How enzymes are transforming manufacturing

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September 2014

Enzymes are proteins produced by living cells that catalyze specific chemical reactions—increasing the rate of reaction as much as millions of times. Enzymes aid digestion, metabolize and eliminate waste from our bodies, play a crucial role in muscle contraction, and have been used for millennia in traditional industries such as cheese making, brewing, and baking. Better methods for producing enzymes and the ability to dramatically change their properties through genetic engineering have opened the door to new applications in a wide range of industries, where they reduce costs, produce less waste, and help decrease energy, water, and toxic chemical use. We recently asked three of the world’s top makers of enzymes and one customer that uses enzymes in its operations about the way enzyme technologies are shaping products and manufacturing—both now and in the future. Their responses are highlighted here.



Company: DSM
Type/name of enzyme technology: Fermentation-based production of enzymes using various production organisms
Key enzyme products: Purifine® phospholipases, Maxilact® lactases, Brewers’s Clarex® proteases, Rapidase® pectinases, Maxamyl® amylases and Maxipro® proteases.
Potential applications: Oils and fats, starch, grain, sugars, proteins, dairy, wine, brewing, baking, snacks, fruit juices, dietary supplements.


How are enzymes transforming manufacturing and/or enabling the production of new products?
A good example of an industry transformation is the development of enzymatic degumming. In 2008, fewer than five oilseed plants were using enzymes for degumming, but 35 plants are using enzymes in 2014. In 2016, we expect that 60 plants will have replaced chemical refining with enzyme-assisted physical refining. Adopting enzymatic degumming helps the industry to stay profitable in today’s challenging environment. Using DSM’s Purifine™ enzymes as the preferred solution gives the highest yield (extra oil yields as high as 2.5% are reported for expander-based soybean oils) while reducing usage of chemicals, water, and energy.

Better processes are not the only driver of enzymes. Lecithin producers now can also produce lysolecithins, which provide a much better emulsion stability at only half the dosage of normal lecithins; or they can market them as special animal feed ingredients because of the benefits they provide for the digestive tract.


What advantages do enzyme technologies offer over more conventional methods, and are these advantages so great that enzyme technology will one day become the norm? 
This question is best answered by drawing inspiration from other food-related industries. As an example, there is not one big apple juice manufacturer in the world that does not use enzymes. For four to five months each year, an apple juice manufacturer only thinks of two things: maximal process throughput and optimal product quality. The benefits of enzymes (mainly pectinases, cellulases and amylases) on both of these drivers are so significant that the processor cannot afford not to use enzymes. As a result, enzyme technology has been the technology of choice for the juice processing industry for almost a century as it drives process yield and capacity and maximizes product quality.

A look at the brewing industry illustrates a more recent industry transformation. Five years ago, DSM launched Brewers® Clarex, a protease enzyme that provides continuous production capability and eliminates the cold stabilization part of the brewing line. In the five years since the enzyme’s launch, most leading breweries around the world have adopted Brewers Clarex, because it improves brewing capacity while eliminating the use of stabilizing agents such as silica gel and polyvinylpolypyrrolidone, which are energy hungry and inefficient because they produce waste. The question therefore is not if enzyme technology will become the norm in oils and fats processing, but when.


Are there any disadvantages to using enzyme technologies? 
To optimize the use of enzymes (as for any process), plant operators need to understand the difference between an enzymatic process and a nonenzymatic process and the downstream impact of process interruptions, such as less water, a higher pH, less backpressure, and the like. Although enzymes have, over the years, been greatly improved in terms of robustness and flexibility, they will always remain specific and only act within certain conditions. To date, industry knowledge of enzymatic processing lags behind the adoption rate, because enzymatic processing is a new technology and there is simply a lack of broad experience. To address that, we provide basic training for crushing and refining teams to teach them what they need to know about enzyme technology. We also encourage plants to increase their laboratory capabilities so that they can gain greater control over process performance.


What improvements do enzymes offer your operations?
Many processes at DSM are fermentation based, and enzymes play a vital role in production. For example, DSM produces green beta-lactam antibiotics through natural fermentation and enzymatic conversion, ensuring the absence of almost all synthetic chemicals and thereby reducing the toxicity of active ingredients. In the United States, DSM has a joint venture with the biofuel company POET to demonstrate and license bioethanol. This is derived from corn crop residue (biomass) by using a biological process based on enzymatic hydrolysis followed by fermentation.


