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Market: Choose the right enzyme solutions and increase your return on investment.

05.07.2012 Climate change is already having a dramatic impact on the quality and yield of cultivated grains. In addition, the standards for the processing of wheat and other grains are rising steadily. The use of enzymes and other ingredients in flour applications offers millers great opportunities to increase the return on their investment. Tailor-made enzyme applications allow high quality baked goods to be produced from lower quality wheat. Did we have to apply ascorbic acid to the flour 50 years ago? No we did not. The demand for flour at the time was not as high as it is now, the millers could afford to keep the flour in stock for maturation and the requirements for consistent flour quality for industrial bread production were not an issue.

What else has changed? Farmers margins have decreased steadily over time as competition has increased. In addition, the use of fertilizers and pesticides as an important cost factor for grain cultivation has increased significantly. Further climate change is already having a drastic impact on the quality and yield of the cultivated grains. It no longer rains at the same pace as it did in the past, some regions do not get water for months – this is a development that has never been experienced before. Other regions are overwhelmed with torrential rain and floods.

On the other hand, the demand for flour is constantly increasing due to high population growth, for example in Sub-Saharan Africa. Therefore the amounts of imported wheat are constantly increasing.

So where do we go from here? Do we have to mill wheat that produces a flour which is not in line with customer specifications for flour quality? This is an option and it might even be fairly cheap to produce such a flour. But will this work in the long run for the millers return on investment, won’t they miss a real business opportunity by building up customer loyalty for a more sustainable business?

The use of ascorbic acid and alpha amylase has become a standard procedure, but what is the next innovation step? The use of enzymes in flour applications offers great opportunities for the millers and also the bakers. The fact that each enzyme has a specific effect on each component of the flour, such as the starch, pentosans, proteins or lipids, offers new opportunities for tailor-made enzyme mixes in flour applications. For example, the costs associated with the excessive use of ascorbic acid and alpha amylase can be reduced by using a customized enzyme mix that improves the stability of the flour, the dough-processing ability and the characteristics of the end product. The value of this type of solution will far exceed the overall cost for the miller.

“Did you know that a few grams of an enzyme mix per ton of flour may have the same effect as adding one kilogram of dry gluten? However, the costs for the enzymes are a fraction of those for the gluten.”

The following example shows the potential for optimizing profit by using flour correctors:

Table 1: Profit increase by selective use of flour and flour improver

High quality wheat

Average quality wheat

Flour costs per ton [USD]

377.00

342.00

Flour improver cost per ton [USD]

-

9.85

Total flour cost per ton [USD]

377.00

351.85

Flour cost difference per ton [USD]

25.15

Flour cost per ton [%]

100

93.3

In Table 1 two flours are compared that originate either from a high quality or an average quality wheat. The target is to create a flour improver that “boosts” the performance of the average quality flour to the more optimal high quality flour based on a defined usage. In the presented case (Table 1) the cost difference of the two flours is 35 USD/t. However the cost of the flour improver that is used to upgrade the average quality flour is only 9.85 USD/t, leaving a profit for the miller of 25.15 USD/t. If a miller can optimize 50 t of flour every day for a whole year (300 d), he will be able to generate an additional profit of 50*300*25.15 = 377’250 USD/year. This example demonstrates that the right blending of different wheat crops of inferior quality in your grits can make a big difference in profit. However, you will have to invest in flour correctors to achieve the promised quality of the flour. You might invest 1 USD to earn up to 2.5 USD. An investment that surely is worth the money.

Chris Lemaire
Application Specialist for Flour Improvers
Bühler Johannesburg, South Africa

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