Step in the right direction? Nissin reveals plans to procure sustainable and conflict-free palm oil

By Guan Yu Lim

- Last updated on GMT

Nissin Foods Group takes further steps to procure sustainable and conflict-free palm oil ©Getty Images
Nissin Foods Group takes further steps to procure sustainable and conflict-free palm oil ©Getty Images

Related tags Japan Palm oil Nissin sustainable Instant noodles

Instant noodles giant Nissin Foods Group recently revised its palm oil policy, with the firm stating it is taking further steps to procure sustainable and conflict-free palm oil.

As part of the No Deforestation, No Peat, No Exploitation (NDPE) policy, this new commitment takes into account deforestation prevention, biodiversity preservation, and the human rights of plantation workers. This is on top of its sustainable commitment.

Nissin joined the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) in October 2017 and from March 2019, all domestic plants that manufactured its flagship Cup Noodles began procuring RSPO-certified palm oil.

As of March 2020, the Group’s overall procurement ratio of palm oil certified by RSPO is approximately 20%.

In its Sustainability Report 2020, the firm wrote: “For fiscal 2031, in addition to the procurement of RSPO-certified palm oil, the Group aims to procure only palm oil that is assessed to be sustainable under the Group’s own assessment​.”

Achieving the target of 100% sustainable palm oil will be a major milestone for the company, but environmental organisation, Rainforest Action Network (RAN) believes it could be doing more

(Nissin’s) current approach of sourcing so-called sustainable RSPO ‘Mass balance’ palm oil (which is) a mix of certified and untraceable controversial palm oil, is not addressing its connection to deforestation or human rights violations and the RSPO’s assurance systems cannot yet be trusted​.”    

Nissin has set a deadline of 2030 to fully implement the new policy.

In an official statement, RAN’s Japan representative Dr. Toyo Kawakami said: “Nissin Foods has taken a step in the right direction. What matters now for communities and forests on the frontlines of palm oil expansion is that the company immediately puts its policy into action​.

As the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic worsens across Indonesia, deforestation, forest fires and human rights violations continue to climb in the palm oil supply chain of global brands like Nissin Foods. A target of policy implementation by 2030 is simply unacceptable considering the scale and urgency of the health, climate, and biodiversity crisis, and the growing violence against communities defending their lands​.”

We appeal to Nissin Foods to develop and publish a binding, time-bound implementation plan that details the actions it will take to ensure its products are free of conflict palm oil immediately, not in 2030​.”

RAN also called for a new system to monitor and independently verify its suppliers' adherence to its new policy.

Palm oil in noodles

Palm oil is extracted from the pulp of the fruit and is the most widely used vegetable oil worldwide. It is used in most instant noodles that are fried in oil, including Nissin’s flagship Cup Noodles.

Instant noodles typically use the ‘flash frying method’ which are fried in hot palm oil to extract moisture.

Nissin Foods Holdings manager Daisuke Okabayashi explained that noodles which have moisture extracted can be stored for a long period without changing in quality or spoiling.

In addition, when hot water is poured over the noodles, the hot water seeps into the noodles through the many pockets of holes in the noodles, returning them to their original texture​.”

This flash frying method is still being used today as the basic technology for oil-fried instant noodles.

Palm oil also boasts superior storability as it does not oxidise easily.

Okabayashi added: “It also tastes well and when used for frying, offers a good texture.”

“In addition, oil palm trees bear fruit throughout the year, contributing to stable supply. The harvest volume per unit area is also higher than other vegetable oils. Compared to soy bean or rapeseed oil, the harvest volume can be 8 to 10 times higher. Owing to these features of palm oil, it is an essential ingredient for frying instant noodles​.”

Ongoing efforts

Currently, Nissin sources its palm oil from Malaysia and Indonesia.

Okabayashi said: “We have committed to cooperating with our suppliers and other stakeholders to procure sustainably sourced palm oil which has been produced in consideration of the environment of the palm's habitat and workers' rights​.”

The recent revision to its palm oil policy will take steps to prohibit deforestation, forest fires, development on carbon-rich peatlands, and violations of the rights of Indigenous peoples including their land rights.

Besides palm oil procurement, Nissin also recently announced its Earth Food Challenge 2030 which involves reducing greenhouse gas emissions from its use of fossil fuels and electricity by 30% in fiscal 2031, and reduce 15% from the procurement of raw materials, transportation, and disposal.

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