'What!?' You ask, 'Not chocolate too??'. Unfortunately chocolate is one of the worst offenders in the palm oil sphere. The good news is there are a lot of chocolate options that are palm oil free. The bad news? There are still a lot that contain palm oil. Which makes it a bit of a minefield when you're tying to do the right thing.
Just a bit of a disclaimer first; I'm only going to cover the palm oil issue here, I'm not going to touch on fair trade, or the child labour and slavery issues with many African plantations. Sorry, one issue at a time is best here, I think. However, the database listings do highlight those that are fair trade and any other claims made by the brand.
Now, on to the topic at hand; palm oil in chocolate. Like peanut butter, it's a bit of a case of trying to squeeze every last bit of saleable product out of a raw material that lead to palm oil being a common chocolate component.
Chocolate is made from cocoa beans, roasted then ground until they release their oil - known as cocoa butter. The cocoa solids are then reincorporated with the butter and some sugar to make chocolate as we know it now. Some chocolate, i.e. Cadbury Dairy Milk, also adds milk (or milk powder) at this stage to make a milder chocolate. But what if you could sell the cocoa butter - for cosmetics, moisturisers, or other food items, and replace it with something else? That 'something else' is usually palm oil (or 'vegetable fat' - the same thing).
Luckily most consumers have caught on to this fact, primarily because the end result doesn't usually taste as good. Cadbury suffered massive consumer backlash when it released a 'new and improved' recipe five years ago, which replaced some of the cocoa butter with palm oil. Luckily for the orangutans, us humans were not keen on the new product, and Cadbury were forced to return to the old, palm oil free, recipe.
However, that doesn't mean all chocolate is palm oil free. While most plain/base chocolates are now palm oil free, a lot of the fun tasty bits aren't. Things like Lindor ball fillings, caramel centres, and other soft fillings are prime candidates for palm oil inclusion.
All is not lost though. There is still a good selection of palm oil free chocolate available. Some of my favourites are;
- Lindt Excellence block range - orange intense and roasted almond are delish!
- Cadbury Crunchie bars, blocks etc - I just love those little crunchie bits!
- And now that there's a salon in Perth, Koko Black for fancy-pants chocolates.
A more complete list of palm oil free chocolates has been added to my Palm Oil Free Database, so check it out!