Today’s economic-driven global food industry demands more from the manufacturers that supply consumables. Bakers are turning to enzymes to cope with pressures to keep ingredient legends clean and simple, yet manufacture products at faster speeds and distribute them over longer distances while maintaining quality for extended periods.

“For example, an average large bakery is producing about 150 loaves per minute. At this speed, it is difficult to produce products with great quality,” said Bernie Bruinsma, director of special projects, Caravan Ingredients, Lenexa, KS. “Enzymes can help with this because they aid in producing more dough tolerance and have the ability to create more volume. The tricky part is to ensure that the enzymes are being used correctly, meaning they need to be used under consistent conditions and added at the proper rate.”


Naturally present in many foods and ingredients, enzymes are proteins formed by living cells and function as biological catalysts for very specific reactions. Enzymes bring reactants together, rather than relying on the random motion of molecules in a food system. Thus, they accelerate chemical reactions, and they do so without changing themselves. Once the reaction takes place, they release the altered substrate and move on to the next job. Enzymes remain active until an alteration to their surroundings forces them to shut down. In the baking industry, this typically occurs when a specific temperature is reached and maintained for an identified length of time.

“Enzymes have been used in baking for centuries, but only recently have we better understood their role, and therefore, additional enzymes have been discovered,” Mr. Bruinsma said. “Bakers can use enzymes better as they understand that time and temperature control is essential to the optimum usage of enzyme technology.”

Mr. Bruinsma described the four most common classes of enzymes used in the baked foods industry: amylases, lipases, proteases and cellulases. “Amylases change the nature of starches and non-starch polysaccharides. They can be used to soften dough and to delay the staling process by enhancing the softness of baked products,” he said. “Lipases will modify the lipid or fat portions of dough. This can have a positive effect by increasing the tolerance of dough or improving its volume. They can also have a shortening-sparing effect in which the level of shortening can be reduced and still produce an equal product.”

Gluten, a protein in flour, influences the performance of dough and the quality of finished baked foods. “Proteases break down protein,” Mr. Bruinsma said. The gentle breakdown of gluten in bread dough enables better flow and shorter mixing times; however, too much protease can cause severe production issues. These enzymes are also used in the production of some crackers to allow the dough to maintain its shape and size throughout baking.

The cellulose enzymes hemicellulase, pentosanase and xylanase respectively break down the hemicellulose, pentosans and xylans in flour and can improve the dough handling and volume of baked products. “They can also help control water binding in bread systems,” Mr. Bruinsma said.

Most commercial enzymes today are produced through microbial fermentation. “They can be sourced from traditional and genetically modified microorganisms,” noted Nicole Rees, research and development manager, AB Mauri Fleischmann’s, Wilsonville, OR. “After fermentation, the enzymes are separated from the production strains, followed by a further purification process. The final enzyme ingredient does not contain any of the original microorganism.”

Better manufacturing methods make today’s enzymes highly specific, thus allowing suppliers to tailor “enzyme cocktails” combining different enzymes. Tony Oszlanyi, a baking consultant for The Wright Group, Crowley, LA, explained, “For example, many of today’s dough conditioners are composed of a judicious blend of several enzymes to yield the desired end product. The technology is choosing the proper enzyme in the correct ratio to yield the proper dough conditioner for the product and process.”

Enzymes can also be “activated” in grains for them to function at their full potential.

“Diastatic malt is barley or wheat that has been processed in such a way that the grain germinates. This develops and preserves the natural cereal enzymes,” said Judie Giebel, technical services representative, Briess Malt & Ingredients Co., Chilton, WI. “Diastatic malt is used as a supplement in bakery flours to standardize the amylase activity, specifically alpha-amylase.

“Alpha-amylase is known as the liquefying enzyme. It acts to break down starches and produce dextrins,” she added. “This not only aids fermentation but helps browning in baked foods. Although malt is mainly known for amylase, it also carries a number of different enzymes including protease, making malt a perfect natural dough conditioner with its natural bundle of cereal enzymes.”

Such natural mixtures have labeling benefits. Joe Hickenbottom, vice-president, sales and marketing, Malt Products Corp., Saddle Brook, NJ,” observed, “Baked foods made with natural diastatic malts do not require labeling of the enzymes. While the ‘diastatic’ enzymes have been known and used for many years, they have had a resurrection in use by bakers due to their natural status.”


“The trend in clean-label type products has been building for some time, and recently it has intensified,” Ms. Rees stated. “And enzymes can assist because they can replace a number of chemical additives. Plus, bakers want to optimize each ingredient in their formulation and streamline wherever possible. In response, we have developed ingredients that can help reduce bakers’ dependence on gluten and emulsifiers.”

Jan van Eijk, research director, Lallemand Baking Solutions, Lallemand, Inc., Montreal, QC, agreed that more bakers are turning to enzymes to clean up ingredient labels. “For example, lipase enzymes can replace chemical emulsifiers,” he noted. “The lipase modifies flour lipids such as phospholipids and glycolipids, yielding lipids with emulsifying properties that have excellent dough stabilizing and crumb softening effects.”

Enzymes are one of the best ways to achieve clean-label baked foods while retaining the process and quality benefits. “Because they are processing aids and generally recognized as safe (GRAS), most enzymes typically do not appear on ingredient legends,” said Joe Herzog, account manager, Enzyme Development Corp., New York, NY. “Further, they are usually denatured by the heat of baking and not active in the finished product.”


Progressive research in genetics allows today’s scientists to identify enzyme-producing microorganisms that take the category of commercial food-grade enzymes to a new level. “Genetics have allowed us to modify microorganisms to produce enzymes at high quantities in relatively pure form in a cost-effective manner,” Mr. van Eijk explained. “For example, we can modify the DNA coding for an enzyme and, thus, modify the properties of the enzyme for thermostability, pH profile and substrate specificity.”

