Palm-oil free mince pies – and everything else!

We’re very pleased to be able to say that from the start of 2017, Riverford has been 100% palm-oil free. For the most part, this was straightforward to achieve: we added ‘no palm oil’ to the criteria any new products must meet, and that was that. We also needed to replace palm oil in a couple of our existing products. Luckily, this was only our Christmas puddings and mince pies, so we had all year to experiment and get the new recipes absolutely right!

Palm oil is the most used vegetable oil in the world. As well as being cheap to produce in large quantities, it has a very long shelf-life, and a high melting point, remaining semi-solid at room temperature (much like butter). This means it can be used in lots of different ways: frying at high temperatures, adding to baked goods, creating margarine, and even in cosmetic products like lipstick and soap.

For all its advantages in the kitchen, there are serious environmental concerns about the production of palm oil and the vast deforestation that has often been perpetrated to make way for plantations. The palm oil industry has been making efforts to become more sustainable in recent years, most notably with the establishment of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil and its certification scheme in 2004. However, we still don’t feel that using any palm oil sits comfortably with our values.

So, we began playing with our Christmas pudding and mince pie recipes. In the puds, we replaced palm oil with organic vegetable oil. The result was much the same, with no real noticeable difference in the light, fruity texture (except a weight off our minds).

In the mince pies, we’ve substituted the palm oil with organic British butter. We had to fiddle about with the recipe a bit to get the texture spot on. While we were at it, we also made the pastry cases deeper, so we could spoon in even more festive filling. We’re really pleased with the result: rich, buttery pies, with a generous filling of plump vine fruit, citrus peel, almonds and a slosh of brandy.

From now on, you can rest assured that every Riverford product is not just 100% organic, but also totally palm-oil free. It may be the easy option, but we know we’re better off without it – why not try our new recipe mince pies and see for yourself!


13 responses to “Palm-oil free mince pies – and everything else!

  1. Well done, Riverford!

  2. Yes, well done. It is really hard (and very time consuming!) to find anything -from shampoo to oatcakes- in the main supermarkets that doesn’t contain palm oil. Like Riverford I’m very suspicious of the “sustainable palm oil label” – this probably means that the damage has already been done and “we’ll continue to profit from it while not destroying anything else.” But the Pimhill oatcakes are great and so are those Riverford mince pies.

  3. Elizabeth Fricker

    I think the mince pies this year are better than ever. Well done!
    From one very appreciative Riverford customer. The sustainable, organic ingredients and fabulous taste and texture can’t be beaten!

  4. Great job! I actively try to avoid palm oil, and it is very difficult. In addition to the concerns mentioned (and food miles!) I am also aware of lumps of it being washed up on beaches from container ships. Dogs have been made ill after eating it and I worry about the affect it could have on any marine life that also try to eat it.

    Off now to order some mince pies! Thank you!

  5. Your mince pies are truly superb, even better than last year, and now *re your article above, we know why. Thank you and a very Merry Christmas to you all !

  6. Great! Now you can get the meat of your tables too!

  7. Well done riverford! 🤗🤗

  8. Good news, I lived and worked on the island of Borneo and the destruction of the rain forest and loss of habitat is horrendous, mostly in Kalimantan but East Malaysia too..palm oil plantations are everywhere. If only more companies followed your example.

  9. The only problem withhaving no Palm Oil to save the environment is, some of us have LACTOSE INTOLERANCE … As producers reject palm oil, and go for BUTTER claiming this is healthy, natural , and saves trees/the planet., we are finding it increasingly difficult to find cakes and baked goods (eg your MINCE PIES) to eat … and are very sad. We go hungry in, for example National Trust cafes and all up-market snack places or end up eating crisps with our tea. Do please consider that sometimes palm oil means a person with a true, medically significant intolerance(not a fad) can eat a manufactured cake/mince pie/biscuit. Butter is used by Marks and Spencers in pretty much everything, regrettably. But it is not universally digestible.

    • It says the Christmas puddings are made with vegetable oil so should be suitable for you. Why not try them? Palm oil isn’t essential when other vegetable based options are available.

    • I have a seriously lactose intolerant person in my extended family, and she copes with occasionally eating lactose-containing foods by taking the appropriate enzyme in tablet form. I wonder if you perhaps haven’t tried this? Also, because of serious digestive problems, I have for the last 30 years relied on taking unsalted crisps with me wherever I go, being unable to eat most of the very sweet and rubbishy foods served up as snacks, so I for one am very appreciative of crisps: they have been my lifeline and I wouldn’t knock them.

  10. I agree – being lactose intolerant means no cakes or baked goods unless you make them yourself. I don’t like Christmas pudding and it’s not a great substitute for mince pies. Yours are lovely but now I realise why I suffer if I eat them. Good to not be using all oil though

  11. I should declare an interest at the outset: I represent a number of major food and healthcare retailers on the Board of the Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) Association, which is mentioned in this blog.

    This is one of the most balanced and thoughtful pieces I have seen on palm oil. Thank you, Riverford. I fully respect the decision that using palm oil does not fit comfortably with Riverford’s values. Having explained the detailed process Riverford went through to develop palm-oil free recipes, this was described as the “easy option”. The alternative, if continuing to use palm oil, is to source 100% RSPO certified palm oil, which is possible in the UK but requires every step in the supply chain (including the final manufacturer) to be RSPO certified. It is true to say that the palm oil industry has made considerable efforts to become more sustainable through the RSPO over the last decade. Yet any standard is only as strong as its weakest link and RSPO is still in the process of strengthening its requirements for no deforestation, no planting on peat and no exploitation. The palm oil industry needs to understand that until it improves its sustainability performance, the “easy option” in some cases will be to formulate palm oil free recipes.

    Following the lactose intolerant conversation, all vegetable oils must now be identified on the label so you can see whether it is palm oil or another source. The difficulty is, as the Riverford blog points out, palm oil has properties which make it technically versatile, which most other vegetable oils do not, with the possible exception of coconut oil in certain applications.

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