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


So most of my blog so far has been about supermarket shopping. But what of food we consume out of the home?

Focusing today on Starbucks – not because it is a huge food retailer, but because it is a huge retailer, and my personal hangout of choice. Love them or hate them, they are everywhere. Those who know me know that I am firmly in the “love them” camp. I worked behind the counter in Vancouver in 1993, when the corporation existed only in two cities in the world, and I have been a fan ever since.

But … it is not easy to get information out of them.

When I started this blog I e-mailed requesting information on ingredients in all their bakery products. Having had no reply, or even an acknowledgement, ten days or so I e-mailed them again. Once again, no answer. Starbucks offer a lot of bakery products: cakes, muffins, biscotti, sandwiches, granola bars and many more. But it strikes me that many of these are candidates for palm oil …

Now it seems to me that companies don’t enjoy being contacted by the likes of me and fellow campaigners who are pestering them for ingredient information for their own personal agenda, whatever that might be. But nevertheless most companies have their answers, even if they are little more than stock answers, which attempt to justify their ingredients, and offer their green or ethical stance (or spin, call it what you will).

So Starbucks, some answers please! I love your muffins, but I love Magog Muffins too, and they are palm oil free! Starbucks are long on words, but slow on action, being very slow to move into the Fairtrade coffee market, although we are finally starting to see that in the UK stores now. But Starbucks, you have had a lot of my custom over the years, please repay my loyalty with some answers!


7 Responses to “Starbucks”

  1. Palm oil is the scourge of the earth!

    Orangutans are critically endangered in the wild because of rapid deforestation and the expansion of palm oil plantations.

    If nothing is done to protect these majestic creatures, they could be extinct in just a few years.

    Visit the Orangutan Outreach website to learn how YOU can make a difference!

    Reach out and save the orangutans!

  2. Update – Starbucks in the USA have let me know their ingredients policy here: http://bit.ly/s5euD. They proudly announce “We have no artificial flavors (sic), dyes, trans fats or HFCS in any food. But no answer to my palm oil question …

    It seems you have to search for individual stores, so I have started with a spot check on the Kitsilano Beach Vancouver store where I used to work. The first item I tried, chocolate chip cookies, contains palm oil in the margarine. In short, without checking every bakery ingredient in every store …


    They are keen to promote green, ethical and healthy practices where they have them in place, but avoid answers on other issues. I am still waiting for a UK answer but suspect similar.

  3. Palm oil is everywhere– so it will take the concerted efforts of many people to bring attention to it… Otherwise the mere thought of trying to take it on is simply overwhelming… Even if it has to be one coffee shop at a time, so be it… {:(|}

  4. Sometimes I am tempted to paste a flyer showing the devastation of Rain Forests and boldly highlight the words Palm Oil and Orangutans, and Climate Change….RIGHT NEXT TO THEIR KIOSK! Haven’t done it yet… 🙂
    However I have found that any email I have sent out , answers are very vague. So now I just ask point blank…”Do your products have Palm Oil as one of their ingredients.” And you are right, that is usually when I don’t get a response….but I just email them again. I have also forwarded the emails to my friends, and linked addresses to them , so that they too may follow my lead. It is slowly working. More and more people are becoming aware of it, because I am always talking about it. Any effort should be considered a win, bravo to you for going forward and pursuing the answer. Communication and sharing of information are very poerful tools, such as your blog! Keep it up!

  5. Hi Neil!
    I ve just found your blog and it is great! I dont feel so alone anymore!
    Ive been trying for a few months now to avoid buying products containing palm oil and find it really difficult.
    I try to speak about palm oil with my friends, colleagues and even my fiancee to try to get people around me more aware of the consequences of its use but it seems no ones is really interested after all the rainforest is so far from the uk, and if everyone is using palm oil it cant be that bad…
    But i am not giving up, and i am gonna start sending letter to companies using it as well to let them know that consummers do not want palm oil in their food.

    Keep up the good work!


  6. Hi, Great blog. I have only yesterday heard about the evils of palm oil and am now on the internet trying to find a list of palm oil free products and it’s a lot harder than I thought! So far I know th buy skincare at Lush, so that’s a start. But the rest? Chocolate? Is there any not using it?! A google search reveals nothing I can buy in a newsagents or even a supermarket potentially. Can you help?

  7. Hmmm… I’m sitting in a Starbucks in London now eating my favourite, the Cinnamon Swirl, with a lovely hot Venti Latte. I was concerned as to whether this delicious Cinnamon Swirl contains any palm oil, so when I googled ‘Starbucks “palm oil”‘ I found this page. I decided to ask the pretty barista if she had a list of ingredients for the Cinnamon Swirl. To my joy she produced a list of all the ingredients in all the sweet snacks and gave me permission to sit down and study them – I thought it would be a crime not to post them here. I took high-res photos of the list (author please email me if you want them to put them up on this website, which is a good blog, by the way, likewise feel free to edit and reuse the information listed below).

    I read every ingredient and have attempted to sort through them for you all. Snacks labelled as containing “vegetable oil”, “vegetable fat”, glycerol, glycerine and mono and diglycerides of fatty acids are likely to contain palm oil – in many ways this is even worse (than those simply labelled “palm oil”) because in this way Starbucks is covering up their heavy footprint. It would be great if they could clarify the source of their “vegetable oil” so we can make an informed decision, like Sainsbury’s and the Co-operative do in their supermarkets.

