‘Food bluff of the year’ anti-prize puts Lätta in spotlight over palm oil content

By Katy Askew

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Sustainability Palm oil deforestation

Swedish consumer 'bluff' award highlights growing interest in ingredients
Swedish consumer 'bluff' award highlights growing interest in ingredients
Spreads brand Lätta, owned by Upfield, has come under fire for its palm oil content after being named “Årets matbluff” – meaning “food bluff of the year” – by Swedish consumer association Äkta Vara.

The “anti-award”​ has been voted on annually by Swedish consumers since 2015. In this year’s poll, Lätta attracted more than 50% of votes. Out of around 30,000 votes cast on Äkta Vara’s website, 17,606 were for Lätta.

Äkta Vara described this as a “crushing” result, noting that the closest of the five contestants only had 5,000 votes. “Lätta is a very well-known brand in Sweden and is also sold in Germany. Lots of people have an opinion of it,”​ explained Björn Bernhardson, Deputy Chairman and Executive Member at the Swedish consumers’ organisation.

“It therefore hits you in the eye all the more when the producer is being caught bluffing in this way.”

What’s the ‘bluff’?

According to Äkta Vara, Swedish consumers reacted angrily to the fact that Lätta contains more palm oil than rapeseed oil but highlights rape as a key ingredient in “many places”​ on the packaging in “both text and picture”​.

Lätta contains 21% palm oil and 18% rapeseed oil, a spokesperson for the brand told FoodNavigator. However, palm oil is only mentioned on the ingredients list in what Äkta Vara described as “very small letters”.

Lätta original list of ingredients: Water, palm oil*, rapeseed oil (18 %), buttermilk (5%), modified starch, salt (1.5%), emulsifier (mono- and diglycerides of vegetable fatty acids, sun flower lecithin), preservatives (potassium sorbate), acid (lactic acid), natural flavouring vitamin A and D. *= Traceable and sustainably certified

“It is obvious that the producers are aware that consumers, for various reasons, don’t want to buy palm oil and therefore the mentioning of it is avoided as much as possible,”​ Bernhardson noted.

According to the consumer organisation, Buttermilk (which accounts for 5% of content) is also “disproportionally highlighted”.

Lätta’s on box communication states: “Made with Swedish rape oil and tasty buttermilk” ​and the box is decorated with rape flowers. It is also stressed that the margarine is made in Sweden.

Sustainable palm oil?

palm oil plantation, forest Droits d'auteur  neoellis
©iStock/ Droits d'auteur neoellis

European consumers are increasingly aware of the sometimes-problematic nature of palm oil, which has come to be associated with negative environmental and health connotations.

Deforestation in countries like Indonesia, where large swathes of forest have been cleared for palm oil plantations, is a particular concern. The impact of oil palms growing on High Conservation Values Areas, peat land, and former tropical forests, have negative implications for climate change and biodiversity.

As a result, in Europe there has been a mounting backlash against palm oil, which is the most consumed oil in the world. UK retailer Iceland, for instance, pledged to remove palm oil from all its own brand products last year, a promise it has since had to back pedal on due to the difficulty and expense of such a large-scale reformulation project. The supermarket removed its own label branding from 17 products instead of the palm oil, it emerged this month. 

However, industry experts often stress the need to shift the sector as a whole to more sustainable production methods. To achieve this, proponents of sustainably sourced palm oil argue that markets like Europe, where sustainability issues are a high concern, need a seat at the table to influence production methods. According to the European Palm Oil Alliance, the main consumers of palm oil are China, India, Indonesia and the European Union, which collectively account for almost 50% of all palm oil used. Without consumers in markets like the EU demanding the switch to sustainable palm production, there is the possibility that the industry will expand unchecked. 

A spokesperson for Upfield – the former Unilever spreads business that was spun-out under the ownership of KKR last year – told FoodNavigator that the company is committed to sourcing palm oil certified by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO).

“We respect the fact that palm oil is a topical ingredient. Therefore, it is important to choose sustainably produced palm oil that is certified according to the RSPO – an organisation that we are member of. All palm oil in our products is certified and sustainably produced according to RSPO's criteria.”

The spokesperson said the company was “disappointed”​ to receive negative feedback, which it now plans to review.

However, they stressed: “The labelling of Lätta is truthful and in full compliance of the regulation. Our intention was to highlight the local sourcing of rapeseed oil, which we believe is important to our consumers. The ingredient list reflects the content of the product in descending order.

