Richard Walker

Source: Iceland

Iceland MD Richard Walker said the “thorny technical issues” surrounding the removal of palm oil from some products had been overcome

Iceland says it has now reformulated 17 products that proved too tricky to include in its 2018 pledge to go palm oil free. 

The “thorny technical issues” that led Iceland to remove its name from the packaging, rather than palm oil from the products, had been overcome, said MD Richard Walker.

The frozen food chain announced in April 2018 that all its own label products would be palm oil-free by the end of the year. In January 2019 it said the goal had been achieved.

It then emerged that while palm oil had successfully been removed from about 130 lines, some had been rebranded instead.

Walker confirmed in a blog at the time that Iceland’s name had been removed from 32 products. Of these, 17 would be palm oil-free and back in Iceland branding by April that year, he said. The other 15 would not regain Iceland’s brand, because removing palm oil meant “a massive increase in cost that neither we nor our customers would be able to bear”, he wrote.

Speaking last week at The Grocer Conference, Walker said: “Oh, and since The Grocer was quick to pounce on the fact that, in a small handful of cases, we fulfilled our pledge to make the Iceland own label palm oil-free by temporarily removing our branding from products while we resolved some particularly thorny technical challenges, I am very happy to report that all of these are now back on sale under the Iceland own label with no palm oil.”

An Iceland spokesman later added that he was referring to the 17 the retailer had intended to switch back to its own branding. They included four garlic bread lines that missed the April 2019 deadline because reformulation had proved more difficult than anticipated. New packaging had recently been approved for the four and they would go on sale in Iceland branding, and palm oil free, from April this year, the spokesman said.

The changeover would then fully complete after pre-existing stock had sold out, he added. 

The conference, which this year focused on purpose, was also told that Iceland had eliminated 29% of plastic packaging from its own label ranges since the beginning of 2018.