Of these three options, and even every other option imaginable, palm oil is the only one that really makes sense. First of all, from an environmental and social perspective: the yield of oil palm is quite simply exceptional because this plant produces fruit throughout the year. Substituting it with any other plant will inevitably take up far more agricultural land to obtain an equivalent volume of production, running the risk of exacerbating the environmental and social problems.
Secondly, from a nutritional point of view: while palm oil is criticised for containing 50% of saturated fat, which is associated with cardiovascular problems, coconut fat contains +/- 90% and shea butter about 45%. Even dairy butter, which nevertheless enjoys excellent press coverage in our part of the world, naturally contains about 67% saturated fat, cholesterol, and between 3 and 5% of trans fatty acids generated by the cow’s digestion. It isn’t therefore a matter of choice or prices: there is simply no credible alternative to replace palm oil at the current point in time.
This obviously does not mean either that this oil is miraculous and should be consumed without moderation, as a replacement for any other oil or fat. It remains a fat that has its qualities and its defects. For example it is very resistant to oxidation and can therefore be stored for a long time. It is also extremely resistant to high temperature cooking and is therefore frequently found in frying fats. It is devoid of any trans fatty acid in its natural state. And it gives a soft and creamy character in many applications.
However, it has a 50% saturated fat content, which is much higher than most liquid vegetable oils. In addition, its cultivation has become very intensive in Indonesia and Malaysia, as this oil provides a livelihood for local farmers and is now at the centre of much broader economic interests. The problem of deforestation is very real and we take this very seriously at Aigremont. But we believe that the regulation of farming methods, through a strict certification system, is a much more realistic and appropriate response than the empty statements made by some, notably through the labels “No Palm” that are increasingly found on numerous products. As such, ensuring a sustainable and controlled supply is one of our top priorities.