Blog: Dean BestIndustry looks to take palm oil debate in hand

Dean Best | 27 October 2009

The use of palm oil in scores of consumers' favourite products is widespread.

From shampoo to chocolate, palm oil is a ubiquitous ingredient in many a shopping basket but, until very recently, one of which consumers were little aware.

That, however, is changing. Environmental campaigners are stepping up their attacks on food companies for their use of palm oil, arguing that sourcing practices destroys rainforests and endangers animals including orang-utans, rhinos and elephants.

And so consumer awareness is growing. Cadbury, for instance, was forced to think again when it suffered a Facebook-led backlash after changing a recipe in New Zealand.

And when consumer awareness starts to grow, so does anxiety in food company boardrooms. There are plenty of executives who want to "do the right thing" - but nothing focuses the mind like the threat of a consumer boycott.

So, in recent weeks, companies have been practically falling over themselves to go public with moves to make their sourcing of palm oil more "sustainable".

UK retailers M&S and Sainsbury's have announced moves of their own, while chocolate giant Ferrero said it had struck a deal to secure "significant" supplies of palm oil.

Now, we have the daddy of them all, Nestle, insisting it will use only "sustainable" palm oil from 2015.

Whether that will be enough to stifle the protests from pressure groups, only time will tell.

We have got wind of one report that claims demand for sustainable palm oil remains too low. But more of that tomorrow.

More to come....


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