Don't Buy Candy with Palm Oil, Instead Try One of these Rain Forest-Friendly Options

by - Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Did you ever think snacking on your favorite candy could somehow effect the rain forests?

It sounds crazy, but it is true. More and more candy brands, from chocolates to Haribo bears, are using Palm Oil. This seems like a healthier alternative to corn syrup, but it comes at a huge environmental cost.

Palm oil can only be grown in very specific environments. Sadly, these are mostly the spaces that rainforests need, so as demand for palm oil rises, more rain forests are cleared for palm oil plantations. Rain forests are precious to our eco-system, and they are a major cooling force in the face of climate crisis. They also house a huge percentage of our biodiversity, and we need to stop mass extinction to save our planet. If that wasn't enough, indigenous people are also being forced out to make room for these plantations.

Yes, it is that bad. Palm oil is a big deal, and if you aren't paying attention to it, at least a third of your home's food and products contain it (yep, it's that common).

This is all terrible. What can I do about it?

First, write your favorite company and ask them to stop using unethical palm oil. Encourage them to only use RSPO certified sources OR to give up palm oil completely. They will only know we care if we tell them so. If you need a template on how to do this, we have an easy one for you.

Second, tell your friends about it. Palm oil is one of those huge issues that no one is talking about yet. Just tell them about how you are trying to give up palm oil, and if they ask, explain more about why. When you find something great that isn't made with palm oil, pass that link on on Facebook. We are most influenced by the people we love. The best thing you can do for spreading the word is start with the people in your life. No one knows until you tell them.

Last, switch out these palm oil candy sources for something more ethical. This sounds tough. I mean, palm oil is in EVERYTHING. But I have ideas to share with you! It may not be as hopeless as you think!

Now, here is the bad news. And take a deep breath, because I have a lot of bad news about just how much candy has palm oil in it. Here is a partial list of the candy with palm oil:

100 Grand
Almond Joy
Crunch Bars
Haribo Bears
Kit Kats (also, I know of Kit Kats with maggots in them. Just don't eat Kit Kats)
M and M's
Milk Duds
Milky Way
Most Nestle Products (they are the worst, as we have mentioned many times before)
All Reese's Products

Even worse news? This is the tip of the iceberg. Some candies (like Hershey's) make lists of candy with palm oil as an ingredient, but their approach has actually improved over time (you can read about their RSPO, completely traceable palm oil here). In other cases some candies (like smarties) have palm oil in some countries and not in others.  It goes to show these things can be tricky (and change over time for better or for worse). My advice is to always, always check.

Ok, now before you give up completely, know this is a problem we can solve! If we start switching away from products that use palm oil, companies will have to take a more responsible approach.  I have a sweet tooth too, so I am not going to say no more candy, but a change in approach can make a big difference.

How do you spot a candy with palm oil?

First off, it is super helpful to get familiar with the many names for this ingredient. This post has a pretty extensive list of names to look out for.

It's important to look for yourself. When researching this, it kind of blew my mind how different sources list different candies as bad. In one, Hershey's is one the good list. On the next, not so much. Palm oil's use is exploding so much that it may have just changed between the times lists are published. Certifications are expanding too. You just have to look.

From there, I have a few ideas for how to find switches and specific recommendations for your favorites on that epically long list.

First, Learn to Love Local Candy

When we go on roadtrips, we tend to go all out on snacks. We used to get everything we needed at a gas station along the way, but with the help of the internet and a little creativity, we haven't taken a great tradition and made it even better. We find local candy shops and grab a bunch of stuff to try on the road.

I know you are thinking- that sounds so expensive! It isn't! Our favorite on our last roadtrip was chocolate-covered graham crackers at Len Libby's Candies in Maine. We got them wrapped in paper, so no plastic either. I think each one was about a dollar, and it was about the size of a candy bar.

We have done the research- every state in America has it's own local candy gems. I think starting with buying things made near you (wherever you are) does the most good.

