Published 1 year ago.
About a 2 minute read.
Thanks to the Russia-Ukraine conflict, the British grocery chain has been cut off from its supply of sunflower oil; the company says it must temporarily revert to using palm oil, which it eliminated from its products in 2018.
The global supply chain and economic disruptions that emerged during COVID-19
showed us that we can be nimble when necessary; but shifting global supply
chains away from problematic
such as Russia — especially in times of crisis — is still impossible to
The war in Ukraine has been sending shock waves felt in supply chains and
industries around the world — including the auto and electronics
and unsurprisingly, food companies are also feeling the effects. In addition to
being a key producer of computer chips, wheat, petroleum and wood, Ukraine is
the world’s largest exporter of sunflower
oil; combined with
Russia, it accounts for 70 percent of global supply.
In a blog
this week, Iceland Foods' managing director Richard Walker described how
the sudden unavailability of sunflower oil is forcing the company to find
suitable alternatives and in some cases, break promises it had made regarding
using palm oil — which it vocally eliminated from its own-brand products in
Walker explained that when Iceland distanced itself from palm oil from all its
own-label products in 2018, to take a stand against tropical
it greatly increased the company’s reliance on sunflower oil. Now that that
has suddenly become temporarily unobtainable, Walker says Iceland is working
closely with its suppliers to find alternatives; but “in some recipes, the only
viable substitute for sunflower oil — either because of its processing
properties or taste issues — turns out to be … palm oil.
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“I say this with huge regret, but the only alternative to using palm oil under
the current circumstances would simply be to clear our freezers and shelves of a
wide range of staples including frozen chips and other potato products,” he
In the meantime, Iceland has agreed to use RSPO-certified sustainable palm
in a limited range of its own-label products that will begin to appear in stores
in June; those items will clearly show palm oil in the list of ingredients.
While the industry has made strides since Iceland stopped using palm oil, and
individual brands such as Dr. Bronner’s have laid the
for their own sustainable and ethical palm oil supply chains, Walker says he
remains skeptical as to “whether there ever really can be any such thing as
truly ‘sustainable palm oil’ available in the mass market” — and he insists
Iceland’s return to the contentious
is temporary, and the retailer will revert to using sunflower oil as soon as the
supply situation stabilizes.
“In the meantime,” Walker says, “I can only ask our customers to bear with us as
we attempt to deal with one of the unexpected consequences of the return of war
to Europe, and to keep our stores stocked and the nation fed.”
Published Mar 30, 2022 2pm EDT / 11am PDT / 7pm BST / 8pm CEST