Tips & Secrets to Clean Label Bakery Shelf Life Extension

Tips & Secrets to Clean Label Bakery Shelf Life Extension

"It comes out of the oven fine, but the next day it's like a rock!"

Clients often ask what clean label options are available to extend their bakery products shelf life typically focuses on stalling and mold resistance. Grocery store breads utilize “secret” ingredients such as enzymes that are readily apparent when you read the ingredient declaration, but their function is somewhat mysterious to most consumers. At a grocery store you can buy all the ingredients to bake bread, or you can buy extended shelf life bread, but you can’t buy the ingredients to make extended shelf life bread at the grocery store.

Home Baked Voodoo

A fresh muffin or doughnut last for typically a few hours, and then begins to dry out and become stale. Left uneaten, a week later fuzzy white or green mold starts to grow in spots across the outside. These are natural processes of starch retrogradation and microbial growth, the main shelf life limitations in baked goods. Sending a package of cookies in the mail seems like a nice idea at the time, but the risky and mysterious condition they arrive in is part of the sentimental value of a home-baked treat. Over the years I’ve seen "home-baked voodoo" from adding air-popped popcorn to random slices of bread in a bag of cookies try to stop this inevitable process.

The ingredient answer is enzymes. They are clean label, highly efficient, and may or may not even need to show up on a product label. Bakery enzymes are a like a hungry Pack-Man character with unquenchable appetite given the right food and environment. Many artisanal bakers will rest their dough just after combining wet ingredients with the flour to allow the scant remaining active enzymes to do their work before kneading dough in the mixer. I use these enzymes make baked goods last longer and even manufacture plant-based milks from ancient grains. 

 Breads and pastries bought in grocery stores seem to last forever because they use enzymes to break up the starch crystals that form mere hours after baking (starch retrogradation). When starches in baked goods are cooked, the particles swell and burst with the hot water surrounding the molecules. After baking the starch tries to reconnect thereby drying out and leading to tough baked goods. Food scientists call this process stalling. While most products gain shelf life at refrigerated temperatures, starch retrogradation only accelerates at temperature range. Baked goods gain the longest shelf life by being wrapped airtight and frozen only to thaw at room temperature before consuming. Even though these bakery enzymes are naturally occurring in sprouted grains, the concentration is meant to feed the seed through germination, not tenderizing cinnamon rolls. Because shipping and displaying bakery goods frozen is expensive and inconvenient, bakers have learned to harness enzymes from cultured microbes to delay or nearly stop the process of starch retrogradation.

Stalling is prevented by cutting starches into small fragments that do not easily realign. Amylase is the most common shelf life extending bakery enzyme as it reduces starch organizational capabilities to re-crystalize by permanently snipping the starch chain links.


Two typical texture improving enzymes are:

 Alpha-Amylase – randomly cuts (hydrolyzes) starch during early stage of baking. As starches hydrate and swell with water this enzyme cuts all over the place like a preschooler playing with scissors. One example of a longstanding option is BAN 800 by Novozymes. A highly efficient enzyme with applications across many baked goods means this is a cheap cost-in-use option. Efficiency also creates challenges when it comes to evenly blending small powder dosages into flour.

Maltogenic Amylase (or beta-amylase) – is the little sister to alpha amylase as it exclusively takes small precise bites. Instead of cutting all over the place, maltogenic amylase cuts starches into two glucose chunks referred to as “Maltose” and short chain oligosaccharides (DP2-DP7). These smaller pieces are more effective at retaining moisture and the starch is limited in how much can be consumed. Maltose is a simple sugar that holds water well, contributes to golden brown colors in baking/ cooking, and even feeds yeast in fermented applications. The current costs-in-use for maltogenic amylase is much higher due to price and requires higher use rates (~0.1%) compared to the alpha amylase (<0.01%)due to its more recent introduction to the market, but that is set to change as the market leader Novomyl 3D has recently come “off” patent protection.


1. How do you know if these enzymes would work in your product? Both conventional wheat and gluten free baked goods can benefit from these enzymes.

 2. Which bakery enzyme is better? Or the right one for your products? Contact us and see how a minor ingredient can make major improvements.

3. The real question is could your budget afford a few-cent increase per item to extend shelf life from a day to a few weeks?


Thank you to the knowledgeable technical staff at LV Lomas (now IMCD) & Big Deal Ingredients for their support in contributing to this article.