    (Please make the effort to check this list on your smartphone every time you go to Starbucks)

    Snacks actually listing Palm Oil/Fat as an ingredient:

    Petite – Salted Pecan Bar
    Luxury Fruit Bread
    Granola Bar
    Rocky Road
    Luxury Butter Mince Pie
    Caramel and Pecan Cheesecake
    Cranberry and Orange Muffin
    Skinny Lemon & Poppyseed Muffin

    Snacks listing Vegetable Oil/Fat as a main ingredient (3rd or 4th item on ingredients list, estimated content more than 10%):

    Chocolate Caramel Shortbread
    Doughnut Apple Fritter
    Cinnamon Swirl
    Buttermilk Pancakes

    Vegetable Oil/Fat, Glycerine/Glycerol Humectant/Emulsifiers as a secondary ingredient (estimated content between 1-10%):

    Ginger Loaf Cake
    Loaf Cake Banana Nut
    Loaf Cake Chocolate Hazelnut
    Loaf Cake Lemon
    Loaf Cake Raspberry and Coconut
    Caramelised Hazelnut and Belgium Milk Choc Chunk Muffin
    Triple Belgian Chocolate Muffin
    Classic Blueberry Muffin
    Rise & Shine Muffin
    Skinny Blueberry Muffin
    Almond Croissant
    Porridge Dairy
    Dried Fruit

    Vegetable Oil/Fat, Glycerine/Glycerol Humectant/Emulsifiers as a minor ingredient (estimated less than 1%):

    Marshmallow Twizzle
    Butter Croissant
    Pain Au Chocolate
    Pain Aux Raisins

    Before you get too depressed, there’s still something left to eat. Here are the foods labelled as free from all the above:

    Petite – Chocolate Chilli Cake
    Petite – Black Forest
    Fruit Scone (Ireland)
    Plain Scone (Ireland)
    Wheaten Scone (Ireland)
    Belgian Chocolate Brownie
    Chocolate Chunk Cookie
    Chocolate Chunk Shortbread
    Christmas Twizzle
    Carrot Cake
    Chocolate Cake
    Condiment Maple & Honey Granola Condiment Maple and Honey Sauce Condiment Very Berry Compote Creamy Yoghurt Fruit Salad


    I’m not a chemist or a nutritionist (I’m just a piano tuner) so there may be other chemicals in Starbucks foods containing palm oil that I’m not aware of, although I’d expect the palm oil to only be in very small quantities.


    We have the power to change Starbucks because they get all their money from us! There are several levels of action we can take:

    Level 1: boycott Starbucks altogether.
    Level 2: only buy the foods listed above as completely free of palm oil and “vegetable oil” to complement our coffees.
    Level 3: buy any foods except for those that are labelled as containing palm oil and those containing a high vegetable oil/fat content.

    I think there may also be good things about Starbucks so I’m not doing level 1. Today I’ve decided to start at level 3 and move towards level 2.


    I haven’t checked out the rest of this blog yet, no doubt it’s already covered but in the meantime I’d like to mention a couple more things…

    In answer to above comments, the highest quality chocolates contain fat from cocoa butter or milk, not palm oil, so look out for these if you’re a chocoholic.

    In general go for the bakery products made with butter instead of “vegetable fat”. Eg. shortbread and scones.

    Likewise use butter on your toast and sandwiches because margerine has loads of palm oil in it. Keep the butter out of the fridge so it’s easily spreadable. No it doesn’t go off, not for a long time.

    Go easy on the butter though, it’s got even more saturated fats than palm oil! Notwithstanding palm oil is the worst of the vegetable oils for our health, it’s about 50% saturated which is very high for veg oil. Diets high in saturated fats raise cholesterol and increase the risk of heart disease. So boycott palm oil and become more healthy at the same time!

    Shop at more responsible supermarkets like the Co-op who are honest with their labelling – you can turn every product around and clearly see if palm oil is an ingredient (whereas other supermarkets like Tesco’s just disguise it as “vegetable oil”).

    I would just like to mention one more thing: this isn’t just about orangutans and Sumatran tigers, as amazing as they are – the biggest effect is the global warming caused by the burning of the rainforests and peatlands which will affect the future of our planet’s climate. And if anyone gives you the “what about the 1.5 million people employed by the palm oil industry?” argument, ask them if they know that an estimated 60-100 million indigenous people in Indonesia are being robbed of their lands to make way for palm oil plantations. These people used to live off the rainforest around them that gave them clean drinking water and food aplenty – now their water is polluted and there’s no food, so many of them are forced to work for the palm oil plantations for $2.50/day. How is that improving anyone’s life? Well it is improving lives, but not for indigenous Indonesians – only for a few businessmen, corrupt government officials, and rich people in Europe, China and North America who own the companies that export palm oil.

    Oh and the “Round Table for Sustainable Palm Oil” should be renamed the “Round Table for Slightly More Sustainable Palm Oil” – it’s still an environmental disaster! Look it up. Until they get it right, the future is in OUR hands (or on our dinner plates!)

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