Premier Foods, the producer of brands such as Hovis bread and Mr Kipling cakes, this week said that it intends to cover all the palm oil in its bakery and food range with GreenPalm certificates by January 2010, which it claims is two years ahead of its original target of December 2011.
Palm oil is often used as an ingredient for shortening in baked goods manufacture.
Andrew Harrison, WWF UK senior policy officer, said that it was good to see a company that produces such well known and everyday products taking practical steps to fulfil its commitment to ending the damage caused by unsustainable palm oil.
Pressure is building on retailers and manufacturers to stop using palm oil or at least to switch to palm oil that has been produced sustainably with growing consumer awareness of the links between palm oil, deforestation, the threat to wildlife and products on supermarket shelves.
Last month, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) in a damning report said that many manufacturers and retailers are not using sustainable palm oil as much as they should to stimulate supply and lead to long-term environmental benefits.
GreenPalm, which is endorsed by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) operates a web-based trading system for sustainable palm oil and palm kernel oil.
The scheme works by giving producers of the raw material one GreenPalm certificate for each tonne of palm oil they sustainably produce, with manufacturers then buying the certificates online as a way of helping the production of sustainable palm oil.
However, critics of the programme argue that when the sustainably-produced palm oil sold under the scheme is shipped, it is not kept separate from oil made from plantations created by chopping down rainforests.
But Will Carter, managing director of the grocery division at Premier, said the company’s participation in the GreenPalm programme was a stepping stone to sourcing 100 per cent certified sustainable palm oil (CSPO) and he added that the food group is urging the development of a segregated supply chain:
“It is important that we send a strong message to palm oil producers and processors that there is an existing, and increasing, demand in the UK for 100 per cent segregated and traceable blended certified sustainable palm oil.”
A reduction in the amount of palm oil used in products is another means of limiting deforestation, but a spokesperson for Premier Foods told BakeryandSnacks.com that it was not focused on such a reduction as the company currently only uses a minimal amount of the raw material in its products.
However, another UK based manufacturer, United Biscuits, recently said that, in parallel to improving its sourcing of sustainable palm oil, it has also been working to reduce the amount of palm oil that it uses: “Since 2005, UB has reduced the amount of palm oil used in its products by over 40 per cent.”
Earlier this month, the company announced a deal to secure a supply of sustainable palm oil with New Britain Palm Oil, which it claims is segregated throughout the supply chain, and will ensure that the oil used in its products is the oil from sustainable plantations.
The manufacturer said it is set to get the first delivery of this oil next month.
Dr Simon Roulston, oils sourcing manager for the manufacturer said that,by mid 2010, two thirds of all palm oil and palm oil based ingredients will be sourced from segregated and sustainable sources with the remainder from un-segregated but still certified sustainable sources.
“By the end of 2011 we aim to have 100 per cent of our palm oil sourced on a segregated and sustainable basis."