Creating better lives in a growing world demands that we Rethink Tomorrow

16 May 202216 min reading

“With the fluctuations in raw material prices and supply shortages, production costs have become very volatile, and our solutions help bakers overcome that by giving them a competitive advantage. Our enzymes play a significant role in transforming the quality and sustainability of products and processes. This enables producers to diversify their product ranges, develop superior, better-tasting products and achieve sustainable growth, while enabling cost and operational flexibility in the complete baking value chain.” 

Thomas Bomhoff
Vice President for Consumer Biosolutions & Regional President APAC-MEA

We had a conversation with Thomas Bomhoff, APAC-MEA Region President of Novozymes, a Danish-based global biotechnology company, for our cover story on the use of enzymes in the bakery industry. Bomhoff shared his views on many issues from the point where the industry went to the areas of use of enzymes as well as the work of the company with 20 R&D Centers around the world. Thomas Bomhoff, Executive Vice President of APAC-MEA Region Consumer Biosolutions and Regional President of APAC-MEA Region Novozymes, answered our questions as follows:

Dear Thomas Bomhoff, thank you for making time for us and accepting our interview request. First of all, can you introduce yourself and your company to us?

In 2018 I was appointed Vice President, overall responsible for commercial operations in one of four sales areas globally in Novozymes’ Household Care division. I relocated to Malaysia in February 2020, where I am currently assuming dual roles as Vice President for Consumer Biosolutions in APAC-MEA as well as Regional President for Novozymes in APAC-MEA

Novozymes is a global biotechnology company headquartered in Bagsvaerd, outside Copenhagen, Denmark. We engage in the research, development, production and sale of industrial enzymes, microorganisms and biopharmaceutical ingredients. Our solutions available encompass a wide range of industries, ranging from agriculture, bioenergy, food and beverages, household care, textile and even wastewater solutions, just to name a few.

We have more than 6,000 employees and own around 6,500 patents. We also have 700+ products and solutions for more than 30 different industries, and we are present in 130 countries. As we are a research-orientated company, we have 20 research & development (R&D) sites with approximately 1,400 R&D employees. Having 20 sites around the world helps us access global technology and competencies while strengthening our market presence. Decentralized R&D allow us to meet local needs faster and more impactfully with better solutions, while leveraging on our unique competencies globally. 

As part of the organization’s direction towards a more value-chain focused and customer-centric approach, Novozymes’ two-divisional structure, ‘Consumer Biosolutions’ and ‘Agriculture & Industrial Biosolutions’, are organized around the value chain and customer exposure, and allow for a more integrated approach towards end markets defined by common characteristics and value drivers. 

Our Food and Beverages unit is parked under the Consumer Biosolutions division. This division unites consumer-facing industries at the front of the value chain such as Baking, Beverages, Food and Protein and Household Care with a focus on making consumer products better, healthier and higher performing, based on clear end-consumer needs. 

We have a strong understanding of our customers and the consumer groups they serve. This understanding enables us to guide our customers on a journey towards the perfect biological solution for them by activating a combination of our existing products, new technology, marketing support and know-how that can help them differentiate their products, improve their sustainability profile and help grow their market share. 

Novozymes’ strategy of ‘Unlocking growth – powered by biotech’ starts with our commitment to a healthy planet, focusing in on the areas where we will drive stronger growth for Novozymes. We will use our position as the world’s leading biotech powerhouse to evolve our core business, continuing to succeed and build where we are strong; to expand into high-growth markets in biohealth and human nutrition; and to explore new options for growth, using a venture logic to identify tomorrow’s bio-transformations. 

Novozymes will drive sustainability leadership with commitments to a healthy planet and bold targets for Operations and for our people (‘Zymers’) & Society. When it comes to ensuring a healthy planet, we focus our efforts on accelerating towards a climate-neutral society, transforming food systems, and enabling healthier lives since this is where we find opportunities for good growth.

Can you give us information about your solutions and products for the bakery products industry?

In short, our solutions work to make bread better, cleaner, and cheaper.

For instance, one baking solution we have can help extend bread’s natural freshness and thereby help reduce the amount of wasted bread. 

Another solution we have helps in sugar reduction, either partially or by fully reducing added sugar, depending on the initial sugar content of the bread. 

And again, a long-standing solution helps to upgrade flour quality to allow for great tasting bread with varying qualities and sources of wheats. This offers great options for flour producers. 

We are also now introducing solutions for biscuits which improve the baking process while enhancing sensorial properties to meet consumers’ preferences, such as crispiness and crunchiness and improving weaknesses such as weakened consistency and uneven shapes. 

With the fluctuations in raw material prices and supply shortages, production costs have become very volatile, and our solutions help bakers overcome that by giving them a competitive advantage. 

