AAK partners with Arzeda to transform oils with enzymes

01 November 2022

AAK partners with Arzeda to transform oils with enzymes

The protein designer, which has worked with BP and Unilever, has long wanted to use its processes to help make the food industry more sustainable and efficient, said CEO Alexandre Zanghellini.

Palm oil can be a great ingredient, but also an extremely problematic one.

It’s inexpensive and versatile, and palm oil is effective in a wide variety of different food products. But it’s also often associated with deforestation as tropical forests have been clear-cut to make way for oil-producing palms. Human rights abuses involving workers who harvest the fruits also are widely reported. And export bans from the South Asian countries that produce the vast majority of the world’s crops add another degree of instability.

Edible oils giant AAK has a new solution to these issues. The company recently partnered with Arzeda, a leader in using enzymes to create new proteins, to improve the sustainability and efficiency of plant-based oils.

Arzeda CEO Alexandre Zanghellini said the company has had its eye on the food space for a long time.

His company plans to use its technology to design enzymes that can transform easy-to-get oils into ones with other properties. For example, it could turn soybean oil into a product that has some of the desirable qualities of palm oil but without environmental issues, human rights questions, or export challenges.

“Having better biotechnological solutions allows you to think, and for the first time, be able to produce a similar type of product that we have today from these less sustainable oils to things that are much more sustainably sourced,” Zanghellini said.

The question, he said, is “how do you modify lipids one way or another to go from a certain input to a certain output and finished product?”

Arzeda’s answer is meticulously designed enzymes. The company uses a suite of tools to create enzymes that can produce customised proteins. These proteins may not be found in nature, but in the targeted oil, they can make the desired behaviour, Zanghellini said. As a result, the enzymes can enhance both sustainability and performance.

Creating the enzymes is the most difficult part of the work, Zanghellini said. Arzeda’s technique has the advantages of other biotechnology: low temperatures, not many solvent-type chemicals, and no toxicity from the process, he noted. Unlike other tech-enabled production techniques, including fermentation, enzymatic conversion requires no genetically modified organisms.

Once the enzymatic conversion is perfected, Zanghellini said it’s relatively easy to do it at a large scale.

In a press release, AAK officials said they look forward to the partnership.

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Also published on Fooddive.com

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