Avoiding Palm Oil? Then Avoid Most Products in These 5 Categories

Common bottled palm oil products

If we could live happy and healthy lives without harming others, why wouldn’t we?

Pam Ahern, Founder & Director, Edgar’s Mission, Australia

Why wouldn’t we avoid palm oil products once we know the devastation our hunger for them brings to the planet? Once we know the suffering we cause to beautiful, intelligent fellow living beings like the orangutan?  

Both the Sumatran and Bornean orangutan populations are endangered, and there are concerns that they could become extinct. Even though organizations like The Jungle School work tirelessly to rescue orphaned orangutans, raise them and teach them the survival skills they need to re-enter the wild, it’s not enough. 

Oraguntan Jungle School Cover
Orangutan Jungle School is a docu-soap, filmed at Nyaru Menteng in Borneo, Indonesia, and follows the antics, triumphs and tragedies of a group of orphaned orangutans

But small actions of many individuals can have a big effect. Maybe you’ve already chosen one of those actions, like avoiding palm oil products. We want to make that choice as easy as possible for you. 

5 Common Product Types to Avoid – for Your Health, for the Environment, for the Animals 

Palm oil is everywhere, it seems! Manufacturers like it because it’s cheap, has a neutral flavor, and remains solid at room temperature. It’s in a whopping 50% of all packaged products on supermarket shelves. Here are five common categories of palm oil products to avoid. What all five categories have in common is that they represent commercial products ubiquitous in our daily lives. In each category, there are numerous specific products that you will undoubtedly recognize and may not have even realized contain palm oil: 

  1. Commercial Foods72% of the palm oil crop goes into commercial food items. Palm oil and its derivatives are unhealthy for you as well as for the planet and the animals. A few examples of specific items that are likely to contain palm oil are baking oil, cookies, margarine, bread, crisps, vegan cheese (ah – sorry, vegans!), ice cream, cookies, cereal, pizza bases, instant noodles, microwave popcorn, vitamins, whipping cream, non-dairy creamers, and…alas…chocolate. Oh, and dog and cat food (as a filler) as well as baby food.  
  1. Cosmetics. More than 70% of cosmetic products contain palm oil and its derivatives. They hydrate skin and provide foaming, softening, and texturizing actions in finished products. Palm oil is also an essential building block in the manufacture of over 1,000 synthetic compounds, palm oil derivatives with a lot of chemical-sounding names. Examples of these cosmetics include lipstick, powders, makeup bases and foundations, mascara, eye shadow, and eyeliner. 
  1. Soap, Skin & Hair Care. Most skin care products contain at least one ingredient derived from palm oil. Think “Palmolive.” Examples include lotions, creams, skin cleansing products, sunscreen products, shampoo, and hair conditioners. Have you ever tried to find a hair conditioner without palm oil the old-fashioned way, just by reading labels? It is a daunting project. If you do spend the time, though, you will be lucky if you can find one that doesn’t contain palm oil or palm oil derivatives. 
  1. Household Cleaning.  Palm oil is estimated to make up about 50% of household products. It acts as a surfactant and provides a foaming agent in soaps, washing powder, and other cleaning agents. Examples of household cleaning products include laundry detergent, laundry pods, fabric conditioners, dish soap, and all-purpose cleaning agents. 
  1. Biofuel. Bio-diesel is a “diesel fuel made from vegetable oils, animal fats, or recycled restaurant grease” rather than petroleum-based products. Introduced as an alternative to petrol products, as it turns out, to the extent it includes palm oil, it’s not much of an improvement. 
Palm oil free signs
Some Palm Oil free signs frequently found on products

Since palm oil in most parts of the world is an additive to commercial products, you could just make everything from scratch to oversee the ingredients — your own food, cosmetics, soaps and creams, home cleaning agents, and fuel. But we’re guessing you don’t want to go that route. The good news, though, is that in each of these five categories, there are items that do not include palm oil or its derivatives in the list of ingredients. If 50-70% of each category is made with palm oil, then the remaining 30-50% must be without it, right? So it should be relatively easy to read the labels and avoid those palm oil products. “Should be.” That’s the operative phrase. 

