We’ve spoken many times in the past about our decision to use an RSPO Certified Palm Oil in our products. We’ve posted about it on our social media accounts, printed leaflets and even popped a little piece in our FAQs. However, all of these media types required a limited character count, and we felt the issue deserved a little bit more attention!
Firstly, we’d like to address exactly why we need to use palm oil in our products. You’ll notice many chocolate companies proudly showing off that they are palm oil free, and we think this is great. Primarily, because chocolate shouldn’t need palm oil, much in the same way that a quality dark chocolate shouldn’t need milk. Palm oil and milk are used as a cheaper alternative to replace the cocoa butter. Cocoa butter is what gives chocolate it’s silky texture, creamy flavour and satisfying snap, and so if you want to have the best quality dark chocolate, you should be looking at a chocolate with a high cocoa butter content (otherwise known as a couverture chocolate). We use a couverture chocolate on our products that does not contain palm oil or milk. However, we are not chocolatiers. We do not make the chocolate, and Goupie is not a pure chocolate product, it is a confectionery. This means that our chocolate is only part of the ingredients story.
What makes Goupie truly unique is our family recipe, which has been passed down through three generations, and holds a distinct texture. In this original recipe, butter would have been used as the hard fat which emulsifies in our product and gives it that soft chew. Without that texture, Goupie would not be Goupie. We consciously made the decision early on, not to use butter in our products, as we didn’t want to use animal products. We then set about searching for an alternative to replace this ingredient and came up with three viable options: margarine, palm oil or coconut oil.
Margarine is a composite fat which almost always includes palm oil as part of its blend. With this option, we would have to consider the production of all the fats included in the composition, as well as adding a huge number of additional ingredients to our list. We decided this wasn’t a great option and so ruled it out as an option. This left palm and coconut oil.
When we were making this decision, palm oil wasn’t in the news in the UK at all, and we didn’t really know a lot about it. It had been suggested to us by one of our ingredients suppliers and so we set about doing research. This is when we first came across the potential issues surrounding deforestation and the obliteration of habitats. It’s also when we realised just how many products do use palm oil, an ingredient that we’d been pretty much unaware of until that point. It became clear to us very quickly, that if we were to go down this route, we were going to have to find a source that could be trusted to supply us with more sustainably produced palm oil, and this is when we first came across the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO).
RSPO is a body who monitor and develop an environmental and social criteria which companies must comply with in order to produce Certified Sustainable Palm Oil. Much in the same way that Fair Trade and UTZ certifications exist for cocoa, or FSC certifications exist for wood stock. They provide a certification for palm oil production on four different tiers: Book & Claim, Mass Balance, Segregated and Identity Preserved. You can read more about the tiers here but, roughly put, the later two certifications require that the palm oil is certified throughout its entire supply chain and is not mixed with any sources from uncertified plantations. We use a Certified Segregated RSPO Palm Oil.
But ‘why not use Coconut Oil?’ I hear you say. It’s true that coconut oil is not in the news as prolifically as palm oil, and that by having coconut oil in your ingredients list, you are unlikely to stir any comments. However, it does take a significantly larger area of land to produce the same volume of coconut oil as you could produce palm oil. Palm oil is in fact, a significantly more efficient crop in oil production than any other vegetable fat, taking between 4 and 10 times less land. As both products can be grown in similar conditions, it is our belief that if we were to move to coconut oil, we would be pushing the problem onto a different product. We might even be making it worse, as that product requires so much more land. We would rather support an initiative to sustainably produce palm oil, and attempt to solve the problem.
In the interests of a balanced argument, we would like to mention that coconuts can also be used for a much larger range of alternative uses than palm oil, and so their productivity in oil doesn’t necessarily reflect their productivity of other ingredients. However, in this instance we still think the RSPO palm oil production outweighs the arguments for coconut oil.
There is also an on-going argument surrounding biodiversity. This is addressed in our RSPO choice, with our palm oil originating from the Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea, on certified plantations. This is away from the majority of the serious wildlife concerns surrounding Orangutans, pygmy elephants and Sumatran rhinos in Indonesia. It is also still a concern for products such as coconut oil which have also been linked to major damage in wildlife, and so again a switch would not necessarily address this issue, but rather pass it on.
Our final note is that there are millions of farmers who rely on palm oil as their main source of income. We definitely feel that the solution here is supporting systems aimed at solving the issues and working with farmers to creative incentives for a less destructive form of production. There is still some way to go, and no system is ever perfect, but we feel confident that this is the best way that we can support change in the industry as a whole whilst, we continue to supply you with our devilishly moreish treats.
We hope that we’ve provided some insight into our thought process, and assured you that we do take the matter very seriously. We’re always looking to improve, learn and amend, and so if you have any information you think that we should know, please do get in touch! We don’t ever want to feel as if we’ve ‘finished’ and we know there’s always a new and better alternative on the horizon. It’s only through sharing information and knowledge that we can all improve as a society and make change in our planet for the better!