No Nasties Project says “no” to palm oil

4th February 2022 | Alison Turner
No Nasties Project

The No Nasties Project is on a mission to create a healthier Australia, aiming to remove 500 tonnes of sugar from Aussie diets a year. The company launched with sugar-free icy sticks, which also contain no artificial ingredients. This was followed with 50 percent less sugar kids’ cereals and cookies containing 80 percent less sugar than leading brands.

Its latest product offering was launched to coincide with Palm Oil Free Day on February 1. No Nasties Choc Hazelnut Spread contains 50 percent less sugar than its competitors, contains nothing artificial and is also proudly palm oil-free. Eativity caught up with David Andrew, founder and CEO of the No Nasties Project to find out more about the new spread, as well as the company’s goal to slash our national sugar intake.

No Nasties Project founder David Andrew
No Nasties founder David Andrew with his range of Sugar Free-Zies.

Sugar shock

Andrew had already launched Naked Life, which produces a range of sugar-free sodas, iced teas, tonics and non-alcoholic cocktails. But he was soon receiving feedback from parents asking for a healthy version of Zooper Dooper, the leading brand of icy stick in Australia.

“I started to look into it, and into how much sugar is being put into Australian families every year by Zooper Dooper,” Andrew says. “I realised it added up to 4000 tonnes of sugar a year. And that’s with a product that contains artificial colours, flavours and preservatives.

“I just thought, ‘Oh my god, this has to change’. It was this feeling that shifted in my gut, that this was unacceptable. And I knew from our work with Naked Life that we could make something without sugar that still tasted great.”

Woolworths was instantly keen, and the No Nasties Project was born, launching its range of Sugar Free-Zies into supermarkets. From there, Andrew realised that there was a whole range of product categories that needed to be shaken up.

“We’re not here to change the people who are already healthy,” he says. “We don’t need to change them. They’re already cutting out sugar. It’s more to appeal to the mainstream. We offer products that are better for you but still taste amazing, and that aren’t too expensive. That’s where we’re going to make the biggest difference.”

Sugar Free-zies Day is held each year to help schools and sporting clubs raise funds.

Project 500

For every tonne of sugar the No Nasties Project removes, it donates $100 to help schools and sporting clubs promote positive health messages in Australia. In 2021 alone, No Nasties products cut out more than 180 tonnes of sugar from our diets. That’s about the equivalent weight of a jumbo jet or the Statue of Liberty. The goal is to hit 500 tonnes.

“That’s why it’s called the No Nasties ‘Project’,” Andrew says. “We haven’t finished. Once we get to 500 tonnes, it’ll become 5000 tonnes, and our work starts again. And that’s why we’re really trying to push hard into schools, community groups and sporting clubs. Because that’s where we believe there’s a real ability to spread that educational message. You can have things that taste great, but are still better for you.”

For their latest product, a 50 percent less sugar choc hazelnut spread, the “no nasties” promise has expanded further to include no palm oil. This sets the new offering apart from the current leading brand on the market, Nutella.

Huge areas of rainforest are destroyed to make way for palm oil plantations
Huge areas of rainforest are destroyed to make way for palm oil plantations.

What’s the problem with palm oil?

Palm oil is a common ingredient in many Aussie supermarket products and in many kids’ lunchboxes. It’s cheap, and works in a variety of applications, which makes it a popular choice for food manufacturers. But this cheap oil comes at a big cost to our environment.

Palm oil is grown in tropical regions – Indonesia and Malaysia account for 85 percent of global palm oil production. Clearing for palm plantations has destroyed vast areas of rainforest. Each year, thousands of hectares of rainforest disappear in order to meet the growing global demand for the oil. This is threatening species like orangutans, elephants, tigers and rhinos. Zoos Victoria estimates 1000 orangutans die each year as a result of their habitat being destroyed through unsustainable palm oil production.

Intensive palm oil production is also creating environmental damage, including air, soil and water pollution and soil erosion. Often wet, swampy rainforests are drained to enable the establishment of plantations. As they dry, their peat-filled soils release large amounts of methane, a greenhouse gas with a global warming impact 23 times that of CO2.

No Nasties Project Choc Hazelnut Spread
The new spread contains 50% less sugar than Nutella, and contains nothing nasty, including palm oil.

No nasties here

Making the decision to produce a palm-oil free product was a simple one for Andrew.

“How could we not?” he says. “Palm oil, if it’s not from a responsible source, is nasty. When we started, it was about less sugar and no artificial colours, flavours or preservatives. But when this came along, we decided, let’s put palm oil on the list as well.

“The consumer is so much more aware of the breadth of what sustainability means. It can mean so many things. We’d like to start where the endpoint is going to be, and the endpoint is to not have palm oil in things because it’s unsustainable. So let’s start there.”

Small choices, like opting for a palm-oil free spread that also happens to taste delicious, can make a big impact. The No Nasties Project is planning to introduce more low sugar, palm oil-free spreads in the future. There are also plans for a range of confectionery.

“People are dollar sensitive, which is important,” Andrew says. “And flavour is obviously incredibly important. But if you can get those things right and offer a better, healthier alternative, it really allows the health and sustainability message to then shine through.”

The No Nasties Project 50% less sugar, palm oil-free choc hazelnut spread is available in Woolworths and Coles nationally. For more info, head to the company website.