Our enzymes play a significant role in transforming the quality and sustainability of products and processes. This enables producers to diversify their product ranges, develop superior, better-tasting products and achieve sustainable growth, while enabling cost and operational flexibility in the complete baking value chain. 

What is important to highlight here is while our solutions enable bakers to save resources, they can do so without compromising on their products’ quality.

What are your expectations for the Turkish market? Where are your priority areas as a company?

Turkey is a cornerstone for Novozymes and hence many efforts go towards developing solutions that benefit Turkish bakeries and the export markets of our Turkish customers. Right now, the situation in Turkey and the region is very volatile. This begs for us to work even closer together to understand upstream consideration like wheat quality and availability as well as how consumers respond to inflation and purchasing patterns. 

We are strong believers that the role of biotechnology in such an environment can provide options for customers and again, relatively cheaper, and better breads for the consumer. So, we invest more in data and insights and share them with customers, as well as work hard to bring new solutions to market that can improve the cost equation for bakeries and delight consumers at the same go. We are staffing up in Turkey. We are investing in new solutions to fit the Turkish market. I guess it is fair to say we are long-term believers in the Turkish market and our Turkish customers.

What kind of services do you provide to which sectors with the Novozymes Innovation and Technology Center in Istanbul?

Our Novozymes Innovation and Technology Center (ITC) features state-of-the-art, locally relevant equipment, including an industrial scale flatbread line. It gives us the opportunity to share our solutions, technology, and know-how up close to customers in the Middle East and other regions. With it, we open new partnerships and possibilities; to provide customers and partners with easier access to our regional R&D and marketing expertise. Over time, it also brings value to local communities and markets. 

Customer co-creation and continuous customer involvement are the foundations that will continue to help us build, keep, and develop strong partnerships. 

This facility allows our customers to work with Novozymes specialists within a fully equipped bakery environment, with a focus on Middle East and Africa bread types. Customers are shown the full potential of our enzymes, including solutions which help in flour correction, sugar reduction and extending freshness. 

Even though the resources on our planet are so limited, we still see food waste in many parts of the world. What are you doing to prevent this? Could you give information about your products, especially for reducing the waste of bread?

Food waste is a terrible thing in this day and age, especially since 10% of people worldwide is affected by hunger. Shockingly, one-third of food is also wasted at different places in the value chain.

One baking solution we have can help extend bread’s natural freshness and help reduce the amount of wasted bread. Bakers face the problem of stale, dry bakery products, with as much as 10-15% of output ending up as stale-returns. In fact, baked goods that stay soft and moist during storage are less likely to be returned, allowing bakers to reduce unwanted stale-returns and food waste 

As the world's largest enzyme and microbial technology provider, how do you see the future of the industry?

Enzymes have been used for millennia for making bread, cheese, beer etc.  Over the last 100 years, the humankind has learnt a lot about biology and fermentation technology, yet we still know very little of how biology can help power our societies. Novozymes is committed to learning and being at the forefront of taking advancements in biology and technology and translate that into solutions. More than 20% of Novozymes employees work with science development and we are by far the single largest R&D powerhouse for industrial enzymes. With that starting point, we look very brightly to the future.  

The winning combination of science and innovation which delivers major benefits for climate change coupled with the way enzyme technologies are shaping products and manufacturing both now and in future, surely have a broad appeal to manufacturers. Include the fact that enzymes help by using less resources (water, energy, raw materials), bring cost reductions and generate less waste. Manufacturers have a solution which is not only good for their bottom line, but also for their sustainability profile. 

With consumers’ increasingly heightened attention to health and safety, enzymes also help address this as well as the increasing and changing regulations to address public-health concerns.

What kind of measures does Novozymes take to ensure sustainable food supply against the protective food policies emerging all over the world?

Our food systems are not healthy and broken food systems must be made fit for the future. While the world has managed to feed more and more people in the past decades, we are at a critical moment in time. In the struggle to feed ourselves, we are harming our planet, our health, and our economies. We face climate change, depleted farmlands, and growing pollution. Obesity and hunger are deadly consequences of our current system, and nutritional imbalance is part of our everyday diet. Amidst all this, many producers closest to the land are struggling to make ends meet. 

Biotechnology enables transformation from field to fork. To feed a growing planet in a more sustainable way requires systemic change, which in turn demands many solutions. In Novozymes, we have a broad range of biosolutions that come together to help rethink critical challenges along the food value chain. 

Some examples of how our biotech can help, include helping farmers to produce more crops per acre, overcome tough conditions and increase yields for livestock. All this while simultaneously leading to significantly less pollution and better animal health. Food producers can also get more out of raw materials, supermarkets can reduce food waste and consumers are able to fill up their shopping baskets with more nutritious, healthier, and tastier foods and beverages.

