Going palm oil free
Is it possible to completely avoid palm oil?

I can’t believe it’s not palm oil …

Another week’s shopping done and the same problems of choice, but this time a new and difficult one: margarine. Now I know that margarine is just fat, so, manufacturers, please don’t tell me in the ingredients it just contains vegetable oils/fats …

Let’s look at the main sellers in the UK

Bertolli (the olive oil based one)
I can’t believe it’s not butter (the one that’s supposed to be like butter)
Flora (the sunflower one)

It turns out all three are Unilever – the world’s biggest palm oil user. Back home now, I can’t remember the ingredients mentioned on each of these three margarines. None mentioned palm oil, but all mentioned vegetable oils/fats.

Look at the Sainsbury’s alternatives. The branding suggests that they are a definite copy of the three above brands, as the shape, size, colouring and text are all pretty big giveaways.

Sainsbury’s, at least, is honest – all three of them had palm oil within their first three ingredients, whether the main ingredient was rapeseed oil, olive oil or sunflower oil. I can’t believe Unilever doesn’t use exactly the same ingredients. The difference is, they are being sneaky and non-committal about it.

Another campaigner, Darcy Finnegan, has an excellent website here – she has had some great success with some corporations giving answers, whether satisfactory or not, to some difficult questions and acknowledging the environmental and ethical issues. Unilever have been noticeably silent.

So what was my choice – supermarket spread which has palm oil, or Unilever spread which almost certainly has palm oil? Hobson’s choice … I picked one and suppressed it from my conscience.

So this post raises two issues – number one: Unilever, please label your products and be more honest. If you are publicly announcing that you are trying to support the RSPO, and not denying your use of palm oil, then please at least label those products that use it. And two, is there any widely available spreadable butter or margarine that doesn’t contain palm oil?

16 Responses to “I can’t believe it’s not palm oil …”

  1. Thanks for this Neil – I’ve been trying to find out about Bertoli, branded as olive oil based (on the pack…”produced outside of italy with Bertoli olive oil). The oil ingredients are listed as “Bertoli olive oil, composed of refined olive oils and virgin olive oils, Rapeseed oil and…. there it is again… “vegetable oils”. I checked on the Bertolli sectioin of Unilever site and Unilever main site. They don’t make it easy for you to contact them by e-mail, do they? Needs a news hound!

    On Greencity and their “organic palm shortening”, they responded to my request for more info by refering me to their supplier’s connection with RSPO. Don’t actually say it is certified as from sustainable sources though.

  2. Keep up the good work.
    I think I may have pursuaded a local supermarket to change their baking to be palm-oil free, after I contacted them, they have their own bakery, after 8 months of testing they replaced all cookies/muffins etc with, I hope, palm-free ingredients (ie butter/canola) – yes Im in Vancouver, Canada.

    So its really important to get out there and contact businesses and retailers to put pressure on their suppliers etc esp. if they claim to be “ethical” or “sustainable” …. a small victory for us.

    PS I will be contacting the store bakery manager of production to confirm the change. Just to make sure.


  3. Hi…Your Blog is an excellent source on insight and info. Keep up the great work! I too get frustrated when shopping. I have found Breyers Ice Cream has Palm Oil in it, much to my surprise! So I now buy “Island Farms” a local Dairy Farm, that produces their own ice cream. So not only am I supporting the local community, but refraining from attributing to the Palm Oil delimma. It costs a few cents more, but well worth the peace of mind. I have also found that “LINDT” Chocolate has Palm Oil listed as one of its ingredients…oh well, don’t need that brand…will find another! I read an interesting article the other day about how Palm Oil contributes 55% fat to products, yet canola oil contributes only 8%. The difference is staggering! Why would we want to put our bodies thru such unhealthy abuse of trying to assimulate so much fat into/thru our bodies! Certainly not good for the arteries,heart or well being! http://www.theage.com.au/lifestyle/lifematters/food-industry-facing-fat-flak-20090928-g98q.html
    Well I will persevere, and contact anyone and everyone in regards to Palm Oil listed in their products as one of the ingredients. As for the margarine delimma…I use butter. 🙂 (and very little)
    I have found that since becoming aware of the Plight of the Orangutans & Devastation to our Great Rain Forests…my attitude towards buying and cooking food has changed. I have gone back to simpler things, less processed foods, make more from scratch and feel much better for it…literally and figuratively!


  4. We are so concerned about the orang u tang – quite rightly so, but what about the humble cow? If you change from margarine to butter, you are condemning the cow (please see the vegan society website). I am vegan and buy and eat soya margarine which I hope does not contain palm oil. Correct me if I am wrong…..

  5. […] supermarket packet, contain palm oil? Probably. And can I believe what they are spreading? I can. I can believe that it isn’t butter too […]

  6. Hi,

    Great blog, it has come up many times when I have googled ‘palm oil free’ info. It is very difficult currently to make the right choices as we are not given clear ingredients lists. The more that consumers shout about their concerns of palm oil use the more suppliers will have to take note. Like Dale I was buying margarine but after lots of research I have decided to buy local butter instead. We don’t eat much spread anyway so the extra cost won’t be too much of a problem and overall (in my opinion) buying a good quality local butter is better than a processed margarine that contains palm oil. We also changed our peanut butter too. I think if everyone changed just a couple of items it would help, it would be most difficult (and expensive) for many families to omit palm oil completely but every little helps.

  7. Unfortunately soya oil is as bad as palm oil Kirstan. I am a recently converted vegan and the decision has raised huge ethical issues for me but I’m getting through each one! and happily too! This is a great site, more info like this needs to be circulated. So far, I’ve found the only substitute for marg to be organic unrefined coconut oil. No animals are harmed, but up comes the issue of world shortage, fair trade and human exploitation??? Oh man how did things ever get this bad . . .

  8. Inspired by your post I went looking myself on Ocado. Same result, the own brand (Waitrose) spreads list Palm Oil – the Unilever don’t.

    I carried on looking and found the best compromise is Yeo Valley Organic Lighter Spreadable butter. It’s the same fat content as Bertolli but twice the saturated (30g vs 15g) and consequentially lower unsaturated. However the recipe is just butter and sunflower oil – no mystery “vegetable oil”. You’d have to check with Yeo Valley to be sure, but it looks like only the organic producers care enough to be honest and responsible.

    • I buy Yeo Velley spread now Philip and no as far s i can see no Palm Oil in it. So out with Bertolli and in with Yeo Valley, I always used Bertolli as was unaware on the Palm Oil content, assumed all Olive Oil. Sorry Bertolli another unhappy customer!

  9. Hi! I know this is somewhat off topic but I was wondering which blog platform are you using for
    this website? I’m getting tired of WordPress because I’ve had problems with hackers and I’m looking at alternatives for another platform. I would be awesome if you could point me in the direction of a good platform.

  10. Bertolli do now state that Palm oil is in their spread, along with rapeseed and sunflower oil. Not happy as prided myself on the olive oil thing not expecting Palm oil to be in there! So looking like Unilever is going to lose one unhappy customer! Hope my local supermarket has an alternative as butter so hard to spread.

  11. Bertoli lists palm oil on ingredients at least on packet I just bought in April 2017. Says “Vegetable oils in varying proportions (39%)(rapeseed, palm, sunflower). ”
    Wont be buying that again!

  12. If you look at floras website they confirm that all their palm oil is sourced from sustainable plantations.
    So that’s ok according to the POI. They have an app that scans the product code to tell you about the potential palm content.
    I had been wondering just the same thing as you!

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