What is palm oil?
Palm oil is the most widely used vegetable oil in the world and comes from the fruit of oil palm trees.
Where is it grown?
Oil palms only grow in the tropics. The two main palm oil-producing countries are Indonesia and Malaysia. Growing demand has seen production double over the past 20 years, which has led to thousands of hectares of old, tropical forests chopped down to make way for palm tree plantations.
Why is palm oil used so widely?
Palm oil is incredibly versatile and used in a variety of products, from food to cosmetics, because it has no taste, is solid at room temperature and holds colour well. It is also a very efficient crop.
What does Dairy Crest use palm oil for?
We use a variety of vegetable oils in the manufacture of our spreads brands, including some sustainable palm oil. Palm oil is used because it has a neutral taste and smell. It is solid at typical fridge temperatures and gives the final product a smooth and creamy texture. Palm oil is also very low in trans fats (<1%) and lower in saturated fats than most alternatives, which is an important requirement from a health perspective.
What is Dairy Crest doing to address the environmental issues of palm oil?
We are working members of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), supporting the production and uptake of sustainable palm. RSPO covers the whole supply chain and our suppliers are also members.
All the palm oil we buy comes from RSPO-certified sustainable sources and our spreads production facility is fully certified against the RSPO certification standard – RSPO Principles and Criteria.
We work closely with our palm supplier which is active in building sustainable practices and transparency in the sector and throughout the supply chain. We meet with our supplier annually to assess its activities and those of its supply chain.
This approach is supported by The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and further information can be found here.
What do you mean by 'sustainable palm oil'?
Sustainable palm oil is palm that has been sourced in line with a set of environmental and social criteria developed by the RSPO.
One of the most important RSPO criteria states that no primary forests or areas which contain significant concentrations of biodiversity (e.g. endangered species) or fragile ecosystems, or areas which are fundamental to meeting basic or traditional cultural needs of local communities (high conservation value areas), can be cleared.
Other RSPO principles stipulate a significantly reduced use of pesticides and fires; fair treatment of workers according to local and international labour rights standards, and the need to inform and consult with local communities before the development of new plantations on their land. You can learn more about RSPO and sustainable palm oil here.
We can only claim that we use sustainable palm oil in our products because we are certified by an RSPO-approved independent auditor.
Why doesn’t Dairy Crest use alternatives to palm oil?
Palm oil is extremely high yielding. Palm oils produce more oil per hectare of land than any other oil-producing crop. Although it represents 35% of the world’s vegetable oil supply, it only requires 10% of the land. Possible replacements, such as coconut oil or shea butter, are only produced in small volumes and would require significantly greater land areas to match the output of palm. As global demand for plant-based oils is increasing, moving to alternative sources could therefore result in even greater harm to the environment. From a nutritional perspective, most alternatives are also higher in saturated fats.