Due to the current shortage of sunflower oil, the recipes for many products have been changed. The manufacturers had undertaken to inform consumers of these changes. However, almost two thirds of them are satisfied with a vague mention “DEROG” to indicate the substitution of sunflower oil by another oil, and the same proportion of distributors do not display the information for their customers. , according to our survey.
The agreement between manufacturers, distributors and consumer associations – including UFC-Que Choisir – under the aegis of the Ministry of the Economy, was however clear: the changes in recipes imposed by the shortage of sunflower oil, because of the war in Ukraine, had to be clearly indicated to consumers when buying. And for that, Bercy asked the distributors “to be imaginative”. UFC-Que Choisir sent its investigators to check whether the “deal” was respected in some 246 points of sale in 45 departments. As a result, this is not the case in the vast majority of stores.
Too little display at the reception…
Indeed, 61% of the supermarkets visited did not hang a display at the reception of the store – this figure rises to 68% for mini-markets. The worst pupil is the Intermarché group, of which 92% of the stores display no information! The best, Cora, still has a third of recalcitrants.
However, this information, when present, must be visible to customers: in 9 cases out of 10, it is a display in A4 format (the standard size of a sheet of paper). Managers content themselves in most cases with printing, in black and white, the information note drawn up by the DGCCRF. Regarding information, distributors are sorely lacking in imagination…
… and even less in the departments concerned
But perhaps the modifications of recipes are reported directly in the departments concerned by the shortage of sunflower oil? Alas, even less: 81% make no mention of it. However, the products affected are numerous, and frequently purchased: breaded fish, nuggets and fresh and frozen cordon bleu (78 to 87% of the shelves without any display); fresh, frozen or canned lasagna, cannelloni and ravioli (79 to 82%); sardines in oil and various sauces (79%); cookies and cakes (75%)…
As many brands (81%) also omit displays at checkout. It’s even 100% at Intermarché! When this display is present, it is again in A4 format in 2 out of 3 cases, not very visible when you are not looking for it specifically.
A “DEROG” elliptical on the packaging
As for the information provided by the manufacturers, it too is often minimalist. Almost two-thirds of them (64%) simply state “DEROG” on their product, according to our survey. Admittedly, the manufacturers are not in violation, since this mention is admitted by the DGCCRF. It nevertheless reflects a lack of effort to properly inform the consumer. Thus, the Fruit d’Or cooking oil brand is content with it, explaining that it provides the information on its website. Many other brands are not more precise, like Marie, Le Gaulois, Banania, Amora… On the side of private labels (MDD), the results are not much better, since 62% are also satisfied with the mention DEROG. Intermarché does better than the others, unlike display: only 49% of its products remain with DEROG, the other mentions being more explicit, such as “DEROG: sunflower > rapeseed”. The worst student is group U, with 89% basic “DEROG” on its products, followed by Cora and Casino. Yet they could do better.
Indeed, some brands explicitly indicate which are the substituent and the substituted, sometimes with an entire sentence! Whether private labels or national brands, for that matter. Thus, Tipiak, for his Indian Cereals, writes “DEROG contains rapeseed oil” in the inkjet dating pad, according to its waiver request addressed to the DGCCRF (1). Some Connétable or Pointe de Penmarc’h products (but not all) display “Derog oil: sunflower replaced by rapeseed”. Others mention more succinctly “sunflower > rapeseed” or “oils (sunflower, rapeseed)”… The most elegant? It can be found at Casino, whose Roman-style squid fritters mention “Sunflower oil is replaced by rapeseed oil” in the white box with the use-by date!
Except for these few good students, we can regret a general unwillingness vis-à-vis the transparency of information due to consumers. Especially since sunflower oil, with relatively balanced fatty acid content, is sometimes replaced by palm or coconut oil, very rich in saturated fatty acids, which are less good for health. The result is a deterioration in the nutritional quality of the product. We have filled this gap by checking the evolution of the Nutri-Score of a few products. This information is however also easy to give, since small brands do it, like Pierre Clot, who specifies on his duck parmentier “derog sunflower -> palm; Nutriscore D->E ».
Mustard, a rare commodity
Sunflower and mustard, two condiments widely used in French gastronomy, are no longer produced, or no longer produced enough, on French soil. This is one of the surprises of the crisis caused by the invasion of Ukraine by Russia: everyone discovered that the supply of our agri-food industries with sunflower oil and mustard seeds came from Ukraine , a circuit brought to a halt by the war.
This deficit is ultimately felt quite little in the edible oil shelves of supermarkets, with only 8% of shelves completely empty and 20% three-quarters empty in stores, according to the observations of our investigators. On the other hand, mustard has become a rare commodity, with 65% of shelves completely empty!
(1) Waiver requests from manufacturers are accessible on the DGCCRF website. The sample displays mentioned in the article are taken from this list.
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Sunflower Oil Shortage – Distributors and Manufacturers Are Not Playing…