Grown only in the tropics, the oil from the oil palm tree is used prolifically, hidden in food products, detergents, cosmetics and even bio-fuel.
Palm oil's prolific use is partly because it offers a far greater yield at a lower cost of production than other vegetable oils. Global production of and demand for palm oil is increasing rapidly and subsequently plantations are spreading across Asia, Africa and Latin America.
Impacts of using Palm Oil
We are aware thanks to reports by WWF that this expansion comes at the expense of tropical forests—which form critical habitats for many endangered species. It also impacts subsistence farming as palm oil is grown as a mono cash crop to maximise profits. The production of palm oil also contributes to pollution and soil erosion, both of which are considered exacerbating factors in worsening climate change.
What about Sustainable Palm Oil?
Amnesty International has found child and forced labour in corporate giants’ supply chains. The report states that “All but one of these companies are members of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil and claim they use 'sustainable palm oil' on their websites or product labels.” This illustrates the need for why traceable supply chains increasingly matters. Consumers need to be able to check for themselves how companies are sourcing the raw materials of their products. Divine is a company that is 100% Fairtrade and has a fully traceable supply chain due to its organisational structure ( where Kuapa Kokoo, the cocoa co-operative of smallholder farmers owns 44% of Divine) and because farmers are at the heart of Divine's business.
Palm Oil in Chocolate
Palm oil is used in a large percentage of mainstream chocolates – its role is generally to keep fruit ingredients from sticking together in the manufacture process, and to create liquid or gooey textures, but it is also used in making chocolate itself.
In many parts of Africa including Ghana, palm oil is often consumed in its unrefined state, as an ingredient of traditional dishes. Palm oil and palm kernel oil are also ingredients for the production of speciality fats, which include cocoa butter equivalents (CBE) and cocoa butter substitutes (CBS) and general purpose coating fats.
Currently palm oil can be listed as ‘vegetable oil’ in ingredient lists in the UK, which makes it difficult for consumers to tell that palm oil is contained in these products.
Divine does not use any palm oil in its chocolate and aims not to use any additional ingredients that contain palm oil. This is for a number of reasons:
- Rainforests are still being cut down to plant palm oil plantations and we do not want to subscribe to the impact this has on the environment and animal habitats.
- Divine is also conscious that palm oil is used as a cheap oil alternative in a large percentage of the processed foods we all eat today, and so we choose not to add to that high level of consumption which may have health implications.
- Lastly, as natural cocoa butter is crucial to the real flavour of chocolate we choose not to substitute it with a fat that adds nothing to the quality and fine taste of our product.
Our chocolate recipes do not include palm oil and we are working to detect any ingredient that may contain palm oil and looking for alternatives. We have recently created delicious caramel bars, and selection of praline chocolates without using palm oil.