In its new report Strategic Analysis of Chinese Food Enzymes Market, the consultancy valued the Chinese enzyme market at US$180m in 2006, and predicts that it will continue to grow to around $299.7m in 2013. That the market has been buoyed by growth in the processed food market in China. This has come about as an emerging middle class has more disposable income and is seeking new kinds of foods - particularly Western style foods - as an alternative to the traditional diet. However despite these clear opportunities, there are certain challenges in the market which mean it is important for enzyme-makers to innovate in order to differentiate themselves. For instance, there has been consolidation in some of the product sectors that make the most use of enzymes, such as dairy and processed fruit. This means that there are less customers for enzyme producers to collectively target. Thus, in order to have an advantage over the competition, they have to cut their prices. Chiang also said: "Technological advances bringing better process economics are also contributing to a drop in prices." However, while this has an impact on the market at large, being at the front of that innovation curve is said to be key to staying competitive. "Manufacturers must continue to focus on not only improving the performance of existing products, but also on the development of novel enzymes for specific niche applications," said Frost and Sullivan. One area in which enzymes are seen to have strong potential is in health, as Chinese consumers are paying greater attention to their well-being. One facet of this is that enzymes, which are derived from biological sources and are therefore seen as safer and healthier alternatives, are increasingly used in place of chemical alternatives in food and industrial processes. Research analyst Lief Chiang said they offer benefits that chemical alternatives cannot provide. "Higher product quality, biodegradability, lower manufacturing costs, less wastage, and reduced energy consumption are some of the main factors that make enzymes the preferred option over traditional chemical treatments." One specific health benefit highlighted by Frost and Sullivan is that, in some high-fat foods, enzymes can reduce the cholesterol content. When pitted against the US and European enzyme markets, however, enzymes intended for use in China are at a disadvantage since diets in the country tend to exclude some of the product categories for which enzymes can provide benefits. For instance, although dairy consumption in China is increasing, it still lags far behind Europe and the US. There is little need for cheese in China - and in the West cheese manufacturing accounts for 95 per cent of enzyme use in dairy.