How may enzymes change markets for end products and/or consumers?
Recent enzyme innovations have to a large extent been driven by the market and its need for more healthful oil properties, better product functionalities, and greener processing. As a result, they enable the industry to remain relevant for its customer base and stay ahead of competition from other industries.


What are some of the innovations that we can expect to see as a result of enzyme development?
Responding to external forces, the industry will evolve over time to a sector that is completely energy neutral without any waste—the green biorefinery. Enzyme technology will help to realize this optimal resource efficiency, with new enzymes that enable the oils and fats industry to stop using hexane, bleaching clay, or silica gel and to develop new physical refining processes that make caustic and acid chemicals or hydrogenation redundant. Looking beyond the operations, we can imagine that enzymes can possibly prevent formation of 3-MCPD [3-monochloropropane-1,2-diol] esters in palm oil.


What factors currently limit enzyme technology?
In the oils and fats industry, the biggest limiting factor for the adoption of enzymes is the perception that the technology is still not robust enough to ensure that plants run without interruption and deliver on required product quality. Like any market where a new technology is introduced (think smart phones or roadmap navigation systems), the early adopters will be those who are most innovative and risk tolerant. Only when the majority of the industry feels comfortable with the technology as being beneficial rather than disruptive to their own business will we see broad use of the technology. We feel that the oils and fats industry is approaching this tipping point with respect to the use of enzymes, but it will require a concerted push by enzyme suppliers, oil processors, and engineering companies to move to the broad adoption phase.




Company: DuPont
Type/name of enzyme technology: Industrial biotechnology solutions and enzyme applications across a number of industries
Key enzyme products: A wide variety of enzymes and enzyme blends, e.g. proteases, amylases, cellulases, beta-glucanases, and more.
Potential applications: biobased technology to improve products, processes and environmental performance in animal nutrition, biofuels, bioprocessing, biomaterials, carbohydrate processing, detergents manufacturing, industrial and institutional cleaning, food and beverages applications, grain processing, and textile processing
Contact: DuPont Industrial Biosciences, Wilmington, Delaware, tel.: +1 302 774 1000


How are enzymes transforming manufacturing and/or enabling the production of new products?
Just as one example, we aim to help the textile processing industry transform itself and reduce its environmental footprint. Like many industrial sectors, the textile industry is facing increasing pressure to lower its impact on the environment. Our cost-effective biosolutions can help reduce the use of energy, water, and caustic chemicals.

By using less water and less energy and by improving process efficiency, our products can enable more sustainable pretreatment or finishing. One illustration of this is DuPont™ PrimaGreen® Ecowhite, an enzymatic bleaching innovation. It not only performs at lower temperatures and uses less water than conventional bleaching, it gives the fabric a softer hand and yields brighter colors after dyeing.

In textile processing, we collaborate closely with our customers, such as textile chemical formulators, and specifically their technical teams from the very beginning—translating their specific challenges into biochemical terms, to determine where and how we can add value. This could translate to reducing operating costs, replacing the use of corrosive chemicals or silicon dust, and/or complying with safety legislation.

Most often, however, the need is to reduce consumption of water or energy. To that end, we launched a product for cotton “de-fuzzing” that—combined with the dyeing step—enables a huge saving of water as well as production time.

The shorter production cycle and improved hand of the end product offer our customer a marketable advantage to the time-sensitive fashion and retail markets. As a bonus, there is a significant reduction in environmental impact.


What advantages to enzyme technologies offer over more conventional methods, and are these advantages so great that enzyme technology will one day become the norm?
Aside from their specificity, enzymes often offer other benefits that stretch beyond the product itself, that is, going beyond product performance or process optimization. Enzymes can often replace chemicals or processes that present safety or environmental issues. For example, enzymes can be used to do the following:

  • Replace acids in the starch processing industry;
  • Replace acids, alkalis, or oxidizing agents in fabric desizing;
  • Reduce the use of sulfide  in tanneries;
  • Replace pumice stones for “stonewashing” jeans, reducing waste;
  • Allow more complete food digestion in animals fed enzymes, reducing animal waste per pound gained;
  • Act as stain removers  in laundry products . This allows clothes to be washed at lower temperatures, saving energy. Enzymes can substitute for chlorine bleach to remove stains on cloth. Enzymes also allow the level of surfactants to be reduced and permit the cleaning of clothes in the absence of phosphates; and
  • Act very specifically (unlike other catalysts) and under mild reaction conditions, allowing selective reactions in the presence of sensitive chemicals.


