destroying valuable attributes of food and its components.
• Food enzymes are cost-effective and provide better food safety. Using enzymes instead of food additives reduces overall manufacturing costs.
• Enzymes allow processes to be carried out that would otherwise be impossible.
• They can improve the functional, nutritional and sensory properties of ingredients and products.
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Jacques Georis, PhD, Global RD&A Enzymes and Brewing Ingredients Director with Kerry Applied Health and Nutrition division, oversees all R&D programs and innovation projects related to enzymes for relevant end-use markets (animal nutrition, human nutrition, beverages, food) and brewing ingredients technology. One aspect of his role involves the development and delivery of novel bioprocesses and tech transfer from pilot to manufacturing scale, by using Kerry enzymes proprietary expression hosts (fungi, bacteria, yeast). Georis has been working for 25 years in the fields of industrial enzymology, white biotechnologies, industrial bioprocesses and commercialization of new enzyme products. He has held positions within the food and beverage industry amongst others before joining Kerry. Georis holds a PhD in sciences biochemistry (University Liege, Belgium) and a master certificate in innovation management (Louvain Management School, Belgium).