Also called mushroom sugar
Trehalose – unique, low-yield carbohydrate
Trehalose is usually produced by these animals and plants in higher concentrations in response to environmental stress conditions such as dehydration or freezing. As drying or freezing occurs water is drawn away from important biologic structures in the cells. If this happens to a high degree it can be fatal to the cells and ultimately to the organism. The trehalose can replace the water during these times and spare the organism from irreversible damage.
As a result, trehalose was sold at a price around 30,000 to 50,000 yen/kg. This cost could be justified in some pharmaceuticals or cosmetics, but could only rarely be used for processing food. Creating a manufacturing process that would lower the price of trehalose was a highly sought technology.
Part of the soil samples collected
Kazuhiko Maruta discovered a microorganism, which generates a trehalose-producing enzymes.
The company has a long tradition of giving a small bag and a spoon to all of its employees and encouraging them to bring back soil samples from their travels far and wide. This micro-treasure hunt is a way to broaden the reach of the company’s researchers, the hope being that the soil brought home might contain as yet undiscovered microorganisms and enzymes that will prove useful in the company’s syrup and sugar production.
In early 1990’s, one night, one of the young researchers in the company, Kazuhiko Maruta, dreamt of a “sparkling colony” (a visible mass of a single species of microorganisms). Two days later, a microorganism that produces trehalose producing enzymes was discovered. Surprisingly, it was found in a soil sample taken right from his company’s home city of Okayama, Japan. This is how the unique enzymes that produce trehalose were brought into being…but the story goes back a little further.
Proceeding this discovery, research was being conducted all over the world to produce sugar from starch in an efficient way. The major hurdle was that starch was branching half way—like branches of a tree. Researchers knew that if an enzyme that was capable of cutting the branches efficiently could be found, it would be possible to produce diverse sugars with a high degree of purity. During the same time, Hayashibara Co., Ltd. was searching for a microorganism that could produce a branch-cutting enzyme from the mother earth. It was in the spring of 1966, a microorganism that produces this particular enzyme was found under a Japanese persimmon tree in the yard of Hayashibara Co., Ltd.’s research lab in Okayama.
Without the discoveries of these trehalose producing enzymes and branch-cutting enzyme found from the soil in Okayama, it would never have been possible to produce trehalose efficiently.
Future opportunities and perspectives
Trehalose SymposiumSince the launch of trehalose in 1995, Hayashibara has been focusing on applied research to accumulate knowledge on the functional properties and benefits of trehalose. Trehaloses applications continue to expand in the areas of human food, pharmaceuticals and cosmetics products, as well as animal feeds, fertilizers, industrial materials, and preservation of cultural property.
In order to accommodate the year-by-year increase in production volume, the manufacturing plant was extended in 2016, and a system for enhanced production was also established.
In addition, since 1997 Hayashibara has been hosting an annual event called the “Trehalose Symposium”. The symposium provides opportunities for internal and external researchers to present various research results on basic properties of trehalose, its applications for foods, cosmetics, medical care, and agricultural/livestock products.
Hayashibara will continue to pursue the possibilities of trehalose, an inspiring ingredient to taste, health, and beauty.