Those not in the business of food manufacturing may not consider palm oil and its stabilization properties very often. But for Matt D’Amour, chief of Yumbutter and brand developer for Tribe 9 Foods, stabilization is the key to success—especially when the ingredient that can get you there has a sustainability story, too.
In 2014, when Yumbutter launched its first nut butter pouches without palm oil, D’Amour says customer satisfaction was not holding up. “We had all these people emailing me saying things like they ruined their computer when they opened the packet because of the oil separation,” D’Amour explains. “But we hadn’t put palm into our initial formula because we didn’t feel like we wanted to battle the entire palm story.”
Today, however, the company focuses on sourcing the ingredient sustainably in order to meet customer demand and have a positive impact on global supply. Working with Daabon, a sustainable palm producer, he shares, “We actually want to promote that we’ve started using it—to let people know why we chose it, why there’s nothing to be afraid of and how there are some really awesome health benefits to palm in comparison to other options like canola oil.”
For food producers and consumers alike, the benefits of products using sustainably sourced palm oil are vast. The neutral taste gives the oil supreme versatility, while the oil also provides ideal textures to foods—from crispy to crunchy to smooth and creamy. Natural preservative qualities in palm oil mean no more chemical additives, and it’s an ingredient that makes foods such as bars and nut butters shelf stable. Palm oil is also a nutritious choice, comprised of 50 percent unsaturated fatty acids (the kind that don’t negatively impact cholesterol) and 50 percent saturated fats (which support the lymph system).
“You want something that is more stable in the body than not, so for us, choosing palm is choosing a higher quality fat that is not going to break down as quickly.”
Thanks to its high smoke point, palm can remain more stable at higher temperatures. “We get palm oil that is high quality and organic, with a saturated fat that is stable” when processed or heated, he says.
While non-sustainable palm oil has a bad reputation, D’Amour says he is happy to be a part of the shift. “A majority of people still think palm equals bad,” he explains, “but I think there is a much stronger movement happening that people are starting to understand— not only that there are other options from a sustainability standpoint, but also the health benefits. We have a long way to go, but we are excited to be a part of that movement.”
For retailers and manufacturers focused on sustainability, the story of the ingredient supplier is key. Daabon has been growing palm and producing organic palm oil in Colombia for more than two generations and is vertically integrated, meaning the company owns the entire supply chain to ensure a high level of ingredient integrity. Daabon supports hundreds of family farmers in Colombia, providing agricultural expertise and access to international markets. It scales its impact by partnering with various food and personal care companies who are helping to spread the word about sustainable palm.
Consumers are willing to spend 31 percent more on foods that align with their values around clean, ethically sourced and natural ingredients.
While formulating for performance and sustainability can make for a more expensive product, many consumers will pay the price. According to research from Nielsen, more than half of U.S. consumers are willing to pay more for products from companies that are making a positive social or environmental impact. Market research firm Mintel reports that consumers are willing to spend 31 percent more on foods that align with their values around clean, ethically sourced and natural ingredients. But, recognizes D’Amour, education is critical to ensuring people actually know why they’re spending more, which is why focusing on the right supply chain partnerships is critical. “Daabon has been really wonderful with providing a ton of research and education on palm oil production,” shares D’Amour.