Edsential – the first certified sustainable palm oil caterer

Edsential is a UK-based caterer supplying 5.5 million school meals a year to pupils in Northwest England. They are a Community Interest Company meaning they use any surplus as a direct reinvestment in the services and to support projects in the schools. In 2019 Edsential became the world’s first certified sustainable palm oil caterer.

How it all began

The idea of sourcing 100% sustainable palm oil was born when pupils approached Ian McGrady, Managing Director of Edsential, to ask him to join the Chester Sustainable Palm Oil City Initiative. This initiative aimed to make Chester the first city in the world to source sustainable palm oil, which involved getting more than 50 local organisations to commit to procuring sustainable palm oil.

The initiative would require that one of Edsential’s items would use 100% sustainable palm oil. Knowing this would be very easy, Ian and his team decided to go one step further and achieve RSPO certification of their whole supply chain. ‘If we can do one item – why can’t we have a whole menu that is based on sustainable palm oil?’ they asked themselves.

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Joining forces with their main supplier

The first step was to investigate which of their products contain palm oil. ‘This was a question we had never asked ourselves before.’ Ian (picture right) stated. They found around 80 to 100 of their items contained palm oil!

Edsential purchases most of their food items from one wholesaler, Brakes. Brakes had previously announced their ambition to source sustainable palm oil. Encouraging them to move faster was the next step: ‘I wanted them to get certified first so that we could then get certified behind them,’ Ian said.

Edsential convinced Brakes that becoming a palm oil frontrunner would be a market advantage, particularly in the light of the UK public procurement policy, which will require sustainable sourcing in the coming years.

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The supply chain structure matters

After a year of hard work, Edsential became the first certified sustainable palm oil caterer in July 2019. A main challenge was to convince particularly their smaller suppliers to switch to sustainable palm oil. Edsential helped their suppliers for bread, in particular pre-made sandwiches, to change their supply to certified RSPO ingredients.

Today, all their items use 100% RSPO certified sustainable palm oil from the segregated and mass balance supply models. Having one single wholesale supplier and a tightly controlled supply chain enabled them to achieve certification within a period of 13 months.

NSMW Launch 2019

Communicating that consumer choice matters

Their journey did not stop with certification. Edsential’s core mission is to bring back value to the community they serve. They created teaching material and actively communicate to the pupils about the benefits of using sustainable palm oil. This way Edsential aims to help children understand that their consumption choice matters to make a world of difference.

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