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Labelling Complicates Things 

Of course, it would take you a while to read all those labels to find products you can use. But there’s more. Palm oil hides under a plethora of names, 436 to be exact. The Ethical Consumer provides a guide to this confusing mess, simplifying where possible. For example, recognizing four “root” words, building blocks for palm oil derivatives, will help you spot “over half of the fatty acid compounds that are often made from palm oil.” These root words are palm, stear, laur, glyc

Palm Oil Investigations provides another comprehensive list, A-Z Alternate Names for Palm Oil. So if you’re prepared to familiarize yourself with all these chemical names and acronyms…and then spend hours going through product after product on the shelf or online to make certain the items you buy don’t contain any of these additives, then you’re home free. But just to help you out along the way, here are some great referrals to palm oil-free products. 

Alternate names for palm oil
A few alternate names for palm oil frequently found in everyday products.

Some Great Palm Oil-Free Products 

Naturaler is a UK website full of tips and recommendations for living a more eco-friendly, chemical-free, and natural lifestyle. Check HERE for their list of palm-oil free products and the UK stores that sell these products.  

The Ethical Consumer provides another excellent food list of palm oil-free products and adds other household items as well: shampoo, soap, makeup, perfume, skincare, shaving gel and foam, toothpaste, deodorant, sunscreen, laundry detergents, dishwasher detergent, washing up liquid, and more.  

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Here Are 10 of Our Favorite Palm Oil Free Picks… 

We chose our top ten palm oil-free products not only because they’re must-haves in your pantry, cleaning closet, and as part of your daily beauty routine, but for ease of access. All of these products are available on leading retailer sites in the UK.

  • Meridian Crunchy Almond Butter and Peanut Butter.  No kitchen is complete without nut butter for protein-rich snacks and light meals. Check out the full range of Meridian products on their website. Purchase directly from Meridian Foods or from Ocado.
  • Meridian Cocoa & Hazelnut Butter. The perfect substitute for Nutella because yes, folks, sorry to say, Nutella DOES have palm oil among its ingredients. If you can’t find this must-have locally or on your preferred retailer, you can buy it from TESCO.
  • Suma Organic Vegan Green Pesto. What’s Pasta without Pesto? Available at the Ethical Superstore, another shop that makes it easy to find your palm oil-free products with a system of “Product Ethics and Tags.”  
  • Wayfare Foods Vegan Cheeses (and Butter).  Vegans, we told you to be wary of vegan cheeses because so many contain palm oil — but here’s a product from a family company that’s devoted to plant-based, sustainable foods, and that means vegan cheese and butter that is palm oil-free – Wayfare. Check out their other products also.
  • Walkers Shortbread. We chose this one because it has been around for so long and is so available. Many of us remember eating it when we were kids. Goodness, our grandparents, and great-grandparents probably ate it too! The company has been in Speyside since 1898. With melt-in-your-mouth simple deliciousness, Walkers Shortbread brands itself “The World’s Finest Shortbread.” And it’s palm oil-free. Shop on the Walkers Shortbread website or on your favorite retailer.
  • Walkers Crisps. And then there’s Walkers Crisps — another Walkers. Very British and very palm oil-free. Get them through Amazon or The English Tea Store. You will more than likely find them in a store near you as well. 
  • Natessance Ultra-?nourishing Shea Butter & Keratin Conditioner. Remember how hard we said it was to find a hair conditioner without palm oil? Well, visit ECCO-Verde for a rich assortment of cosmetics and skin and hair care products. You can use the handy filters in the left column of the site to indicate you want your search results to show palm oil-free products.  
  • Ecozone Dishwasher Tablets. Last but not least — from the Household Cleaning category, Ecozone Dishwasher Tablets. While you’re on the site, be sure to check out their other palm oil-free products. Many Ecozone products are available on Amazon as well. 

Want More? We Have a Better Way for You!  

Online grocery sites don’t cater well to people who shop with dietary restrictions or preferences. Tediously reading individual products’ ingredients lists and poor recommendations leave consumers tired, frustrated, and stuck with what they are used to. Clickerance helps you easily discover what you or your household can or can’t have at your favorite grocers and makes the best substitute recommendations for what you cannot have. Sign up today to start using Clickerance as a trusted shopping assistant for managing your food preference.

So there you have it. The search for palm oil-free foods and other items may have seemed overwhelming, but we at Clickerance can make it easy, providing you with results as you shop. There really are ways to live happier, healthier lives while doing your part to avoid harm.  

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