Are there any disadvantages to using enzyme technologies?
No. Our products are rigorously tested and we need to comply with the highest standards of safety and product quality in our industry. The value of applying our enzyme technology often exceeds the cost.


What improvements do enzymes offer your operations?
Our entire organization is built around the discovery, development, and industrial-scale manufacture of enzymes. That means we scale up something that cannot even be discerned with the naked eye, to production levels of millions of liters of product. Our manufacturing plants are therefore run by highly skilled and trained staff, and you will find a fair number of Ph.D.-level scientists at each of our sites. We also maintain the highest level of quality and production standards, each tailored to the specific situation in a country.

Obviously, we apply these standards also to the quality of our supply to customers, and our average reliability of supply is measured on a daily basis.


How may enzymes change markets for end products and/or consumers?
Rapid population growth and global expansion mean energy consumption is expected to increase dramatically over the next few decades. Fossil fuels have limitations, and the world is demanding localized solutions that address the sustainability of transportation fuels and concerns about climate change, while creating local green jobs. The call to develop renewably sourced biofuels is clear. From feedstock to fuel—and every step in between—DuPont is committed to being part of the solution by applying our science and working with partners throughout the biofuels value chain.

Our enzyme technology has enabled first-generation bioethanol to reduce carbon emissionsin many countries across the globe. Creating a market and infrastructure for bioethanol has also facilitated the development of second-generation biofuels. These new advanced biofuels use biomass such as corn stover, switchgrass, and other agricultural and waste residues to produce cellulosic ethanol.

The Accellerase® platform from DuPont is one of the most significant milestones in a long history of developing enzymes to allow the commercialization of the cellulosic ethanol. Over the last 10 years, DuPont has invested hundreds of millions of dollars and challenged our top scientists to deliver on the potential of cellulosic ethanol and reduce the US dependence on fossil fuels. This year, DuPont Industrial Biosciences will deliver on that promise with the opening of a cellulosic ethanol facility in Nevada, Iowa, USA, that will produce renewable fuel from corn stover—one of the first facilities of its kind in the world.


What are some of the innovations that we can expect to see as a result of enzyme development? 
Biorefineries taking their place alongside oil refineries.

Accellerase biomass enzymes from DuPont are providing the crucial link that enables technology developers and farmers to become producers of cellulosic fuel, sugars, and chemicals.

In testimony before the US Senate Agriculture Committee in April 2014, Jan Koninckx, global business director for biorefineries at DuPont, stated: “We have completely re-imagined how we fuel our planet. We do so with renewable resources without adding any additional CO2 into the atmosphere. It is a remarkable achievement. And when you look at this from the perspective of a science company—this has actually gone quite fast.”

Koninckx continued: “For the past four years we have brought together growers, academia, public institutions like the US Department of Agriculture, and custom equipment makers to conduct harvest trials on corn stover. Together, we have developed an entirely new model for biomass harvest, transportation, and supply to a biorefinery. It is cost competitive and fully sustainable— preserving the land for generations to come.”


What factors are currently limiting enzyme technology?
Our industry is dependent on a constructive and stable policy framework. For example, the cellulosic ethanol segment described earlier is still a nascent industry, and even though we’re working hard to commercialize, it is still in its infancy. It is important that ethanol producers can rely on government support and incentives to increase demand for such products. At the same time it is important the industry collaborates closely with a variety of stakeholders along the value chain to educate consumers on the relevance of alternative fuel options, including cellulosic ethanol technology. We cannot do it alone, but together, we can make a big difference in how we choose to fuel, feed, and protect the world population and preserve our planet.


2013 Novozymes


Name of company: Novozymes A/S
Type/name of enzyme technology:
protease, amylase, lipase, mannanase, pectate lyase, and cellulase
Key enzyme products: Evity®, Medley Essential, Medley Pure, and Medley Brilliant
Potential applications:
Key targeted market segment(s): Laundry; biodetergency, color and fabric care, stain removal, whiteness
Gøther Lars Birch Mathisen, marketing manager, Novozymes Household Care,


How are enzymes transforming manufacturing and/or enabling the production of new products?
Today, detergent manufacturers are required to supply products that provide better cleaning results with less effort, time, and environmental impact. Enzymes can help manufacturers achieve superior technical performance and effectively banish stains from blood, banana, baby food, and other sources that are traditionally very difficult to remove. Enzymes can bring new powerful performance to detergents. Examples include enzymes that enable detergents to maintain the intense color or whiteness of clothes and enzymes that snip away fuzz and pills to keep clothes looking fresh and new. This means that enzymatic technology can be actively used to bring new products to market and help manufacturers to make exciting market claims to differentiate their products.


