• Choose Palm Oil Free Chocolate this Easter: Ingredients to Look Out For & Our Favourite Palm Oil Free Eggs

    March 22, 2017 • EAT, GUIDES, LIFE, VEGAN

    Choose Palm Oil Free Chocolate this Easter - Our Favourite Palm Oil Free Easter Chocolate Picks - Biome Eco Stores

    Look at the plaintive, sweet face of an orangutan and one thing comes to mind. How can we ever purchase products with palm oil that is causing their forest home to be destroyed?

    We weren’t always aware as a population of palm oil being hidden in products. Nor were we aware of the devastation it was causing to species such as orangutans. Or humans, rhinos and elephants.

    Palm oil production is the number one cause of deforestation in Indonesia and Malaysia. It is creating havoc for animal and human habitats and contributing to global warming.

    But, the world is now aware. And we have choices. This Easter is the perfect opportunity to exercise our consumer choice around chocolate. At Biome, we make it easier for you to choose palm oil free chocolate this Easter.

    Is it chocolate or confectionery?

    All chocolate starts with the Theobroma cacao tree, native to South America.  Cacao nibs and cacao powder are raw, while cocoa powder and cocoa butter are heated and processed. Most chocolate is made using cocoa, although there is a rise in popularity of raw chocolate made from cacao, such as Loving Earth chocolate.

    The ingredients in genuine chocolate are cocoa/cacao/cocoa liquor/cocoa mass, mixed with fat (cocoa butter), milk (dairy or non-dairy milk) and sugar.

    Cocoa butter gives chocolate its sheen, taste and snap, but as cocoa becomes more expensive, confectioners are exploring substitute fat sources that will meet consumer tastes as well as regulatory labelling restrictions.

    Our research has determined that while the EU and USA do have rules in place for what percentage of cocoa butter substitute can be used before it is no longer chocolate, we have not been able to find that regulation in Australia.

    The “loop hole” for Easter Eggs in Australia seems to be that they can be sold as “confectionery” rather than chocolate, which means any restrictions around labelling of chocolate would not apply in any case, and they may rather be a “compound chocolate” using some percentage of vegetable oil substitute for cocoa butter.

    For example, here is Woolworths marketing a hollow Milk Chocolate Easter Egg that contains an amount of vegetable fat.

    Woolworths Milk Chocolate Palm Oil


    Woolworths Easter Egg Palm Oil

    Ingredients: Sugar, Milk Solids, Cocoa Butter, Cocoa Mass, Vegetable Fat (Palm, Shea, Sal, Illipe or Kokum in varying quantities), Emulsifiers (Soy Lecithin, 476), Natural Vanilla Flavour.

    Interestingly, we found that Woolworths Brand Cooking Milk Chocolate does not contain any vegetable fat (only Sugar, Milk Solids, Cocoa Butter, Cocoa Mass).  Why put palm oil in a milk chocolate Easter egg that is sold for just $2?  This is opinion only, but it seems that it is possible because Easter Eggs are confectionery, not technically chocolate.

    A positive here is that Woolworths is labelling palm, not just putting vegetable fat – thank you for the transparency.


    Here’s another example of a chocolate shell Cadbury Easter Egg available in Australia:

    Cadbury Peter Rabbit Easter Egg Palm Oil


    Ingredients: Milk, Sugar, Cocoa Butter, Cocoa Mass, Vegetable Fats (Palm, Shea), Emulsifiers (E442, E476), Flavourings… Milk Solids 20 % minimum, actual 23 %, Cocoa Solids 20 % minimum, Contains Vegetable Fats in addition to Cocoa Butter.

    Thank you Cadbury for being ahead of Australia’s labelling regulations and listing palm.

    Is there palm oil hiding in my Easter chocolate?


    At Easter, chocolate sales go gangbusters for the big chocolate companies.  But to reduce costs, cocoa butter alternatives such as palm oil and shea butter may be used in both the chocolate shell and fillings of Easter eggs.

    According to Business Insider (source 1):

    Chocolate makers in the fast-growing Asian market are replacing a bigger proportion of cocoa butter, which gives confectionery its melt-in-the-mouth texture, with cheaper palm oil-based alternatives.

    Confectioners in Asia and Europe are allowed to add cocoa butter equivalent to chocolate, but hold the maximum amount at 5 percent since a higher content can alter the taste and put off customers. In the United States, products using butter alternatives cannot be labeled “chocolate”.

    EU and UK laws allow up to 5% non-cocoa vegetable fats to be substituted for cocoa butter, while the US laws do not.  We have been unable to find chocolate labelling in the Australia New Zealand Food Authority food standards, but the Australian Tax Office takes a view in these excerpts (see source 2):

    Chocolate is any product that is obtained from cocoa nibs, cocoa mass, cocoa, fat reduced cocoa or any combination of two or more of these ingredients, with or without extracted cocoa butter or sucrose.

    Milk chocolate: It contains chocolate liquor, cocoa butter, milk or cream, sugar and flavourings. Milk chocolate contains at least 10% chocolate.

    Compound chocolate: Made with fats other than cocoa butter. They look a lot like chocolate, their taste is similar to chocolate, but they don’t necessarily feel or act like chocolate. They may not have the shine of real chocolate or melt in your mouth.

    White Chocolate: not actually chocolate because it contains no chocolate liquor, which gives chocolate its colour and flavour. It may be made with vegetable fats, colourings and flavourings.

