Pig-free pepsin comes to market from Clara Foods

22 Mar 2021

Following six years of research, biotech ingredients maker Clara Foods rolled out the first commercially-available, animal-free pepsin enzyme that is is free of antibiotics and hormones as well as being vegan, Kosher and Halal, according to a press release. The company’s partner Ingredion will distribute this enzyme globally.

From chewing gum to cheese, pepsin is an integral component of many commercial recipes. However, the product is traditionally derived from pigs’ stomachs making it an unsuitable choice for manufacturers that are looking to cater to the increasing population of consumers searching for plant-based alternatives.

Pig-free pepsin comes to market from Clara Foods

Clara Foods’ new enzyme is bioidentical to that which is derived from an animal source but it is created using technology that isolates the animal-based pepsin DNA sequence and then uses fermenters and yeast to create the final product. According to the company, its pepsin is created using a technology that is similar to that used for cheese rennet and heme for plant-based burgers.

By creating this integral enzyme in a lab, Clara Foods claims that it drastically reduces the amount of water, land and greenhouse gas needed for pepsin production as compared to factory farms where this enzyme typically comes from. In addition, the fact that this enzyme can now be created rather than extracted from an animal can alleviate some of the price pressures that have been associated with pig products in recent years.

In 2019, pig populations in China drastically reduced as African Swine Flu swept through the herds nationwide and killed 200 million pigs, or half of the country’s pip population, Reuters reported. This mass reduction in pig populations negatively impacted the pepsin supply chain as pork prices hit record highs and then the onset of COVID last year further constricted global supply chains.

Clara Foods said that its manufactured pepsin can combat these market trends as it has stable production costs in addition to having the advantage of quality control and consistent availability due to the lab-based enzyme’s availability even in the event of factory shutdowns due to animal disease.

The debut of this animal-free enzyme gives manufacturers the option to source pepsin from an alternative source for the first time in 200 years, expanding their capabilities in food and beverage development to allow them to begin experimenting with developing vegan-friendly products that were previously out of reach. With sales of plant-based foods jumping by double, and sometimes even triple-digits throughout the pandemic, manufacturers having animal-free enzymatic solutions that can be used in a wide variety of recipes will be a valuable addition to the ingredients market.

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