Improved Flavor — At a Price
Research and development of the new enzymes can have a powerful impact on the baking industry, but at any cost?
By Martin Schultz
Enzymes are fast becoming the chemical catalyst of choice for baking ingredient suppliers. And it’s hardly surprising. With all the investment that’s pouring into enzyme research and development, these chemical catalysts now come in a growing assortment of specialized applications.
In general, the latest enzyme development work is intended to make them function more precisely. In the bakery industry, enzymes tend to be grouped into three categories — those that act on starch to keep the bread crumb soft, those designed to make dough-mixing easier, and those that enable gluten to keep hold of gas to improve the aeration properties.
Thus, while some enzymes are designed to work in the oven, for example, others are intended to act almost instantly during dough mixing. There are enzymes that can alter a product’s physical characteristic and texture, and others again that have a direct affect on taste, final appearance and, of course, shelf life. And where greater specialization comes into play, so does cost.
In several baking processes, the use of the new generation of enzymes has already provided evidence of functional success. One in particular, extended shelf life, has produced a revolution in bread- producers’ internal cost controls. “I think that going forward, the ESL program will show its greatest promise in implementation, especially in the process optimization,” says Jan Van Eijk, bakery research director at Lallemand Yeast Co./American Yeast.
“We’re also seeing some impressive results from the introduction of the newer lipase [enzymes] that are being used as emulsifier replacements. The benefit they offer is that they are very successful at modifying flour lipids and improving their emulsifier function,” Van Eijk observes.
A third area of interest to bakers is low-carb. This is an umbrella concept that shelters a number of different issues, in all of which enzymes play an important role. For example, there’s the issue of “machinability,” involved. Because of the reduction of starch and the presence of so much gluten and fiber in the flour, new, more powerful enzymes may be required to ameliorate the abuse from the baking equipment.
Other issues connected with producing low-carb baked products include flavor concerns and structural deterioration. “Using so much fiber is problematic,” Van Eijk remarks, “because it is so bland, its flavor needs boosting. On the other hand it might produce some off-flavors that’ll need masking. This can be an excellent job for enzymes.”
Again, taking starch out of the flour can produce wrinkling in the finished loaf, which consumers reject and also reduce the bread’s stability. “Optimization of the baking process and recipe (including special enzymes) will be the solution,” says Van Eijk. “Whoever is first on the market with high-quality low-carb bread will see most of the benefit of this research.”
Yet another issue is the reduction of fats, such as trans fats, in a formulation. If too much fat is removed, this can affect how easily the product goes through the baking process. Enzymes play a major role in substituting for shortening and also in facilitating the process of lean dough products. Enzymes, lipases, can also be used in the production of trans-fat free shortenings by interestification.
Perhaps surprisingly for many bakers, cost is not the key factor in this equation. Consumer pressure for healthier, more nutritious baked products is inducing producers to look for solutions in the short-term — almost at any cost.
“Price will certainly become a factor going forward,” Van Eijk notes, but not now. “The focus today is to get an acceptable product out fast, then keep improving its taste, texture, and shelf life, and then improve cost.”
“More and more, enzymes are impacting the way companies are marketing other ingredients to the baking industry,” notes Neil Widlak, director of product and business development, specialty food ingredients at ADM. “We have found that combinations of enzymes and dough conditioners or crumb softeners, for example, often provide improvements greater than either ingredient can achieve by itself.
“We now offer blends of enzymes with dough conditioners or crumb softeners to maximize their functional attributes and minimize cost.”
At Kerry Ingredients, while cost is always factored in, flavor is paramount, and according to Dennis Fechhelm, business director for snack seasonings, ingredient suppliers “are” finding more and more uses for enzymes that can enhance flavors.
“Of course, any time a new product is developed there’s a cost. For example, with research and development, there’s an upfront cost,” Fechhelm explains, “but we always try to find the most optimal cost with the ingredient that offers the best performance.”
Cost is also an inherent factor whenever a formulation requires reworking, but it’s not always in one direction. Where baking is concerned, enzymes may actually help to reduce cost, because while enzymes can intensify flavor, a lot goes a long way.
Of course, whenever Kerry is incorporating enzyme-modified ingredients into its seasonings, it always controls the process carefully. “For example, if a seasoning has 12 ingredients, only one of which is enzyme modified, we’ll work closely with a client manufacturer to ensure that he can successfully work it into his formulation,” Fechhelm says.
Nevertheless, a great deal of work remains to be done before the baking industry proclaims its use of the new generation of enzymes to be an unqualified success. “There are still more questions than answers connected with this process,” says Ed Wilson, sales and marketing director for Aarhus United USA. “For example, can enzymes really enable soybeans to produce solids where none exist? And if so, is this a truly cost-effective alternative to current chemical methods of producing solids?”