Shopping with a palm oil radar

Twiglets are usually up there on the menu when it comes to throwing a British “jolly”. These wheat-based, twig-shaped snacks have kept revellers munching at parties across generations – from kids’ birthday parties through to office parties. Flavoured using yeast extract, just like Marmite, you either like ’em or you dislike ’em. This iconic snack neither has an alternative – Jacob’s Twiglets are the only known “twiglets” of its kind.

So when there’s only one Twiglets, what do you do when you discover one of Britain’s favourite snacks has palm oil in it? Being consciously aware of palm oil and the issues around the environment, I was drawn to do some research on this iconic snack.

In recent times, I have started to notice more products, although they tend to be supermarket branded items from say Sainsbury’s and Waitrose, which are labelled: “made with sustainable palm oil”.

Many farmers, predominantly in south-east Asia, rely on growing palm oil for their livelihoods but cultivation has been associated with the loss of forests and habitats for orangutans and other wildlife. Responsible sourcing of palm oil is necessary for the future of the planet.

United Biscuits who own the Jacob’s brand do not carry any labelling on their Twiglets packets. When it came to the Twiglet “situation”, I wasn’t getting an intuitive nudge to just “drop the twiglets” off the shopping list. Instead I was guided to look further.

United Biscuits state on their website that: “Since 2010, 100% of Palm Oil we procure has been certified from sustainable sources. 96% of Palm Oil used in our products is physically certified”. That said, why are they not labelling their products so?

The WWF has applauded United Biscuits efforts. The conservation charity’s Palm Oil Buyers Scorecard report says United Biscuits are one of the manufacturers “well on their way” on sustainable palm oil.

It also gave United Biscuits eight out of nine on its Palm Oil Buyers Scorecard, which judges businesses on their actions to source sustainable palm oil.

This is where we as consumers have a role to play in letting manufacturers know what we want from the products we buy, including labelling for greater transparency.

Reaching out to manufacturers has become that much easier thanks to social networks, especially Twitter and Facebook, which are an effective medium of communicating with brands, and with such dialogue, the impact is worldwide and far reaching.

If there’s a product that works for you, yet it has palm oil in it and it’s not clear where that palm oil is sourced, don’t just abandon it. Instead use your power as a consumer to get in touch with the manufacturers and call them up on it. The only way they change is by you taking action and letting them know what’s acceptable or not to you as a consumer. The more people that do that, on an individual or group level, change is inevitable.

Rosa Medea is Life & Soul Magazine’s Chief. She is a writer who specialises in sustainable lifestyle and living, wellbeing, and entertainments. Rosa also works as a psychic, counsellor, intuitive reader and spiritual life coach helping people to become who they truly are and manifest their heart & soul’s desires into their lives:

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