Feedinfo Interview: Huvepharma's OptiPhos Plus Phytase 'Beats the Heat'

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Article | 27.09.2020

The proven benefits in improving feed conversion and livestock sustainablity means phytase feed enzymes continue to grow in popularity around the world.

And while phytase manufacturers are continually working to differentiate their products to gain a slice of the competitive market, Huvepharma has emerged as one of the leading innovators thanks to its phytase product, OptiPhos® Plus.

Since its launch on the market in March 2019, sales of OptiPhos® Plus have increased exponentially, with the product potentially reaching more than a third of the global monogastric feed production. 

With additional registration files pending around the world - and new country authorisations being obtained each month - Feedinfo asked Huvepharma's Dr. Lode Nollet, Global Product Manager Enzymes, and Dr. Erik Vanderbeke, Global Marketing Director Enzymes, what makes OptiPhos® Plus different from other products on the market, and why its growth is showing no signs of stopping.


[Feedinfo] Feed enzymes have become a major aspect of Huvepharma's business in recent years. Why has this part of the business grown so significantly, and what are your expectations for it in the future? 


[Lode Nollet] Huvepharma has enjoyed impressive growth in all areas of its business in recent years - from pharmaceuticals and coccidiostats, to probiotics and nutrition, as well as becoming active in new areas like hygiene products. The enzyme business has been part of our portfolio since 2005 with our brands Hostazym® X (NSPase) and OptiPhos® (phytase), which have proven to be high-performing enzymes.

Supported by a growing team of professionals dedicated to sales and technical support, we have been able to penetrate markets like the US and the EU, making us a top-three player - and even market leader - in many countries. The commitment of Huvepharma to continue our efforts in improving our enzyme products led to the launch of OptiPhos® Plus in March 2019. The key drive for the development of OptiPhos® Plus was the development of an intrinsic heat stable phytase without compromising its performance.


[Feedinfo] Why is thermostability such an important characteristic of OptiPhos® Plus, and how does it make it superior to other phytase products on the market? 


[Lode Nollet] Thermostability of phytases, and enzymes in general, in pelleted feeds has always been an important feature in the feed industry, as losses of activity lead to nutrient deficiencies and below target animal performance. We believe that OptiPhos® Plus has the potency to revolutionize the way of applying phytase in feed milling operations. Historically, liquid phytases have been used to bypass this problem; however, the post-pellet liquid application system gives worries to the feed mill manager, as it requires maintenance and rigid quality control. Therefore, at the feed mill level there was a longing for the development of an intrinsic heat stable phytase which could be dosed in feed which needed to be pelleted at high temperatures. It is worth noting that alongside thermostability, excellent stability as a pure product and during storage in concentrated premix at elevated temperatures were also drivers for the development of OptiPhos® Plus.


[Feedinfo] According to Huvepharma, trials show that OptiPhos® Plus 'beats the heat' whilst being 'reliable'. Can you describe the testing you carried out, and expand on the trial findings? 


[Lode Nollet] OptiPhos® Plus G (granular) is intrinsically thermostable, and can be used up to 85oC. However, using a patented coating technique, OptiPhos® Plus CT was developed, which allows it to be used up to 95oC. These are not just claims but are supported by pelleting studies carried out at more than ten different trial locations in the US and EU since 2017. 

To verify that increased thermostability does not impair phytase performance, animal studies have been set up to support the product and supply the customer with reliable matrix values. Our values give security to the nutritionist and can be used without any risk of overestimation - even when formulating with borderline minimum nutritional levels of phosphorus in feed. 


[Feedinfo] The launch of OptiPhos® Plus came just a few years after the launch of OptiPhos® - a product which was already incredibly popular with feed producers. How do the products differ?


[Lode Nollet] During the development and evaluation of new phytases, we screen them according to our PPS (P from pH, P from pepsin resistance and S from speed) concept. This concept states that a phytase must be able to perform in an acid environment (pH 2-4), is pepsin resistant and has to work at high speed to degrade phytate quickly. This is the basis on which we selected for OptiPhos® in the past, which became a very successful phytase. 

In the development of OptiPhos® Plus, we were specifically looking for additional beneficial characteristics; first of all high intrinsic heat stability, and secondly an even higher affinity of the phytase for phytate, further improving matrix values compared to the excellent performance we have in our current phytase, OptiPhos®. 


[Feedinfo] Can you explain how OptiPhos® Plus was developed, and what makes the product so stable? 


[Lode Nollet] At the R&D level, we have been working on the existing acid phosphatase / phytase E. coli gene, owned by Huvepharma, in order to select for new and additional positive features. The candidate strains were tested for high intrinsic heat stability and high affinity for phytate degradation next to the screening according to the PPS concept. This gave us a first selection of interesting candidates, which were then intensively tested in pelleting studies. With the most promising ones, animal studies were conducted to evaluate their effect on animal performance and nutrient digestibility. This resulted finally in the selection of one final candidate, OptiPhos® Plus, which gave us the desired intrinsic heat stability combined with the improved nutrient digestibility we were looking for. 


[Feedinfo] OptiPhos® Plus received EFSA validation for use in European pig and poultry production in June / July 2020. What does this mean for OptiPhos® Plus? 


[Lode Nollet] In 2019, a registration dossier was submitted in the EU, which is the toughest validation test for any additive. However, within the year EFSA gave a positive opinion on OptiPhos® Plus for usage in all poultry and all pigs at a minimum dose of 250 FTU/kg. This indicates that OptiPhos® Plus has shown to be clear-cut efficient. 


[Feedinfo] Huvepharma has invested significantly in production facilities in Bulgaria. Has this been enough to enable the company to keep up with demand? 


[Lode Nollet] Huvepharma is a leader in fermentation technology and has over 10,000 m3 of fermentation facilities in the EU, including a new 3,000 m3 state-of-the-art site, which was opened in Peshtera in 2019. These facilities help Huvepharma to have quality control over the whole production line, from inoculum to finished formulated product. We have the capacity, expertise and flexibility to meet customer demands and to sustain further growth of our phytase market. This way we remain loyal to production in the EU and remain independent of Chinese APIs. 


[Feedinfo] With growing international focus on the sustainability of livestock production, will companies continue to bring more efficient phytases to come to the market, or will they refine existing products? Should we expect to see a next generation of OptiPhos® Plus? 


[Erik Vanderbeke] OptiPhos® Plus is already a very potent, unique phytase, being able to degrade over 80% of phytate-P in the feed. The development of a new phytase, being even more potent, certainly can't be excluded; however, the space for further improvement on phytate degradation has become limited now OptiPhos® Plus is available. Huvepharma's R&D and technical teams continue to follow all developments in, and questions from, the feed industry, and we have a full pipeline of projects to keep on providing the best solutions for our customers.


[Feedinfo] What is the next step for OptiPhos® Plus on the global market?


[Erik Vanderbeke] OptiPhos® Plus is currently available in about 35% of the world's monogastric feed production, with sales continuing to rise. Its high thermal stability has been well documented and confirmed in practical feed mill operations. Additional registration files are pending globally, and every month new country authorizations are obtained. With EU sales expected to begin at the end of 2020, we are on track for a worldwide rollout of the product in 2021. 


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