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How do we build a better baking future?

By Judith van Peij, Innovation Manager dsm-firmenich and Fatima Zoundri, Head of Sustainability dsm-firmenich

Clean-label, functional ingredients go a long way toward the sustainability concerns – of the baker, the material supplier and the consumer. Just before Christmas last year, a London baker called Maisie Collins opened up an industrial-sized oven for her local community to use free of charge.

This generous gesture was not only good for people’s pockets; it was also great for the planet because, of course, it reduced energy consumption. However, this idea was far from original. Communal bakehouses were used in medieval Europe for centuries; and today they remain popular in many parts of the world, including North Africa and the Middle East.

Back to basics – with biotechnology

We are now living in an age where the biotechnology that forms the foundation of our business is already able to help solve many of the sustainability challenges faced by the baking industry. But, as the London baker Maisie Collins has shown, history still has something to teach us by tapping into the ‘back to basics’ approach of our ancestors.

Consider a scenario where communal baking ovens become a reality for consumers. This prompts a thought: could this concept extend to the industrial baking sphere? Picture the advantages in sustainability if manufacturers adopted expansive industrial-communal bakehouses, perpetually operational and manned by adept artisan bakers. Their expertise in optimizing raw materials could yield remarkable results. However, in altering the existing supply chain to accommodate such innovations, the consistency of bread quality faces challenges. This is precisely where biotechnology might step in, offering solutions to maintain the same superior bread quality consistently.

Enhancing baked goods with enzymes

Enzymes are proteins that occur in nature and enable biological reactions to happen faster. dsm-firmenich’s baking enzymes are produced via a long-established microbial fermentation process and then used by customers to make targeted and predictable molecular conversions in the recipe.  

In turn, these bring a wide variety of properties to baked goods, including improved dough handling, dough stability, volume, crumb structure and softness – to deliver the sensory qualities that consumers love. Crucially, they can achieve this with challenging flour types and other grains.

Thanks to the inherent sturdiness and versatility of enzymes, they can make lower-quality flour sources and/or challenging raw materials like wholewheat flour perform better – thus enabling bakers to use these (locally sourced) ingredients without compromising on the quality of their products and all the while substantially lowering their carbon footprint.  

Replacing the bad, naturally

This of course taps into a major consumer trend for greater transparency and provenance of the foods they buy, with ‘fewer air miles’. After all, bread was not only the original plant-made food; it was also one of the simplest, often containing just three basic ingredients.

Because they are classed as processing aids, enzymes have a cleaner label. In fact, baking enzymes are able to have the same functionality as traditional, synthetic emulsifiers like DATEM used in baked goods.

Making haste to less waste

Perhaps most importantly of all, baking enzymes help solve another major sustainability challenge by taking a huge bite off of food waste – extending the shelf life of baked goods by up to 10 days or more by delaying staling in baked goods. Once again, we see how biotechnology can be combined with the back-to-basics approach of our ancestors – where food waste was simply not an option.

It’s long been said that safeguarding our planet and food system is everyone’s responsibility – not just commercially but individually. The closer we look at the challenges faced by the baking industry, the truer this statement becomes. Of course, we don’t have all the answers, but the company does have the people and desire to continue creating a better baking future by keeping one eye on the past, and the other very firmly on the continued future of bioscience!

Read the whole article in Baking+Biscuit International, issue 5


Photo: dsm-firmenich