Before the advent of modern enzymes, bakers most often turned to diastatic malts and plant extracts to modify dough performance. Malt retains its bakery primacy, but usage of bromelain and papain is less so but with some important exceptions.

“Bromelain and papain are aggressive proteases, with broad substrate specificity, whose action is hard to control,” said Jan Van Eijk, bakery research director, Lallemand Baking Solutions, “so they are mainly used as digestive aids and in biscuit and cracker application where there is less need for a limited specific breakdown of the gluten protein.”

Some experts mention side activities as a concern, but cost is more of a factor.

“These botanical enzymes typically have few side chain reactions, so their usage provides specific and predictable functionality,” said Bill McKeown, vice-president, innovation, AB Mauri. “Through technology advancements, today’s bacterial and fungal enzymes provide the same specific functionality with few side chain reactions but at lower costs.”

Mr. Van Eijk summarized, “The modern techniques for producing enzymes have resulted in enzymes that are purer without undesirable side activities; more economical, especially when using G.M.O. production organisms; more specific with desirable action pattern; and have better tolerance when added at high dosage levels”.

Still, bromelain and papain continue to be used profitably in other food applications. Joseph Herzog, technical sales director, Enzyme Development Corp., noted their value as enzymatic meat tenderizers and in production of hydrolyzed vegetable protein.

“They are cost-effective, broad-spectrum proteases with strong performance at the starting pH of most foodstuffs,” he said.