Novozymes partners to produce biomass-based food additives

| May 31, 2011

Over the past few years, Novozymes has formed research partnerships to develop biomass-to-plastics, biomass-to-glycols and now, through early-stage collaboration, the company will be entering the biomass-to-food additives sector. Meihua Group, an agricultural processor based in China, has signed a framework agreement with Novozymes to develop an enzymatic process to turn ag residue like corn stover and cotton stalks into sugar for use in food additives. The idea is to follow the enzymatic process created by Novozymes with a fermentation step that would allow Meihua to produce amino acids like glutamic acid, lysine or threonine, all of which are used as food enhancers and nutritional supplements.

At this point, Novozymes said that there are many unanswered questions about the partnership, but noted, however, that “as the sugar fermentation strains used for amino acid production and ethanol production will request different sugar quality, purity and concentration…we expect different innovation is needed for the sugar production process for amino acid from biomass.”

According to Novozymes, China is the world’s largest consumer of monosodium glutamate (MSG), using roughly 1.8 million tons per year of the flavor enhancer. The Meihua group is worth $800 million, employs 13,000 and already accounts for one-fifth of the MSG market in China. The country is developing so fast, said Meng Qingshan, chairman of Meihua Group, that the demand for food has outpaced the increase in food supplies. “The availability of raw materials will soon be a bottleneck if we cannot diversify the feedstock supplies,” adding that the company is “happy” that Novozymes shares the vision of converting agricultural waste into valuable products.