What are enzymes?
Enzymes are natural proteins that act as catalysts for biochemical reactions. When one substance needs to be transformed into another, nature uses enzymes to speed up the process. In our stomachs for example, enzymes break down food into tiny particles to be converted into energy. But enzymes are also used in numerous applications within the food, feed, household and industrial fields.
Enzymes are used extensively in the food and feed industry. Bread baking for instance is higly depending on a variety of enzymes, called amylases, lipases, proteases and oxidases for instance. Enzymes offer a natural and clean label solution for many aspects in the baking process, and can help to reduce mixing time, improve dough handling, water distribution, crumb softness, anti-staling, crust color and many others. Dairy applications include the use of different enzymes, such as protease, to lessen the allergic properties of bovine milk products and lipase to improve the flavor of the cheese.
Enzymes are extensively used in feed applications, especially chicken and swine, in order to help improve gut health (as probiotics) but also to help the animals digest cellulose (carbohydrases) or break down proteins (proteases) or phytic acid (phytases). In addition, the environmental impact is diminished (less nitrogen and phosfor excretion), less feed is required and less minerals need to be added to the feed mix.
Enzymes are used in the brewing process to help increase the brewing efficiency. Firstly, enzymes are processing aids that specifically deliver a functional or process benefit. Secondly, they can help producing beer faster, simpler, cost effectively, and in a more sustainable way. All of which gives better control over the brewing process regardless of what type of operation or which raw ingredients are used.
One of the better known uses of enzymes is in detergents. Enzymes find use as functional ingredients in detergents and contribute to cleaning of laundry and dishes in an efficient, environmentally mild, and energy-saving manner. Proteases, lipases, amylases are the major class of detergent enzymes, each provides specific benefits for application in laundry and automatic dishwashing. Proteases have been the first to be used extensively in laundry detergents, which not only raise the level of cleaning, but also provide environmental benefits. Lipases and amylases have joined proteases in improving detergent efficacy, especially for household laundering at lower temperatures and, in industrial cleaning operations, at lower pH levels. Cellulases contribute to overall fabric care by rejuvenating or maintaining the new appearance of washed garments.
Enzymes are not only used in feed, food and household applications but also extensively in industrial applications. For instance, biorefineries for bioethanol production have followed a steady evolution along with improvements related to enzymatic activity and hydrolysis technology. Whichever operation strategy is followed (separated hydrolysis and fermentation, simultaneous saccharification and fermentation, or consolidated bioprocessing), the enzymes that play a major role in this growing industry are amylases and cellulases. Accessory enzymes have gained recent attention. Enzymes are also extensively used in processes where lignocellulosic feedstocks need to be broken down into its sugar components, such in biorefineries where biofuels and biobased chemicals are produced.
Major enzyme producing companies
Major enzyme producing companies are DSM, Novozymes, DuPont (now IFF) Nutrition and Biosciences, BASF, Cargill, Adisseo and AB Enzymes, amongst others. These companies are using higly advanced scientific biotechnological methods to develop and produce (white biotech) highly specialized and optimized enzyme products and blends.