Palm Oil Free Chocolate: Bringing New Meaning to Guilt Free Indulging

palm oil free chocolate

Chocolate is delicious. It’s comforting, tasty, comes in all kinds of flavours and sizes, and is enjoyed by millions of people every day.

Sadly though, many chocolate products contain irresponsibly sourced palm oil. The business of palm oil is huge. It’s cheap to produce and is used in everything from chocolate to shampoo. 

It’s also terrible for the environment. If we’re looking to eat and live sustainably, avoiding unsustainable palm oil plays a big part.

Does palm oil free chocolate exist, that can satisfy both our desire to be eco friendly, and our sweet tooth? I decided to find out.

What Is Palm Oil and Is It Really That Bad?

Palm oil is a vegetable oil, and is one of the most consumed oils in the world.

It’s made from the fruit of oil palm trees. These were once native to Africa but are now grown in South-East Asia too. Today, the majority of palm oil comes from Indonesia and Malaysia.

palm tree - palm oil is made from the fruit

Palm oil is one of the most efficient vegetable oils to grow, and there are ways to grow it sustainably. But the problem with palm oil is that many large businesses harvest palm oil in irresponsible or unsustainable ways.

The WWF explains more

Palm oil grows in tropical rainforests. The uncontrolled clearing of these forests for palm oil plantations has led to widespread loss of these irreplaceable and biodiverse-rich forests. Plantations have also been linked to the destruction of habitats. This affects endangered species including orangutans, tigers, elephants and rhinos.

Is There Palm Oil in My Favourite Chocolate?

More than likely, yes. Palm oil is used as an ingredient in many chocolate bars. It helps to prevent the chocolate from melting and gives it its smooth texture.

There are many well known brands that use palm oil in their chocolate, including, but not limited to:

  • Cadbury
  • Oreo
  • Mars
  • Nestlé
chocolate with nuts

Palm oil doesn’t just lurk in our chocolate. It’s sneaked its way into plenty of other products too. From foods we buy at the supermarket (ice cream, pizza dough and bread to name a few). To common bathroom products such as lipstick, soap and shampoo

Unclear labelling practices mean that many of us don’t know which products contain palm oil. 

Palm oil can be listed as vegetable oil or vegetable fat, or as a chemical name such as Sodium Laureth Sulfate. 

There are calls for improved transparency. But until then, we have to look out for any one of the following on chocolate labels:

Palm Oil Labels

Help, Where Can I Buy Palm Oil Free Chocolate?! 

Lots of chocolate in the UK contains palm oil. But there are plenty of delicious palm oil free chocolates to choose from too.

Green & Blacks is one of the more mainstream palm oil free chocolate brands. Their bars are widely available in supermarkets.

If Green & Blacks isn’t your thing, you could also check out Seed and Bean, Chokolit, Enjoy Raw and Divine, which are all palm oil free.

In fact, if you want to keep things really simple, head over to Ethical Superstore. They have a dedicated page for chocolate without palm oil.

There are also alternatives to other everyday products that commonly contain palm oil. These include palm oil free shampoo and palm oil free soap

chocolate gift wrapped

I Can’t Find Chocolate Without Palm Oil  – What Else Can I Do?

Palm oil itself isn’t the enemy. As noted above, it’s one of the most efficient vegetable oils to produce. The enemy is the unsustainable practice by which its grown and harvested. 

You don’t have to cut palm oil out of your life. But it’s worthwhile being mindful of how the palm oil in the products you buy is sourced. Irresponsibly sourced, unsustainable palm oil is causing irreversible damage to rainforests and habitats. 

You may not have any luck finding a chocolate you like that contains no palm oil. So the best thing to do is to check whether the palm oil in your favourite chocolate has been sustainably sourced.

One way is to look for chocolate with a Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) certification. Having RSPO certification is how brands let us know that the palm oil they use is sustainable.

It does pay to be aware that being a member of the RSPO does not necessarily mean that all the palm oil they use is sustainably sourced.

Take Mars as an example. Mars’ website states that:

Mars is proud to be a member of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO). We’ve purchased 100% of our palm oil from RSPO certified sources via the group’s “mass balance” programme since 2013.

So far, so good. But then Mars goes into further detail about what the “mass balance” programme entails:

Mass balance requires processors to buy palm oil from certified sources. It allows them to mix it with conventional palm oil during transportation, processing and packaging.

Not so sustainable after all then.

RSPO membership can be a good sign of sustainable palm oil practices. But it’s not a guarantee that all the palm oil used by a member is sustainable.

Still, it’s much better to buy an RSPO certified product over one that has no certification whatsoever.

chocolate that contains palm oil

Being More Mindful During Your Next Chocolate Shopping Trip

With the help of clearer labelling guidelines, it’s becoming easier to spot products that contain palm oil. This can help us make more informed purchasing choices.

But knowing whether a chocolate bar contains palm oil isn’t enough. We should also know whether that palm oil has been sustainably sourced.

If you’re in any doubt about how sustainable the palm oil in your chocolate bar is, it’s probably best to put it back. Opt for a palm oil free chocolate instead.

But if you can’t find any chocolate without palm oil, the next best step is to look for RSPO certification. Even though that isn’t an iron-clad guarantee of sustainability, it’s still better.

The more we vote with our purchasing power, the more we’ll find palm oil free chocolate. We’ll eat to that!

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