The ingredients for success are already on the shelf, and biotechnology offers an effective recipe for creating resilient and inclusive food systems for the world. Biotech also enables transformative changes to our eating habits, giving us new sources of protein and foods with enhanced nutritional and health benefits. That’s food for thought.

What kind of products do you develop so that the decline in wheat quality, especially with drought and global climate change, does not have a negative impact on the product?

Numerous factors such as drought and wet harvests brought about by global climate change has resulted in the diminished quality profile of the crop, resulting in inconsistent flour performance. 

In fact, global changes in climates, soil and agronomic growing conditions further result in the fluctuating quality of wheat crops yearly. May aspects of flour quality are primarily due to the quality of wheat used in milling. 

Our enzymes help in achieving consistent flour performance, leading to better bread quality while optimizing costs. Enzymes provide a broad range of the functions to mitigate the flour quality fluctuations and achieve the consistency of baking performance. Amylases are used for flour or starch correction, lipases are vitally important for dough stability, glucose oxidase strengthens the gluten, xylanases are important to improve the gluten network and proteases are part of the biscuit recipes to relax the gluten for better dough machinability.  

Enzymatic solutions also help to produce a wide range of special flours, for applications in a wide variety of baked goods and food, including cakes, biscuits, wafers and pasta, while covering various needs and meeting cost saving expectations. 

We are in a period where commodity prices are increasing, what would you recommend for bakers producing in the field of bakery products, biscuit, and pasta producers?

My advice would be to think of alternatives which can help to alleviate the cost pressures but are yet sustainable. Technology can make a difference and provide real options for producers. Options create flexibility and agility. Enzymes’ diverse functions enable various industries guarantee the quality and stability of products with increased production efficiency. They also help improve resource efficiency by reducing processing losses. 

Above all, enzymes enable the more efficient use of ingredients, contributing to a sustainable food supply chain.  What efforts do you make to help lead healthier lives?

In supermarkets and health stores around the world, a revolution is taking place as people look for ways to improve their wellbeing. Today, many people struggle with chronic lifestyle diseases that reduce their quality of life. Added to this, people are living longer, and want to live extended and healthy lives. People are actively reading labels and seeking out healthier products, including foods that contain less fat, salt and sugar and more fiber and protein – and effective probiotics and supplements. 

Novozymes’ biotech enables people to take more control of their health and nutrition. With proven, biology-based solutions we help people to take more control of their health and nutrition – one supplement and one bite at a time. Our portfolio of biotech solutions allows producers to reduce sugar and increase fiber in yoghurts and milk, create healthier baked goods, decrease antibiotic use in meat production and cut down trans-fat in oils. We also inspire game-changing ways to add health benefits to all kinds of food and beverages, like adding probiotics to snack bars. And when it comes to supplements, we find proven, one-in-a-trillion targeted solutions to address health issues, such as gut health.

We help the world rethink everyday choices for healthier lives. At Novozymes, we constantly challenge conventions around how people take care of their nutrition and health. Take, for example, the increasing global demand for protein.  Here we can help increase yields for livestock. We can also create delicious plant-based foods and even devise new ways to produce protein. The time is ripe for change. With biological solutions we have important answers to enable healthier lives.

How did the ongoing challenges brought by the Covid-19 pandemic affect Novozymes and what kind of measures did you take against it? 

Safety of our people is always number one. In Turkey, we were well positioned to work in a flexible set-up from home, from the office via collaborative tools internally and with customers. I am very impressed actually, at how well people responded even though the pandemic created a lot of stress and anxiety for us all. I guess the main measure at the end of the day was trust to our employees and a commitment to help customers through this.

Can you share with us your investment plans and targets for 2022 and beyond?

We are investing along different angles. In the Middle Eastern region, we are hiring. We want to bring in new great colleagues that can help us power forward. In the labs, we are investing in developing new biotechnology solutions too to make a leapfrog on what biotechnology can offer to customers. I don’t see this as a 2022 thing, but something we will continue to do more of in the years to come.

As Novozymes, what kind of work do you have to leave a more livable world for the future? What is the purpose and goal of your Rethink Tomorrow slogan?

Novozymes has always been about combining cutting - edge science and business expertise. In fact, our purpose looks ahead to what we can achieve together in terms of finding the sustainable answers that our world needs for better lives in a growing world. 

Creating better lives in a growing world demands that we Rethink Tomorrow. The world’s challenges are many - and so are the opportunities if we are open to rethinking today’s prevailing solutions. We need to transform our food systems; we need to accelerate the development towards a climate-neutral society; and we need to enable healthier lives for people all over the world. At Novozymes, we know that biotech is at the epicenter of driving positive change, and we are deeply committed to ensuring a healthy planet.