Kerry talks c-LEcta acquisition: ‘Biotechnology, synthetic biology and precision fermentation are radically transforming food’

By Katy Askew

- Last updated on GMT

Kerry is growing its biotech expertise through M&A / Pic: GettyImages-luchschen
Kerry is growing its biotech expertise through M&A / Pic: GettyImages-luchschen

Related tags Kerry Taste & Nutrition

Kerry Taste & Nutrition is expanding its reach in the biotech space through acquisitions, including a deal to take control of German-based biotech company c-LEcta. Albert McQuaid, Chief Science and Technology Officer of Kerry, explains why the company is ramping up its expertise in this rapidly emerging and innovative area.

Ingredient supplier Kerry Taste & Nutrition has acquired a majority stake in c-LEcta, a biotech company specialising in enzyme engineering and bioprocess development.

The German biotech group will continue to operate on a stand-alone basis and existing management will remain in post and retain a stake in the business. “This decision is to ensure that the c-LEcta team remains completely focused on innovation, research and commercialisation of their specialist technologies, while also providing Kerry access to their capabilities and platforms,”​ Kerry’s head of science and technology Albert McQuaid told FoodNavigator.

Expanding Kerry’s biotech expertise

Through the deal, Kerry is building a ‘strategic partnership’ with this ‘highly innovative biotech company’ that, McQuaid observed, benefits from ‘leadership positions in enzyme engineering, fermentation and bioprocess development’.

c-LEcta is a fully integrated biotech group covering a large part of the value chain, from discovery, to engineering and commercial production of enzymes. Located in Leipzig, the group works in the realisation of high-value biotechnology products for regulated markets, either as in-house development or in close cooperation with the industry.

C-LEcta innovation capability delivers ‘cost-efficient and sustainable production processes’, creating growth opportunities across existing and new markets. “They research and develop fermentation-based products, including disruptive new enzymes and other technologies, which are used to create better, more sustainable and healthier products,”​ McQuaid elaborated.

c-LEcta’s existing product portfolio includes enzymes that reduce acrylamide levels in food, enrich polyunsaturated fatty acids and improve fermentation processes. c-LEcta was also the first group to develop a process to enable the mass-production of a plant-based sweetener.

“This acquisition will bring many benefits to Kerry,”​ McQuaid told us. “It will significantly accelerate our innovation capabilities in biotechnology platforms which are radically transforming our food and pharma industries [and] reinforces our Kerry position as the world's leading taste and nutrition company by investing in an innovative biotechnology company, which is focused on the research and development of future food and pharma technologies.”

McQuaid is bullish on the outlook for technological developments in this field. “Biotechnology, synthetic biology and precision fermentation are radically transforming our food and pharmaceutical industries. We are on the cusp of a new wave of innovation. There are significant advances happening in this space, where engineering and computer science principles are being applied to address biological challenges and new healthier, more sustainable foods and medicines are being created. c-LEcta is a leader in these new technologies, which includes fermentation-based products such as disruptive new enzymes.”

A win-win partnership

The strategic partnership between the two groups will also allow c-LEcta to leverage Kerry’s reach to fulfil its growth potential, the companies said. “Their global presence in the food and pharmaceutical sectors gives us access to additional markets. At the same time, their expertise in ingredient technologies and applications is a perfect fit as we continue to drive our growth potential in the future,”​ founder and CEO Dr Marc Struhalla commented.

This sentiment was echoed by Kerry’s McQuaid, who said the deal will ‘enhance and accelerate c-LEcta's existing product sales into the pharma industry, by leveraging our dedicated Kerry pharma sales teams and routes to market’. The German biotech group will also benefit from Kerry’s ‘deep enzyme applications expertise and integrated ingredient technology design’, the science chief continued.

More Mexican M&A 

Kerry also revealed it has made a second ‘significant biotechnology acquisition’, taking control of Mexican enzyme manufacture, Enmex.

The ingredient group said Enmex is a ‘well-established’ enzyme manufacturer, supplying multiple bio-process solutions for food, beverage and animal nutrition markets. “With a long history of partnering with global customers, Enmex has a complementary enzyme portfolio and a strong manufacturing infrastructure, which will extend Kerry’s fermentation and enzyme manufacturing capabilities into Latin America.”

“Enzymes are increasingly playing a vital role as biocatalysts in the food, beverage and pharmaceutical industries, where they deliver many benefits including improved product quality, increased process efficiency, and reduced food waste, through both minimization of waste and valorisation of waste streams,”​ Neil Cracknell, CEO of Kerry Applied Health and Nutrition, said. "This strategic acquisition of Enmex will complement Kerry’s existing enzyme portfolio and build on our strength in enzymes for modifying cereals and grains. We see enzymes playing a critical role in helping achieve Kerry’s vision to create a world of sustainable nutrition, which is about providing better nutrition, with better processes, which have less impact on our earth’s resources.”

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