The End of Palm Oil Production?

It was announced this week that a team of researchers from Scotland has developed a potential substitute for palm oil, which they believe could be the “holy grail” alternative.

The new 100% plant-based ingredient, called PALM-ALT, is claimed to be 70% better for the environment, with 80% less saturated fat and 30% fewer calories than traditional palm oil.

PALM-ALT is made from a by-product of the linseed industry, natural fibre, and rapeseed oil.

It has a mayonnaise-like consistency and is palm and coconut-free, with no added flavourings, sugar, sweeteners, preservatives, or colourings.

The team at Queen Margaret University in Edinburgh tested PALM-ALT against traditional palm shortening and found it to be indistinguishable in terms of taste and texture.

We know that palm oil production in the past has caused deforestation and habitat destruction, but in recent years, a focus on palm oil production has meant it has become much more sustainable and oil extraction is a simple production process.

The challenge for PALM-ALT is prices and availability; mass production is a long way off and that means price will be a major barrier for most manufacturers, even the greenest ones.

And green credentials may not be enough. It’s highly likely that even though PALM-ALT is plant-based, it’s likely to be classified as an “ultra-processed ingredient”, much the same as “beyond meat”, which has seen a decline in popularity.

The other challenge is that PALM-ALT is a by-product of linseed and rapeseed production, so the growth of these will need to be massively increased to match the current demand for Palm Oil, thus creating another climate challenge.

In June, President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. announced that his administration would increase efforts to make the Philippines the largest coconut producer because of increased competition from Indonesia and Vietnam.

In the next ten years, we will see an increase in the overall production of coconut oil and the inevitable growth in the production of other edible oils to match the inevitable growth in demand.

It is highly improbable that the production of palm oil and coconut oil will cease off the back of this announcement.

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