“Lätta is a brand that Swedes like and respect. Our customers appreciate the taste of the product, that it is plant-based so impacts the environment less than animal products and that it is made in Sweden.”

Increasing attention on ingredients

Äkta Vara said this year’s vote showed a spike in consumer engagement.

The number of votes, 30,680, was almost double last year’s number of 15,514.

The award has also caught the attention of mainstream media, with the “winner” being revealed during a live broadcast on Sweden’s second largest TV channel, TV4.

The other finalists for ‘food bluff of the year’ also reflected growing interest in – and scepticism of – the ingredients list and related claims.

Äkta Vara detailed the finalists: 

swedish consumer
  • Glacéau Smartwater, an “unnecessarily expensive bottled water”​ produced by the CocaCola owned brand Glacéau using a “nutritionally pointless distillation process”​.
  • Oatly havregurt, an oat-based yoghurt substitute which “despite its name and the bacterial fermentation process used”​ contains no live bacteria “due to undisclosed UHT pasteurization”. 
  • Garant ekologisk kallpressad grönsaksjuice, an organic cold-pressed so called vegetable juice with “beetroot, celery and fennel”​ depicting a beetroot on the front of the bottle but containing more than 70% apple juice. 
  • Festis guanabana pineapple, a fruit drink containing 0.003% (15 milligrams per bottle) of the tropical fruit.

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Forests in Sweden

Posted by Per,

I'm not sure of the point of Peter's comment. It is a fact that the packaging of Lätta was deceptively omitting describing the main constituent of its product in its marketing. This is true no matter your stance on palm oil.

Peter's claim that Sweden should have more forest land is bizarre. Sweden has a total land surface of 41 million hectares. Of which 28 million is forest. That means Sweden is 68% forest.

Source: https://www.skogssverige.se/skog/fakta-om/den-svenska-skogen

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Gullible do-gooders.

Posted by Rose Ventris,

Latta only outlined that this spread contained Swedish rapeseed and buttermilk......as opposed maybe to rapeseed and buttermilk from another country.
There was no need to quantify the amounts as this is separately listed in the ingredients lists.
People should get a hold on life and realise how easily they are falling prey to the whims and policies of well paid NGOs. They are the one putting out all kinds of mistrusts about the health and safety of this oil. Deforestation in Asia is caused by timber.........and oil palm development is given as the reason/excuse by the timber-hungry corrupt state governments who hand out the licenses. Palm oil requires a heavy investment before showing an income. It takes at least 6 years before any cleared land starts giving a revenue with oil palm, whereas cutting down a tree is immediate cash in hand.
People should be less gullible and start asking what the NGO's have actually achieved and by what means and how much they are paid. If NGO's were successful or at least honest, they would by now in the last 20 years have managed to show the plantation companies how to improve their production towards a more efficient, less wasteful and damaging cultivation. That they have not is pretty indicative that they seem to prefer the journey (and income) rather than the ultimate destination.

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Why Palm oil

Posted by Peter,

Why target Palm Oil? Latta brand has confirmed that the Palm oil it uses in its product is certified sustainable Palm oil. Can you say the same for Rape seed oil, is it sustainable certified oil? Can you say the same for soy oil?
Do you have any scientific proof on the detrimental health of Palm oil? There are hundreds of scientific proof of the goodness of Palm oil.
Palm oil is the most efficiently produced oil in the world. It gives you 7 MT of oil an Ha, whereas Rape seed oil only produce less than 1 MT. Rape seed and other oils require 10 times more land than Palm oil. Why blame Palm oil for deforestation when other oils have cleared 10 times more land to produce oil equivalent to Palm oil? Cattle is the number one culprit with respect to deforestation, next comes Rape seed, soy oil, etc. Palm oil is at the bottom of the list. Yet you don’t condem cattle rearing and other oils, why? Is this not discrimination? Amazon forest is disappearing at a very fast rate due to Cattle and soybean cultivation. Why do you keep quiet?
Palm oil producing countries have more than 50% of their land under forest. Can Sweden and other EU countries claim the same? If you are concerned about deforestation and climate change, why don’t EU countries start reforestation. Convert 50% of your agriculture land to forest. Let there be a level playing field.
Latta did not bluff the consumers, it’s the NGO’s and those trying to protect their own industry that has bluffed the consumers.

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