There is a cooking oil that’s worth gold, figuratively. It’s underrated in terms of popularity but has seen a dramatic rise in consumption of the last couple of years. Yes, you might have guessed it, it is Palm Oil. Let us take a look at in more detail.

Palm oil is in an estimated half of all packaged food products sold in South African grocery stores. It is in the majority of cosmetics. Most baby formulas, laundry detergents, chocolate bars, toothpastes and shampoos contain palm oil. It can even be found in products as seemingly “additive-free” as cow’s milk.

An ingredient may be derived from palm oil if it includes the word “palm” in it (with the exception of hearts of palm), such as palmate or palmitate. An ingredient may be derived from palm oil if it includes the words “lauryl,” “laureth,” the prefix “stear-,” “vegetable oil,” “glycerin” or “emulsifier.”

The palm itself is an incredibly efficient tree, with a much higher yield than other crops used in vegetable oil production. On average, it produces up to 10 times more per hectare than soya, rapeseed and sunflower.

Palm oil creates vital economic stability for communities and countries across Asia and Africa. It provides a livelihood for of some of the world’s poorest farmers, and paid labour for people in impoverished areas.

It’s also extremely cost effective to produce, although the benefits of this cost saving are typically only reaped by rich corporations.

Oil palm trees are grown in large plantations, where the fruit is harvested and then taken to processing facilities. More than 60 million tonnes of palm oil is produced annually, accounting for over 30% of the world’s vegetable oil production.

Oil palms produce fruit for an average of 30 years and once they’re no longer fruitful, they’re injected with pesticides and bulldozed to make room for new trees.