This February our Innovation and Technical Director (Tom Hollands) attended the TUCO Sustainability Palm Oil Forum. The forum brought together a large range of catering and sustainability experts from across the UK, to listen to the most up to date evidence on the impact made by palm oil supply chains on social issues, environmental issues and sustainability.
The day started with a whistle stop tour of the chemistry behind fats and oils and how the chemistry can be altered so that fats and oils can be used over a host of applications, either the creamy mouth feel in ice-creams, the melt in your mouth sensation with custard creams and even the moistness in wet wipes!
What became clear very quickly was that palm oil has a significant range of different applications, from tooth paste to pet products, from cosmetics to cupsoups and although it only accounts for just 6.6% of land use for growing vegetable oils, it provides over 38.7% of global production of oils and fats!
Therefore, palm oil is the highest yielding vegetable oil and uses up to 10 times less farming land than alternatives – the reason? Palm fruit can be harvested every 10 days, the same plant can be harvested hundreds and hundreds of times over 25 years, whereas sunflower oil, soya oil and the others only have a single harvest.
The crystal clear message from this event, especially from TUCO, RSPO, Orangutan Land Trust, EFECA and even Chester Zoo was NOT to boycott palm oil, rather only source sustainable palm oil, such as those certificated to the RSPO standard. This is because the palm oil produced from sustainable plantations are more sustainable – remember palm oil uses up to 10 times less farming land than alternatives. Alternative sources will require more deforestation, especially pertinent when trying to maintain bio-diversity and populations of Orangutans.
Furthermore, hundreds of thousands of families relies on these sustainable plantations for their income, education (an aspect of the RSPO certification) and welfare (worker rights) – its by far the cheapest and most sustainable oil in established RSPO farms. By boycotting palm oil, it would impoverish millions of children and put back years of positive poverty progress that has been made.
Raynor Foods Ltd is ahead of the curve in this respect, all our products that contain palm oil (such as our fresh bread) comes from RSPO certificated sources since 2016! However, we also have a Palm Oil reduction programme, which achieved an overall 45% reduction in palm oil use across our entire range of products in 2018. The TUCO forum made abundantly clear that even with absolute good intent, our programme could be having unintended consequences, so we must change. Therefore, with immediate effect we have discontinued our Palm Oil Reduction Programme.
Instead we will look to engage with our customers and consumers, help them understand the new course, the reasons why and how important it is that we work together. Additionally, we are committing to obtain RSPO certification and joining the growing ranks of businesses and organisations pushing in the same direction, so together we drive positive change for our world.