Foodservice operators should start to reconsider the use of palm oil in their supply chains, after a survey found 85% of consumers were against the use of palm oil in food products because of the effects its production has on the environment.
Conducted by Iceland, the British supermarket group, the survey’s findings have convinced the company to announce a ban on palm oil with effect from the end of this year. It is switching to alternatives, such as butter or rapeseed oil, in place of what’s become the world’s most commonly used vegetable oil.
Iceland’s managing director, Richard Walker, said that despite the emergence of ‘sustainable’ palm oil initiatives, he did not believe such claims were justifiable, given the product’s overall environmental profile.
"Until Iceland can guarantee palm oil is not causing rainforest destruction, we are simply saying ‘no to palm oil’," Mr Walker explained. "We don’t believe there is such a thing as guaranteed ‘sustainable’ palm oil available in the mass market, so we are giving consumers a choice to say no to palm for the first time."
So European foodservice operators keen to respond to consumer demand and reduce or eliminate their use of palm oil – commonly used as both a frying fat and an ingredient – should emulate Iceland and consider turning to domestically grown alternatives instead, says the producer of a new, alternative rapeseed oil being grown across Europe.
"Palm oil has become the world’s most popular oil because it’s cheap and efficient to produce. But concerns are growing about the sustainability of its supply chain, as evidenced by Iceland’s survey of consumers. It’s also less healthy than more sustainable alternatives," points out Lionel Lordez, business development leader for HOLL, the innovative new oil.
"Palm oil has an unfavourable fat profile," says Mr Lordez, "with 50 per cent of its fat content being in the form of saturated fatty acids. This negates the often-quoted benefits of its 40 per cent content of monounsaturated fatty acids.
"However, it’s the high concentrations of saturated fat, coupled with a high oleic acid content, that makes it such a popular oil: it has stability and longevity, important aspects for the food industry."
The high proportion of oleic acid allows repeated use of the oil without deterioration, which is why frying oils are often blends of palm oil.
But advances in plant breeding have allowed scientists to develop new lines of oilseed rape enriched with oleic acid. That’s enabled European farmers to use their oilseed growing expertise to produce the new, alternative oil. Known as HOLL – which stands for ‘High Oleic Low Linolenic’ – it is produced from European-grown oilseed rape, creating a more sustainable and more traceable supply chain.
"Other favourable characteristics of HOLL include an optimal ratio between omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids and being naturally rich in Vitamin E.
"Rapeseed oil is currently the world’s third-largest source of vegetable oil, so while HOLL is an alternative product, rapeseed oil itself is already well-known to the foodservice industry.
"HOLL contains about 25% more oleic acid than conventional rapeseed oil.
"This is a crop grown in Europe, by European farmers. This provides the European foodservice industry with a traceable, truly sustainable product, that’s grown right here on our doorstep. European manufacturers and operators now have an alternative not only to palm oil, but also to soy and sunflower oil."
HOLL’s claims are backed up by independent tests, conducted to confirm taste and perception. "Consumer panels were highly complimentary about the taste of foods cooked in HOLL oil," Mr Lordez enthuses, "but HOLL also delivered on colour.
"Fries cooked in HOLL produced the much-sought ‘golden’ colour valued by consumers, an attribute that HOLL maintained consistently throughout the frying cycle," he notes.
"Given its favourable health and environmental profiles, coupled with its appeal to foodservice operators, we believe HOLL Oil is a win:win product," says Mr Lordez. "It brings benefits to the food business operator as much as the consumer and customer."
HOLL is widely available from distributors nationwide. Find out more at www.weloveholl.com.