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In September, MPOC launched an information campaign in France and Belgium to combat negative perception of palm oil. How has that fared so far?

Tan Sri Dr Yusof Basiron: France and Belgium in particular have continued with their anti-palm oil campaigns, putting the “no palm oil” label on their products. The number of products carrying this label has increased from 200 items about two years ago to about 900 currently. It has been on an upward trend and is becoming annoying, because it implies that palm oil is to be avoided or not good. I think this anti-palm oil campaign has gone too far.

To overcome this, MPOC has asked the respective governments to remove the labels based on their new regula-tions on food labelling. However, most of them are still dragging their feet, with officials saying that it was a private sector issue and not government-related. Instead, they have also recommended that MPOC undertake an educational campaign to educate their consumers on the properties of palm oil. Consumers there will then be informed that this whole anti-palm oil issue is just a marketing ploy.

According to a survey by MPOC, many consumers in Europe still do not know about palm oil. So we conducted both an educational and information campaign for example, to attract these consumers to visit the MPOC website (malaysianpalmoil.info) where they can be educated through videos that feature the experiences of three young French and Flemish consumers, and have access to all kinds of information.

Social media is used extensively as we know consumers today communicate via Facebook, for example. The way MPOC advertises in these countries must also be catchy and attractive. At the end, they stand a chance to win a trip to Malaysia and see how the oil palm plantations are managed.

Our initial results show that the campaign has been a success, as the data we are receiving reveals that consumers are spending time to read the information on palm oil.

MPOC has also brought in “ambassadors” to personally see how the palm oil industry operates in Malaysia. The number of “ambassadors” has increased now, and MPOC is also getting food celebrities, so there is a fairly extensive coverage in terms of content.

We need to take proactive action, otherwise nobody out there will care about palm oil. The consumers are usually sitting on the fence, therefore if the only messages they receive are from the negative side, then they will only be educated in that direction.

Source : The Star

 (The Star Roundtable on Palm Oil 2015)

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