Spanish Trap(a)


Spanish food producers and traders are the last to join the commercial war against palm oil in the hope of revamping their stagnating market.  Trapa follows the exact steps of its European counterparts, proving its a consolidated strategy. But risks are higher than advantages and results will be poor as Italy shows. 

Trapa’s ‘free from palm oil’ campaign is cynically commercial.  It copycats the unethical strategy pursued by Barilla and COOP in Italy and Iceland Foods in the UK*. Trapa is loudly promoting the replacement of palm oil with other vegetable oils (better oils?) inducing the consumers to believe its products are better. Are they?

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We do not think so. So does science.

Palm oil replacement with sunflower oil (one of the two lobby of farmers that campaigns against palm oil in Brussels) is well advertised by the use of the claim palm oil free. This claim is illegal in the US and in Turkey because it discriminates a healthy ingredient and it misleads consumers. The (ab)use of the claim is an easy shortcut and populist way to capture (or mislead) new consumers in a stagnating market while quality remains doubtful.

HEALTH   Many companies have removed palm oil to improve the quality of their products by reducing saturated fats. FALSE!!! Through studies and empirical research, we have demonstrated that the absence of palm oil DOES NOT CORRESPOND TO A SIGNIFICANT REDUCTION OF SATURATED FATS**

In this case, the claim is clearly misleading: it is designed to deceive the consumer. National and European authorities would intervene if they were not so lazy and pressured by desperate lobbies.

ENVIRONMENT    Companies like Barilla have removed palm oil for what they claim are ethical reasons. They argue palm oil causes deforestation, death of orangutans, and reduction of biodiversity.

REALLY? NO, IT IS FALSE!   It is enough to read the inspiring Barilla’s sustainability report to learn that palm oil is the most sustainable crop, exactly what science demonstrates.


Palm oil is the most sustainable crop with a fully certified supply chain. Demonizing it would be socially and environmentally counterproductive. It is the crop with the highest yield per hectare: 3.8 tonnes vs. 0.8 for rapeseed and 0.7 for sunflower (TAKE NOTE IF YOU USE SUNFLOWER, PLEASE!!!). It needs less water, energy and pesticides than any other crops.

Replacing palm plantations with another crop would only lead to a greater impact on the environment – more land needed and consequently more deforestation and fewer orangutans. This would not improve sustainability levels in any way, shape or form.

It is the only vegetable oil capable of sustain a balance between the demand for development of millions of people and the need of preservation of flora and fauna. So, instead of boycotting it, we have to support sustainable palm oil and cooperate with local producers.

Ethical companies behave differently from Barilla, COOP and now TRAPA. They would work harder to help building a more sustainable supply chain, exactly what few other companies (have done and) are doing. Even Greenpeace and the WWF  got to the conclusion that the BEST ALTERNATIVE TO PALM OIL IS SUSTAINABLE PALM OIL.


Abandoning palm oil is an unethical hazard and it is expensive:

– meaningless increase in sales (ask the many Italian companies that are regretting it);

– considerable technical investments (switching from palm oil to sunflower oil);

– expensive (and discriminatory) communication campaigns;

– very high price of alternative oils.

* Each of the three companies have abandoned palm oil for different reasons. All  have been disowned by science.

** We do not discuss saturated fats here. Just a question: are they so bad if included in a balanced diet? And what about the taste of products with reduced fats?

For Free Choice aims to promote scientific information and method in public discourse. For Free Choice also defends consumers’ choice rights against the smear and demonizing campaigns which aim to confuse them and benefit specific interests.