As brands look to certify their products as sustainable, palm oil is one ingredient that has been surrounded by concerns about its its sustainability, with deforestation, habitat degradation, climate change, animal cruelty and indigenous rights abuses.
Palm oil is used in 50% of all consumer goods, according to the Rainforest Action Network, and the United Nations has said palm oil production is destructive and a major source of environmental degradation and biodiversity loss in Southeast Asia. Because of this, companies are seeking to reduce or eliminate its use, however, it presents several challenges.
Calyxt’s partnership with an undisclosed ingredients manufacturer in Asia, hopes to produce a viable commercial alternative to palm oil that can compete at scale while offering assurances of sustainability. If it is successful, there is a good chance that manufacturers will at least try the soybean oil as an alternative.
Nestlé, the world’s largest food manufacturer, made a commitment of no deforestation by 2020. However, by September 2019, Reuters reported Nestlé had readjusted its goals and was now aiming to achieve deforestation-free supply chains by the end of 2022. The company said at the time that 90% of the key commodities bought by the company had been verified deforestation-free. It has used satellite imagery to identify areas at risk of deforestation, and is currently using the service to monitor its entire palm oil supply chain.
Although making the change to soybean oil from palm oil will be a challenge, Calyxt has the experience and leverage of already working in the plant-based ingredients industry. The company’s list of genetically modified plants with the ability to become commercially available ingredients includes soybean varieties modified to deliver premium oils, gluten-free oats that can be grown during the winter and a high fiber wheat.
If the product proves to be successful, Calyxt would have a potentially lucrative market to offer it, providing Nestle and other manufacturing companies with a plant based and sustainable option.