Enzymes comprise globular proteins that catalyse biochemical reactions. In simple terms, food enzymes help the body begin the process of digestion by contributing to the breakdown of food components into smaller nutrients that can be more easily absorbed into the bloodstream.
The global market, according to Intertek , for industrial enzymes is valued at $5.5bn USD, about half of which is used in food production. Companies like Enzymit are growing fast in this space by combining their knowledge of enzyme development and data gathering.
The subject area of enzymes in food is incredibly vast with many layers of discussion. I will touch on a couple of important considerations in this article, but to look into the use of food enzymes for your project on a deeper and more customised level, contact me here.
The Role of Food Enzymes
Food enzymes play an important role in the creation of tasty, healthy, and nutritious functional food and beverage products. Common uses include breaking down insoluble components and crosslinking ingredients to improve texture.
Some of these enzymatic roles can look like the following:
- Tenderising meat products.
- Converting starch to sugar in the alcohol production process.
- Removing oxygen in bottled soft drinks to reduce browning caused by oxidation.
- Extracting pectins in fruit juice to produce clearer fruit juices.
- Removing lactose from milk to develop a lactose-free alternative.
Most foods contain the correct proportion of enzymes necessary for digestion. As mentioned in the Food Enzyme Institute , the type (protein, sugar, starch, fat) and amount (caloric value) of the major components present in the food determine the type and amount of the various enzymes found in the food. For example, olives and bananas are higher in fat and lipase, while peaches are higher in carbohydrates and amylase.
Over time, scientists have identified certain food enzymes with specific technological functions and have developed ways of cultivating microorganisms to produce specialised enzymes. One example focuses on the use of chymosin, a proteolytic enzyme used in cheese making.
Source: Adriana Contin
Another example highlights the importance of amylases in improving the texture and shelf-life of some functional beverages with a lower emulsion stability. Amylase can help improve the stability of products like these in order to ultimately create a better, more positive experience for the customer, and additionally aid in the reduction of food waste by converting or reutilising byproducts that would otherwise contribute to a negative environmental impact.
Food Enzymes and Food Waste
Food waste is one of our primary global issues, with food waste occurring at various points across the supply chain, from farm to fork. If we are to solve or, at the very least, reduce this problem in the near future, we need to be open to different solutions at every level of the supply chain.
What we need to evaluate here are different ways in which we can obtain high added-value food and beverage products from food waste. For example, enzymatic technologies could be used to extract and upcycle key components from certain food wastes.
Alternative feedstock utilisation, longer shelf-life and more efficient processes are some sustainable, enzyme-mediated solutions that can reduce costs, diminish food losses and energy usage while engaging consumers at the same time.
Food enzymes also have the potential to reduce the need for chemical ingredients. This aligns with the increasing consumer demand for healthier and more clean-label foods and beverages.
Arguably one of the most commonly thrown-out foods is bread, but by using enzymes, we could extend the product’s freshness and maintain its appearance, allowing end-users to consume the product for longer periods of time, in turn, contributing to less food waste from the home.
The food industry is moving fast to attend to multiple customer calls for innovative products, especially in functional foods and beverages. In such a dynamic and demanding marketplace, assessing the right solution is dependent on a broad but also a deep understanding of such solutions, from the molecular level towards processing and final application in food matrices.
After defining the scope of a project for food improvement, an outlook of novel enzymes, ingredients and processes is defined. Regulatory and labelling requirements further define the feasible options. Iterative prototyping as well as analytical, functional and sensoric measurements are necessary for the validation of the value proposition towards the final solution. A collaborative network can be useful for speeding up this process and is something we can work with you on through the food experts at iNewtrition.
To discuss the use of food enzymes in your next project, contact Raphaelle at iNewtrition. You can book a 1 hour consultation here or send an email to [email protected] where you can reach Raphaelle directly.
iNewtrition is an Innovation as a Service (IaaS) agency for the food & beverage, and health & wellness industries. We provide agile customer solutions, end-to-end support, or can simply help you overcome specific bottlenecks to fast track innovation and product development. The services and expertise we offer are on-demand and available to you instantly via our online booking platform. Our skills combined cover every step of your innovation journey, from feasibility study, product design or development, to post-launch scale-up. Contact Raphaelle at [email protected] to start your journey.
 Intertek, 2020. ‘Considerations for the Improval of Food Enzymes Globally.’ Webinar.
 Food Enzyme Institute, 2021.
 FSAI, 2018. Food Enzymes article.
 NCBI, 2018. Applications of Microbial Enzymes in Food Industry.
 NPJ, 2018. Transforming food waste: how immobilized enzymes can valorize waste streams into revenue streams.
 The Good Food Institute, 2020. Fermentation: An Introduction to a Pillar of the Alternative Protein Industry.