Research shows that most consumers associate the term ‘palm oil free’ on a product with a conscious choice regarding environmental issues, ethical concerns and health. They see ‘free from’ claims in general as a positive notion. EPOA is of the opinion that a product packaging should describe the content of the product and considers ‘palm oil free’ claims to be misleading and not contributing to the sustainability case for the whole food chain.
For some companies the positive attitude of consumers towards free from claims, makes it very attractive to use such a claim from a marketing perspective. They use explicit claims like ‘palm oil free’ on the label, even when this information can be deduced from the list of ingredients.
Legally it is regulated that if an ingredient is not in the product it will not be mentioned in the list of ingredients. So attracting extra attention to the absence of an ingredient will merely be done with a marketing angle and will not help to sell a more healthy or sustainable product.
EPOA believes that sustainable palm oil has a place in a balanced diet, which should be reflected in product communication to the consumer. A ‘No palm oil’ label is confusing for consumers, because it creates conflicting messages around sustainable palm oil for all stakeholders in the palm oil supply chain, including consumers who would like to make a responsible decision and protect rainforests.
Palm oil free products are often considered to be sustainable. The absence of palm oil as an ingredient is given as a guarantee that a product has been produced with respect for the environment, good labour conditions or human rights. Although this may seem perfect at first glance, this ‘solution’ contains serious shortcomings when closely examined:
All in all, one of the main challenges we are currently facing is how to transform our food and agricultural system into a sustainable one. Simply claiming that a product does not contain a certain ingredient is not going to contribute to the change we need. When it comes to the production of palm oil, producers who want to protect rainforests and promote sustainable livelihoods on the ground can do this by investing in transforming the way this crop is produced. If you’re interested in looking at how you can make a difference, please have a look at SPOC, a collaboration between companies and NGOs to promote sustainability in the palm sector.
Together with National Initiatives, EPOA engages with all companies that we know of that are using negative claims for palm oil. We explain why using these claims is not helping the sustainability case for the whole food chain. We also actively invite them to cooperate and to join us in the efforts to achieving that goal. The only alternative to palm oil is sustainable palm oil!
EPOA believes that the more positive and honest information there is about sustainable palm oil, the less reason there is for ‘advertising’ palm oil free. That is why EPOA generates and supports positive messages about sustainable palm oil, especially on social media.