Pro Tip: Learning the five factors that affect enzymes will help bakers when launching a product development project.

I recently came back from the International Baking Industry Exposition (IBIE) in Las Vegas, and while walking the show floor I was amazed at the number of companies promoting enzymes to bakers.

I was first introduced to the world of enzymes about 20 years ago when I was working on developing military ration foods, or MREs. Back then the availability of enzymes to bakers was limited to alpha-amylase; today it appears that we have enzymes for every solution.

Enzymes are biological catalysts made of proteins and, in nature, are responsible for the metabolism of plants, animals and microorganisms to help speed up the chemical reactions in a system. Among the many thousands of enzymes that occur in nature, only a few are produced on a commercial scale for bakers. Enzymes in baking were first used in ancient Egypt for the preservation of food and beverages, but enzymes were not discovered until 1926 when James Sumner, an American chemist, discovered that enzymes were indeed proteins and could be crystallized. In 1946, he received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry.

Enzymes are a great tool for all bakers to solve a lot of today’s problems such as extending the shelf life of products, making breads clean label, replacing gluten and improving processes. Keep in mind, however, that enzymes are living organisms, and just like yeast can be affected by external factors in bakeries like time and temperature. Let’s look at the factors affecting enzymes and how to better understand how to control them.

Enzyme concentration

Enzyme reactions are always dictated by the ratio of an enzyme to its substrate in the reaction concentration. In the example of lipases (an enzyme that breaks down fats), it needs a substrate (fats) to do its work, therefore having the proper enzyme concentration with the proper ratio of fats will allow for optimal rate of reaction.


Naturally, all enzymatic reactions on any scale will proceed over time, and when used in bakery products, the reaction will continue working based on the enzyme and substrate concentration, or until the enzymes become denatured. Denaturation happens at different temperatures based on the type of enzyme and the source of the enzyme (bacterial, fungal or microbial).


As the temperature of an enzyme increases, the performance of the enzyme also increases. For every 10-degree centigrade rise in temperature, enzyme activity is increased by 50% to 100%. Variations as small as one to two degrees in a bakery can introduce changes of 10% to 20% in enzyme performance. When temperatures increase, enzyme activity will accelerate and continue past the enzyme's optimal temperature; enzymatic activity will no longer occur. The same is true for freezing: as the temperature drops, the enzymatic reaction stops from occurring.


Enzymatic activity also depends upon the pH of its environment, such that the greatest reaction is attained at the optimal pH of the enzyme. Each enzyme’s optimum pH lies most often within the pH range of 4.5 to 8. With variations of water pH and ingredient pH, the careful control of pH in either breads or cakes is essential for any enzymes used.


For all enzymes, the enzymatic activity greatly increases upon in the addition of more water. Therefore, the more moisture, the faster the reaction. Enzyme reaction will also be affected by other ingredients such as the salt and sugar content in your formulas.

When selecting enzymes for your product development project, it is important to check how enzymes will react to the factors listed above.

Richard Charpentier is a classically trained French baker, CMB, holds a degree in baking science from Kansas State University, and is owner and chief executive officer of Baking Innovation. Connect with him on LinkedIn.