Such science enables total replacement of chemical emulsifiers such as diacetyl tartaric acid esters of mono- and diglycerides (DATEM) and sodium stearoyl lactylate (SSL) by lipase. “New lipase ingredients have broader substrate specificity for in-situ production of emulsifiers from flour lipids,” Mr. van Eijk said. And there’s an added bonus. “Bakers often experience as much as a 25% cost savings by replacing DATEM or SSL with lipase,” he explained.

Overall bread quality improves as well, according to Henriette Glæsel, global communications manager, Novozymes A/S, Bagsvaerd, Denmark. “New lipase ingredients work on the lipids naturally present in the wheat flour by modifying the non-polar as well as polar lipids such as lecithin,” she said. The modified polar lipids increase the stability of gas cells in the dough, improving dough stability.

“Lipases can also reduce, and in some cases eliminate, the acidic flavor associated with some chemical emulsifiers,” Ms. Glæsel added. Another advantage, she noted, is the reduction in the amount of emulsifiers, which include the elimination of anti-caking agents. In hot and humid climates, emulsifiers based on lipids can cake or lump, thus creating problems in bread improvers.

Phospholipase A2 is another recent innovation in lipid-modifying enzymes. “It can be used to reduce egg usage in cakes and other baked foods,” Mr. van Eijk said. “It provides a substantial cost savings to the baker and reduces fluctuations in raw materials costs because egg prices are known to go up and down.”

Asparaginase is another breakthrough. Ms. Glæsel explained, “In 2002, Swedish scientists discovered high levels of acrylamide in some starchy foods. It was known that the enzyme asparaginase can reduce the level of formed acrylamide in food by converting the amino acid asparagine into aspartic acid.” Novozymes employed state-of-the-art up-scaling and production technology to introduce a commercial asparaginase product in 2007. “This natural solution offers a unique combination of being able to reduce acrylamide significantly and at the same time does not impact taste, flavor or appearance of the final food product,” she said.

In Las Vegas, NV, at this year’s International Baking Industry Exposition, Danisco, New Century, KS, introduced new bakery enzyme products that maintain the oven-fresh softness, taste and texture of bread for at least 10 days after baking. “The G+ technology provides tailored solutions for specific bread applications, including regional specialties such as ovals, panettone and brioche,” said James Laughton, vice-president, Danisco Food Enzymes. “The longer, fresher shelf life means more satisfied consumers, less waste due to fewer product returns, broader distribution opportunities and an enhanced brand image,” he added.

“We have high expectations that our new products will make a significant impact, particularly in the US, which has a 70% share of the world market for bakery anti-staling enzymes,” Mr. Laughton stated. The new ingredients join a similar enzyme the company previously launched to maintain quality in buns and rolls.

Application of enzyme technology also allows separation of dough strengthening improvers from the oxidation system, described by Ms. Rees as a recent trend that opens up new applications. “Specifically, we are seeing increased interest in enzyme-based dough improvers for the sweet goods sector,” she observed.

“Using enzymes in breadmaking is now standard, but for cakes and pastries it is a relatively new idea,” Ms. Rees continued. “The sweet goods sector will experience the same pressure to streamline and optimize formulas, just as the bread segment has experienced. Since sweet goods typically have a long list of ingredients, there’s a lot of opportunity for enzymes in this area.”

The extended shelf life applications of enzymes are also reaching sweet goods uses. “We also offer an extended shelf life enzyme system designed to preserve the fresh eating quality of cakes and muffins over time, extending perceived moistness and delaying the onset of crumbliness,” Ms. Rees noted.

Tortillas and baked pizza crusts are a growing segment in the baked foods industry. No surprise, there are enzymes that assist with production and quality. “For tortillas, there has been some work with enzymes to address the stickiness seen in stacked tortillas,” Mr. Bruinsma said. “We have several enzyme products that have eliminated tortillas sticking together. We also have enzymes for pizza crust. They make the dough stay where it belongs and fill the pan. No one really likes the snap-back [that results in a 12-in. diameter pizza when a 14-in. size is desired].”


In addition to their performance and labeling benefits, enzymes are widely recognized as an ecological choice for bakers who want to take a more sustainable approach to business.

“In recent years, sustainability has emerged as a more mainstream concern that product developers can no longer ignore,” said Mario Pires, business industry manager, enzymes, DSM Food Specialties, Delft, The Netherlands. “DSM’s portfolio of enzymatic solutions is helping companies across the world to take a more sustainable approach to business.

“As part of our vision of a sustainable future, we’re continually studying the environmental impact of our products,” he continued. “Recent lifecycle analyses have yielded tangible evidence, confirming enzymes’ pivotal role in addressing ecological concerns. For example, a new lipase enzyme range enables bakers to achieve 80% fewer CO2 emissions, 90% less fossil fuel usage and 70% less respiratory inorganic emissions.”

The lipase offers bakers an eco-efficient alternative to materials such as DATEM and SSL, according to Mr. Pires. Its low dosage level, compared with emulsifiers, improves the environmental impact of the baking process through reductions in global warming potential, fossil fuel usage and respiratory inorganic emissions, he said. “This high efficacy at low concentrations also ensures a lower-cost-in-use than other emulsification alternatives, plus reduced storage and handling requirements.”

The future is bright for enzymes as baker’s requirements become more demanding. According to Ms. Glæsel, “The baked foods industry is continually challenged with ensuring consistent product quality in spite of the fluctuating quality of wheat flour. Using enzymes as processing aids is a natural solution.”

Mr. Herzog concluded, “There are many opportunities to refine existing enzymes, find synergies and look at the other components within flour that are not being utilized through enzymatic modification.”