Experts argue better social marketing can overcome negative consumer palm oil sentiment

This was the opinion of the six expert panelists who convened virtually for the ‘Vertical Challenges for Sustainable Palm Oil’s Future’ panel debate, held as part of the international Palm Oil Trade Fair and Seminar 2021 organised by the Malaysian Palm Oil Council (MPOC).

The panellists were: international civil society body Solidaridad Network Asia Senior Advisor Teoh Cheng Hai, the United Kingdom Field Conservation Manager Catherine Barton, legal firm FratiniVergano Partner and ASEAN states advisor Pablo Vergano, MPOC Science & Environment Division Director Dr. Ruslan Abdullah and EngageMinds Hub, Consumer, Food & Health Engagement Research Center Director Professor Guendalina Graffigna. The session was moderated by MPOC Deputy CEO Belvinder Sron.

Professor Graffigna spoke on data her team had collected conducted on consumers in an European population, namely Italy, who purchased No Palm Oil products, revealing that the main reason for consumers making this purchase to be very much emotional and not based on scientific knowledge or facts.

“There is growing literature starting to disentangle the beliefs of consumers regarding palm oil and palm oil products – in 2019 one study found that palm-oil free products are perceived to be ‘healthier’ and more eco-friendly by consumers, yet the same study also found a gap of actual knowledge regarding palm oil amongst the studied consumers,”​ she said.

“Many studies across the world are pointing out this consumer gap of knowledge, their motivations and irrational processes of decision-making that are the basis of them selecting palm oil-free products.