What advantages do enzyme technologies offer over more conventional methods, and are these advantages so great that enzyme technology will one day become the norm?
Absolutely. Enzymes are very efficient, targeting very specific stains. They are effective in mild conditions and even in cool water. In Western Europe, there is a demand for solutions that work at temperatures as low as 30° C. Laundering at such temperatures saves energy and reduces impact on the environment. It is extremely difficult to effectively clean at cooler temperatures without the use of enzymes, so their use seems likely to become the norm.

Another sustainable advantage is the ability to replace petroleum-based surfactants with enzymes. They are effective in very small quantities when compared to traditional surfactants. This supports the compaction trend toward concentrated products and reduced packaging.  


Are there any disadvantages to using enzyme technologies?
Enzymatic technology is very sophisticated so it can be difficult to get the dosing just right. However, we are currently working to simplify enzyme use by creating pre-defined solutions to secure optimal dosing the easy way.


What improvements do enzymes offer your operations?
We are the enzyme experts; enzymes are our core business. We are the biggest player in the household care industry and offer the broadest enzymes range. We are proud that our bio-innovation provides detergent manufacturers with unique solutions for creating high-value bio-based cleaning products that put considerably less strain on the environment.


How may enzymes change markets for end products and/or consumers?
Fifty years ago it was common to boil clothes to remove starch stains. Now consumers can effectively remove stubborn stains in a cool wash! By replacing petroleum-based ingredients and other nonrenewables with enzymes and microbial agents, manufacturers can give consumers high-performance cleaning solutions that help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and conserve water. And conserving water is important everywhere, but particularly so in emerging markets.


What are some of the innovations that we can expect to see as a result of enzyme development?
As mentioned earlier, we believe that cold water washing will become the norm—and that the degree of surfactant replacement will continue to increase. Through providing our customers with attractive alternatives to traditional ingredients, we enable them to help steer the market toward greener detergents with fewer chemicals and high-performance household care solutions. The ultimate goal would be that enzymes are recognized as a seal of quality in the detergent business. Already, some manufactures are promoting the use of enzymes on their packaging.


What factors currently limit enzyme technology?
As market leader, we are constantly expected to bring new innovations to market, which is very demanding of our talented research and development team. Our solutions are developed by combining technical expertise with in-depth consumer insight to stay on top of the trends and continue to offer highly relevant solutions.




Name of company: POS BioSciences
Enzyme-enhanced processes:

  1. Enzyme-assisted protein, lipid, and other bioactive (Astaxanthin, Glucosamine, etc) extraction
  2. Functional protein hydrolysate production
  3. Juice production (use of pectinases)
  4. Interesterification of fat blends 

Potential applications:
Functional foods, nutraceuticals, biofuel, no-trans fats/baking fats
Contact:  Dr. Rick Green, VP of Technology,, (306) 978-2808


How are enzymes transforming manufacturing and/or enabling the production of new products?

  • increase the efficiency of operations by increasing the yield and recovery of proteins and lipids;
  • reduce the use of toxic solvents by enabling solvent-free extractions;
  • remove bitterness from food ingredients and supplements;  
  • clarify juice;
  • enable the controlled break down of proteins into peptides with different molecular weights and with novel bio- and techno-functional properties; and
  • assist  in the extraction of different bioactive compounds from plant and animal-based starting material


What improvements do enzymes offer your operations?
They provide the capability for solvent-free extraction and increase the specificity of our reactions. Enzymes require mild operating conditions, so they result in a safer and more environmentally friendly working environment. Some enzymes can also be reused, which reduces costs.


What are some of the future developments that we can expect to see as a result of enzyme development?
We are likely to see new industrial catalysts, tools for food production and processing, pharmaceutical uses, analytical and measurement tools, aids for screening new physiologically active substances, and aids for creation of new sources of energy and raw materials.


What factors currently limit enzyme technology:

  • high costs
  • large quantities of enzyme, water, and energy required in most applications. There’s a need to develop more effective enzymes to attain maximum product yield and performance.
  • narrow range of use; there is a need to use modern biotechnology to develop enzymes that can be used under diverse conditions such as high/low pH and low temperature. This will increase efficiency, applications, and lower costs.