    Easter Eggs can be sold as “confectionery” i.e. something that is considered to be a treat or delicacy, rather than chocolate. Compound chocolate can be sold as confectionery (for example, Easter eggs).

    In 2015, SBS reported all Lindt chocolate was promoted as being palm oil free on social media, when in actual fact they had provided ‘inaccurate information’ to Ethical Consumer. It was found some Lindt chocolate fillings contain palm oil disguised under the name “vegetable fats/oils”.

    Ingredients to look out for when purchasing Easter Eggs

    Palm oil is a hidden ingredient in almost every way it is used, and there are hundreds of different names for palm oil. When looking at Easter chocolate, these are the ingredients to look out for that are more than likely palm oil:

    • Vegetable oils or fats (not always palm oil, but often is if the oil is not specified)
    • Emulsifier (E471 is palm unless stated it is soy)
    • Humectant / Glycerol (mainly 422 is more often than not palm)

    Here is an example of the different labelling of Cadbury Dairy Milk chocolate in the UK (top), where up to 5% substitution of other oils for cocoa butter is allowed, and the USA (bottom), where it is not allowed.

    palm oil Cadbury chocolate

    Image source: http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-31924912

    Where can I find palm oil free chocolate this Easter?

    Palm Oil Investigations has an great barcode scanner App to take shopping that tells you whether there is palm in a product.  Download the POI app here >

    At Biome, we are all in for an ethical Easter! Biome stocks a large range of Easter chocolate and gifts that are completely palm oil free and dairy free. Here are our favourites to make it easier for you.

    Moo Free Organic Dairy Free Easter Eggs

    Choose Palm Oil Free Chocolate this Easter - Our Favourite Palm Oil Free Easter Chocolate Picks - Biome Eco StoresMoo Free egg are palm oil free, vegan, dairy free, cruelty free, egg free, wheat free, casein free, organic and GMO free. Available in Cheeky Orange; Bunnycomb; and Choccy Drops.

    Shop the Moo Free range >

    Bonvita Rice Milk Easter Chocolate

    Choose Palm Oil Free Chocolate this Easter - Our Favourite Palm Oil Free Easter Chocolate Picks - Biome Eco StoresAnother great vegan, dairy and gluten free range that is as delicious as it is healthy. These palm oil free half-eggs and bunnies are made with rice milk and rice syrup powder. A nice treat for kids or a possible gift for friends and teachers with approximately 10 small eggs per bag.


    Shop the Bonvita range >

    Plamil Easter Chocolate

    Choose Palm Oil Free Chocolate this Easter - Our Favourite Palm Oil Free Easter Chocolate Picks - Biome Eco Stores

    Plamil organic rice milk chocolate half eggs (pictured above) are Vegan & Vegetarian Society Approved and contain organic, Fair Trade ingredients. They are vegan, palm oil free, dairy free and gluten free, so suitable for coeliacs.

    Choose Palm Oil Free Chocolate this Easter - Our Favourite Palm Oil Free Easter Chocolate Picks - Biome Eco Stores

    The Plamil organic milk chocolate alternative egg (pictured above) is a yummy alternative to dairy chocolate. It is made from organic, dairy-free milk chocolate, that is made in a dedicated factory where no dairy, gluten or nuts are ever used.

    Shop the Plamil range >

    Loving Earth Boobook Chocolate Eggs

    Choose Palm Oil Free Chocolate this Easter - Our Favourite Palm Oil Free Easter Chocolate Picks - Biome Eco StoresLoving Earth’s Boobook Chocolate Eggs are made from cashew mylk chocolate with a soft caramel inner. They are cane sugar, gluten, dairy and GMO free. They are organic and vegan, and each box purchased helps support the Great Forest National Park campaign.

    Shop Loving Earth boobook chocolate eggs >

    Palm Oil Free Chocolate Blocks

    Choose Palm Oil Free Chocolate this Easter - Our Favourite Palm Oil Free Easter Chocolate Picks - Biome Eco StoresBiome’s palm oil free chocolate blocks include brands such as Pana (pictured above), Bennetto, Bahen & Co, Loving Earth and Alter Eco. And they are available year round, so you can always get an ethical chocolate fix!

    Shop chocolate blocks >


    Will Australia’s big supermarkets take a stand against palm oil?

    Thank you for reading through this lengthy blog post!  The Biome team believe that full understanding of how products are made and transparency will empower consumers to make informed choices and hold manufacturers accountable.

    We were shocked to find that Woolworths brand Easter eggs are being labelled as “Milk Chocolate” even though they appear to be compound chocolate and that palm oil is one of the vegetable fat cocoa butter substitutes used.

    Is Woolworths aware of the devastation palm oil is causing?  To save the forests and orangutans, we need super fast change, and that is so much more feasible if the large corporations take the lead.

    Coles and Woolworths online stores are sporadic with listing ingredients unfortunately, but we see that these Easter products stocked by Coles contain vegetable fat or oil:
    Kinder Surprise Giant Bunny (lists palm)
    Cadbury Solid Mini Eggs Milk Chocolate Delights

    If you’re concerned about this also, you can help by sending a message to Woolworths and Coles to remove palm oil from their Easter range.


    Further reading

    Read more about our stance on palm oil here >




    1. http://www.businessinsider.com/r-as-cocoa-price-soars-chocolate-makers-devour-substitutes-2014-9?IR=T
    2. https://www.ato.gov.au/Business/GST/In-detail/GST-issues-registers/Food-Industry-Partnership—issues-register/?page=28