Why Peardrop's keeping Palm Oil
Let’s rewind to November 2018.
Team Peardrop are giving themselves a great big pat on the back: we’ve finally perfected our vegan sausage – or squashage, if you will – roll recipe. It’s smoky, it’s satisfying, it’s scrumptious, it’s wrapped in a perfectly golden puff pastry coat and it’s ready to take London by storm.
A few weeks go by. Squashage rolls are the new sausage roll. Our backs are getting sore from all the patting. But then, a certain Christmas advert makes us look at our rows of squashages in a different light. A key ingredient in that delicious, buttery pastry is palm oil.
As a self proclaimed planet friendly caterer, this worried us. Annual global production of palm oil has quadrupled in the last twenty years (from 15.2 million tonnes in 1995 to 62.6 million tonnes in 2015). This huge growth has brought with it huge changes in the landscapes and wildlife of certain parts of the world, particularly in the rainforests of Indonesia and Malaysia. Palm oil plantations now account for 10% of all permanent global crop land.
Loads (two thirds, to be more precise) of this palm oil ends up in our tummies: palm oil is an incredibly versatile ingredient because it can be cheaply and easily split into oils of different consistencies. On average we consume 8KG each per year. For this reason, many people have responded to the raised awareness of palm oil’s impact on the world by boycotting foods made using it.
We were left wondering, should we boycott palm oil too?
Was there any point in our squashage rolls being vegan if they weren’t ethical across the board?
But, like many things in this world, boycotting palm oil and saving the rainforest isn’t as simple as it sounds. Oil palms are pretty amazing plants: they can succeed in many soils that can’t sustain other crops, can be harvested year round, and oil palms have by far the highest yield of any oil seed crop. An oil palm plantation produces five times what could be produced than by planting the same area with rapeseed, six times what you would get from planting sunflowers, and eight times that from soybeans.
Many people fear that a shift away from palm oil would only lead to greater environmental damage as more land is deforested to plant alternative crops to meet the now massive global demand for plant oils. In addition, growth in the palm oil industry has lifted rural incomes in some of the most underdeveloped areas in the world and a global boycott could reverse this improvement.
As a result, attention has turned to the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) to help curb the destructive impact of palm oil farming. The RSPO works with people all the way along the supply chain to encourage the switch to sustainable palm oil.
So, off we went to our suppliers and find out exactly what type of palm oil we were dealing with. We wrap our squashages in pastry made by General Mills and – reassuringly – they are way ahead of the curve on palm oil and its many pitfalls.
Rated by the WWF as “leading the way” on their Palm Oil scorecard, General Mills source 100% of their palm oil from certified sustainable sources.
Now this is where it gets complicated, so bear with me. Sustainable palm oil comes in many forms. Now this may seem a bit misleading: you’d like to think if you buy sustainable palm oil that’s what you’re getting. But not quite…
There are four types of sustainable palm oil:
2 - Mass balanced sustainable palm oil
A palm oil refinery buys their palm oil from a mixture of normal and sustainable sources. They’re allowed to mix them up and throw everything together in the same manufacturing process but, once they’ve worked their magic on it, only the same amount of sustainable palm oil they bought can be certified as sustainable when they sell it on. Once again, you might not actually get 100% sustainable palm oil yourself, but it’s in the mix and it can travel through the existing supply chain.
1 - The certificate based system
A sustainable palm oil producer sells their 100KG of sustainable palm oil into the existing market and sells a certificate for that 100KG of palm oil separately. So you go along to buy 100KG palm oil as usual, and then you separately buy certificates for 100KG worth of palm oil. You might not get the sustainable palm oil yourself, but it’s out there somewhere. The producer gets the market rate for their palm oil and a little bit extra for selling their certificate. This is often called Palm Trace or Book & Claim.
Now I admit, on first reading, this doesn’t sound great. It’s a bit half arsed. But thinking about it a bit more, both these ways of being certified sustainable have been devised to encourage the existing growers and manufacturers to convert to sustainable palm oil without too much risk. The hope is that once producers realise they can charge a little more for sustainable palm oil, they begin to support production rather than seeing it as a threat.
4 - Identity preserved palm oil
A bit like single origin coffee or chocolate, this sustainable palm oil is not only kept separate throughout manufacture, but can be traced all the way back to a single place.
3 - Segregated palm oil
All the palm oil and its derivatives come only from certified sustainable sources and is kept separate throughout the manufacturing process.
These two are obviously much better, and WWF is encouraging switching to these sources as much as possible. Lots more info is available about this here.
This brings me round - at last - to General Mills. In 2017, General Mills sourced 96% of the palm oil they used from segregated and mass balanced sources. Hooray! More information about their palm oil policy is available on their website.
And finally, back to our squashage rolls. Reassured by what we discovered, we’ve decided not to go palm oil free. If you agree, and want to get your hands on our delicious guilt free squashage rolls, made with sustainable palm oil, they’re sold in all Planet Organics or available as a delivery for your next party!