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The Vital Role of Palm Oil in Food Manufacturing: Powering the World’s Biggest Brands


For decades, food-grade palm oil has been at the epicentre of the global food industry, and few ingredients have come close to carving out as indispensable a role for itself. The fruit of the oil palm’s versatility, functional properties, and cost-effectiveness enhances efficiency, quality, and profitability across the industry. It is not only an ingredient but a strategic asset that propels products, businesses, and economies forward. 

From savoury to sweet, food products that contain palm oil include margarine, spreads, baked goods, confectionery, chocolates, ice creams, snacks, instant noodles, and even infant formula. 

Palm oil’s high smoke point and excellent frying properties make it an ideal cooking oil for deep frying applications, where consistent heat distribution ensures uniform cooking and an enticingly crisp exterior that encapsulates the food’s moisture. 

This makes it a staple choice for deep frying applications from golden-fried delicacies to tempura delights.

Food grade palm oil has a unique semi-solid state at room temperature and is inherently resistant to oxidation give it a competitive edge, revolutionizing various aspects of food processing and product formulation. 

Palm oil’s oxidative stability  makes it a natural preservative, preventing rancidity and preserving flavours, textures, and aromas. This maintains the quality and extends the shelf life of food products and makes it invaluable for a wide range of processed food items such as margarine, spreads, baked goods, and snacks.

Beyond these functional benefits, palm oil also plays a pivotal role in enhancing the sensory attributes of numerous food products. The semi-solid consistency of palm oil  greatly influences the textures of products, contributing to their overall sensory appeal. From the silken allure of chocolates to the creamy indulgence of ice creams, palm oil adds a rich and luxurious mouthfeel. This sensory dimension underscores its significance providing a smooth and indulgent experience for consumers.

This makes it superior to olive oil for cooking and frying purposes. Unlike olive oil, which can break down and develop undesirable flavours when exposed to high temperatures, palm oil maintains its integrity. Its consistency also enhances the texture of baked goods and spreads, giving them a creamy and luxurious mouthfeel that olive oil’s liquid form can’t replicate.

Furthermore, palm oil’s cost-efficiency is a significant factor that sets it apart from olive and other oils. With a remarkable yield per hectare, palm oil production is more resource-efficient, contributing to both sustainability and affordability. 

Affordability is one of the cornerstones of palm oil’s allure to food brands. With an astonishing  yield per hectare that surpasses all other vegetable oil crops, palm oil’s cost efficiency and reliable supply chain  help keep production costs in check, allowing manufacturers to maintain a competitive edge without compromising on quality.

The journey of palm oil from plant to plate traverses a well-entrenched global supply chain. Nations at the forefront of palm oil production, such as Indonesia and Malaysia, have strategically invested in cultivation, processing, and distribution networks. This well-orchestrated effort ensures a consistent, dependable supply of palm oil, a critical asset in addressing the ever-evolving demands of the food manufacturing sector on a global scale.

Several prominent food manufacturers and cooking oil brands, including NestléUnilever, and Kellogg’s, rely heavily on palm oil to fuel their production processes. These companies often operate on a global scale and produce a wide range of consumer food products. 

Recognizing the imperative of sustainability, these and other manufacturers have established partnerships with the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) to responsibly source palm oil, while domestic certification schemes like the Malaysian Sustainable Palm Oil (MSPO)have an important role to play in supporting the due diligence and risk mitigation processes of operators and traders in supporting sustainable practices throughout the supply chain.

These collaborative initiatives underscore the industry’s commitment to ethical sourcing, environmental preservation, and responsible business conduct. 

Palm oil’s influence transcends its importance as an ingredient or manufacturing input, it also fosters a thriving ecosystem of employment opportunities on a global scale. From plantation workers and processing personnel to logistics and distribution teams, the palm oil industry actively nurtures a web of livelihoods within the food manufacturing supply chain.

Its ability to balance cost-effectiveness with quality preservation underscores its significance in the intricate tapestry of food manufacturing, palm oil emerges not only as an ingredient but as a strategic asset that propels products, businesses, and economies forward. Its unrivalled versatility, coupled with its economic viability, positions it as a dynamic force that will continue to be felt across the culinary spectrum.