Local candy has so many benefits- you are keeping your money where you live, helping your neighbors maintain jobs, you can find things without any packaging at a good candy counter, and Palm Oil is often used in food with a lot of chemicals meant to preserve the candy longer, so the shorter distances your food travels, the less likely it is to have palm oil in it.

Second, Embrace Palm Oil-Free Switches

Ok, that's all well and good, but what if you just really love a Reese's peanut butter cup OR you need M and M's to bribe your child not to pee on your floor (this is my actual situation).

Some of these have perfectly ethical substitutes. Almost all of these have substitutes with corn syrup instead, which is not healthier (definitely not), but it is weirdly better for the environment. And really, you are eating candy, so let's not get too excited about health here.

Instead of Most Candy Bars...

There are lots of chocolate companies out there trying to take a more ethical approach to the chocolate and palm oil. The first couple of these I can find easily in grocery stores in the PNW. If you are in another part of the country, it might be other spots. There are lots of good choices out there, the key is to just start looking.

Alter Eco has a pretty amazing (and tasty) collection of truffles and candy bears, all fair trade.

Theo Chocolates also have extremely high standards and ethics around their chocolate. A lot of their bars are on the fussy end, but milk chocolate is pretty delicious.

Endangered Species chocolate bars are fair trade, palm oil free, and the profits go toward supporting endangered animals.

Nibmor is another chocolate company with ethical practices and lots of choices.

If the real issue is you are at a very basic gas station and need the best of the worst, I would probably say a Hershey's bar. But that is a low bar.  Better would be something that isn't wrapped in plastic and had the RSPO certification (though Hershey's is transparent about their supply chain). Lindt and Ghiradelli rank higher on their RSPO usage. Godiva doesn't have any palm oil, and you can find it at drugstores or Hudson News. But you should even check around the gas station! The more local the treat, the better.

Instead of Reese's Peanut Butter Cups... 

Justin's Peanut Butter Cups are your easiest option- they have the sustainable palm oil certification, and they are actually getting mainstream enough that we have spotted them at gas stations and airport shops (thanks Hudson News!).

UnReal has peanut butter cups AND a pretty excellent M and M replacement. Bulk candy sections in natural food stores tend to have an m and m equivalent too.

Newman's Own has a peanut butter cup too, and they have the Rainforest Alliance Certification.

Instead of Haribo Bears...

Ok, this is a weird one, because only the higher end gummi bears have palm oil. The cheaper and store brand bears don't tend to have it. So if avoiding palm oil is the goal, you can simply be cheap and head back to the corn syrup bears.

If you are looking for something with that quality without the palm oil, Black Forest Gummi Bears are made with organic ingredients, and they do not contain palm oil.

Yum Earth also makes organic gummy bears that are palm oil free (they also sell licorice and a few other items with RSPO palm oil).

Instead of Sweet Treats (Like Sweettarts and Skittles)... 

These can be a bit of a toss up- some mainstream sweets have a lot of palm oil (looking at you, Jolly Ranchers), and some have good old-fashioned corn syrup.

For the record, if you want to be eco-friendly but are in a mainstream store, dum dums are a solid bet. They don't have palm oil, don't have any individual plastic packaging, and are made in the US from US made components. Dum dums are a gem.

Yum Earth also makes lolipops, licorice, and other sweet treats without palm oil or using RSPO palm oil.

Other options are blow pops, air heads, some ring pops (check!) and hot tamales.

Don't Buy Candy with Palm Oil- Palm Oil Free and Ethical Switches for your Favorite Treat

Ok, your mission is to start looking on your candy packaging! Is palm oil listed? If it is, can you find the little frog with the rainforest alliance seal? If not, it's time to move on to another bar. Even our candy choices have big environmental, ethical, and humanitarian implications, so it's worth rethinking what you are eating!

You May Also Like



Get Our Latest Posts Via Email - It's Free

Enter your email address: