The uses of Palm oil is in nearly everything. It’s in close to 50% of the packaged products. We find it in supermarkets – from pizza, doughnuts, and chocolate, to deodorant, shampoo, toothpaste, and lipstick. Animal feed and biofuel in many parts of the world use palm oil.

While palm oil is the most efficient source of vegetable oil, the use of palm oil can be in many food and industrial applications. Ever‐increasing demands for palm oil have substantially impacted its industry. 

Worldwide production of oil has increased from 15 million tonnes in 1995 to 66 million tonnes in 2017. The rapid expansion in use attributes to yields nearly four times than other vegetable oil crops with similar production costs. This is a major favorable characteristic of the food industry. The strategies aimed at ensuring government policies are supportive of the expansion of palm oil. Its cultivation, production, and uses of palm oil in a sustainable manner is a necessary step to take.

The acceptance of palm oil worldwide is due to its unique properties. This encourages its use in a wide range of end products. These properties are more versatile by the various fractions and refinery forms that are available in the world. At present, refined palm oil is the primary form of product exported from Malaysia. 

The Main Uses of Palm Oil

The main traditional uses of palm oil in food products are for cooking/frying oil, shortenings, margarine, and confectionery fats. Palm oil is popularly available in both reliable fat products as well as in the liquid cooking oil sector, especially in industrial frying applications. A vegetable oil, palm oil is cholesterol-free. It offers several technical characteristics desirable in food applications, such as resistance to oxidation, which contributes towards the longer shelf life of end products.

Cooking oil

With a balanced composition (50% saturated and 50% unsaturated), palm oil is perfect for cooking, even frying, as it is very heat-resistant. It doesn’t break down or mutate when used for frying. It is also naturally trans-fat free and cholesterol-free. It’s the best alternatives to corn or sunflower oil for cooking. 

Palm oil’s excellent heat resistance and balanced composition make it one of the healthier options available. Education about food and cooking is essential if Europeans are to improve their diets and overall health outcomes. Using palm oil as cooking oil, in place of the potentially-hazardous unsaturated fats (sunflower, corn), is a prime example of this.

Shortenings & Margarine

Palm oil is ideally suited for use as an ingredient in shortenings and margarine as it has 20 – 22% solid fat content (SFC) at 20°C. This helps in the formulation of fat products with a plastic range. It tends to crystallize in small beta-prime crystals, a property is desirable for some applications, in the particular table and industrial margarine. 

Margarine is commonly available as a cooking oil substitute, for baking sautéing and frying purposes, and also as a spread to replace butter. Through the fractionation of tropical palm oil creates margarine, to obtain a stable water-in-fat-emulsion product.

Palm oil also has other functional attributes that make it a valuable ingredient in food formulations. Everyday products made from palm oil and palm kernel oil, wholly or in blends with other oils include frying and cooking oils, shortenings, vegetable ghee or vanaspati, margarine and spreads, confectionery and non-dairy products.

Confectionery Fats

Due to the high price and inconsistent supply of cocoa butter, palm oil, palm kernel oil, and their fractions have been used to produce cocoa butter alternatives (CBA) namely; cocoa butter equivalent (CBE), cocoa butter replacer (CBR) and cocoa butter substitutes (CBS) in which each one has its strength for different confectionery applications. Technological developments in fractionation, interesterification, and hydrogenation have brought palm oil, palm kernel oil, and fractions to a higher level of usage in the chocolate confectionery industry. Palm oil and its fractions are also suitable for other confectionery applications such as soft chocolate, chocolate syrup, ice cream coating, and confectionery filling. 

The Changing Lifestyle Trends

The changing trends in lifestyles and demands for consumer products based on convenience and health considerations have led to other areas of applications for palm oil and its fractions. MPOB’s research and development (R&D) efforts have succeeded in formulating products to meet such demands, develop new niches, enter new markets and enhance of palm oil in foods include its use in emulsion-based powdered and consumer foods such as pourable margarine, mayonnaise, soup-mixes, imitation cheese, and micro-encapsulated palm oil. Exciting products from new processes such as red palm oil or red palm olein are known as healthy cooking and salad oils.

Non-Food uses of Palm Oil

Palm oil products also find wide applications in the non-food sector, especially in the production of soaps and detergents, pharmaceutical products, cosmetics. Soap production is one of the most essential uses of oils and fats and the traditional raw materials. Due to the similarity in their fatty acid compositions, palm and palm kernel oil offer excellent and competitive alternatives to tallow and coconut oil, respectively, as raw material for soap making.

Products like candles, cosmetics, and rubber processing use fatty acids from the splitting process. Derivatives of fatty acids include fatty esters, fatty alcohols, fatty amines, and fatty amides. Various industries, such as biodiesel, textile, cosmetic, pharmaceutical, plastic, use fatty esters. However, fatty alcohols, as such, find limited use, their derivatives, applications of fatty sulfates extensively available in the production of washing and cleaning products. Fatty amines are mainly in the detergent industry as softening agents, in the mining industry as anti-caking agents, as biocides and in road building and other applications.


Palm oil and its derivatives are present in at least 70% of cosmetic products. It is a vegetable oil available in cosmetics for its moisturizing and texturizing properties. Lipstick has it too where the ingredient holds color well, doesn’t melt at high temperatures, and has a smooth application. The derivatives of palm oil are glycerol, fatty acids or fatty alcohols, ingredients used in products for their emollient or foaming properties. Cosmetic usage makes up around 18% of world palm oil consumption.

Palm-derived ingredients form part of the formulation of emulsifiers, foam boosters, stabilizers, mildness agents, pearlized formulas, conditioners, suspensions, and thickeners, among others, which are found in product categories such as bath & shower, skincare, haircare, body care, deodorant, oral care, hygiene care, sun care, baby care, toiletries, perfumes & fragrances, and other make-up (cosmetic) merchandise.

Pharmaceutical Industry

In the pharmaceutical industry, Palm Oil is used as a base for various topical applications like in ointment, emulsion, gel, creams, tableting aids, etc.

Oleochemicals come from palm oil and palm kernel oil. They divide into two groups of products – basic oleochemicals and oleochemical derivatives. Oleochemicals are widely used in the home. The versatile oleochemical products is available in a wide variety of applications, including the manufacturing of detergents, surfactants, shampoos, soaps, cosmetics, pharmaceutical products, food additives, and plastics.

The oleochemical industry in Malaysia is benefitting from an uninterrupted supply of palm oil and palm kernel oil for downstream expansion and sustainability, is the second-largest palm oil producer.

Usage of palm oil wastage

Besides the oil, there are vast amounts of oil palm wastes, such as oil palm shells, mesocarp fibers, empty fruit bunches (from the mills), oil palm fronds, and oil palm trunks (from the field during replanting), etc. This oil palm biomass can be a raw material for many products such as medium density fiberboard (MDF), particleboard, pulp and paper, plastic composites, bio-compost, and even bio-energy. The oil palm biomass can be an excellent alternative to replace wood in many applications.


RBD Palm Stearin

It’s a refined, bleached, and deodorized palm stearin. It is the solid component that collects through the fractionation of palm oil after crystallization at controlled temperatures. Palm oil can be in the form of a mixture with harder fractions such as palm stearin. In order to produce products of the required consistency without hydrogenation. It’s used as a source of palm mid portions (PMF), which uses the formulation of various food ingredients. For e.g., chocolates and icing, or else blended with other vegetable oils to obtain products.

RBD Palm Olein

A light yellow edible oil, refined, bleached and deodorized palm olein. Through the fractionation of palm oil after crystallization at controlled temperatures, creates palm olein. LDC offers palm olein in the form of various bottled products.

RBD Palm Kernel Stearin

It’s a fully refined vegetable oil, refined, bleached, and deodorized palm kernel stearin. Through the fractionation of the RBD palm kernel, solid component forms, and collected and specially used in the production of confectionery fats.

RBD Palm Kernel Olein

This is a refined, bleached, and deodorized vegetable oil that has been fractionated and fully refined. Ice-cream, coatings, and soft fillings, washing powder, has palm kernel olein, etc.

Palm Shortening

Crumbly pastry and other food products use shortening, which is a form of fat. It offers a smooth consistency that facilitates mixing, and may also be used for frying. From fully refined palm oil, its premium quality shortening can be made. Especially by formulating with a specific range of solid fat and melting profiles to suit different climatic conditions and applications.

Food uses of palm oil in China.

In recent years, China has emerged as a significant importer of Malaysian palm oil. Palm oil is a common ingredient in a considerable number of consumer goods products in China. Especially in the form of its liquid fraction, palm olein. Chinese food industry widely uses it, particularly in the manufacture of instant noodles, snack foods, milk powder, margarine, and shortening. Palm olein’s high melting point makes it unsuitable for this purpose in the temperate and northern regions of China. However, blending appropriate proportions of palm olein with other locally vegetable oils solved the problem.

China’s attitude towards sustainable palm oil will have a substantial effect on the worldwide supply chain. Manufacture of soaps, candles, and cosmetics, uses palm oil because of its high content of saturated fatty acids. In the food industry, deep-fried instant foods, such as noodles, etc., and almost all imported use palm olein. Such foods now produce on a large scale in factories with modern assembly lines. The transformation of China’s market for palm oil will be an important milestone for oil palm producers.

Health Facts of Palm Oil

  • Palm oil is one of the 17 edible oils possessing an FAO/WHO Food Standard under the CODEX Alimentarius Commission Programme.
  • This palm oil forms by cooking and pressing palm fruit. Palm kernel oil and coconut oil should be distinguishable. Because it has a lower level of saturated components with no significant content of capric, lauric acids.
  • The oil contains an equal proportion of saturated and unsaturated fatty acids.
  • For most food uses of palm oil, it does not require hydrogenation, thus avoiding the formation of trans-fatty acids.
  • Refined palm oil, as used in foods, is a rich source of tocopherols and tocotrienols having Vitamin E activity. Red palm oil is the only commercially available rich source of carotenoids. Provitamin A activity contains palm oil can too.
  • Palm oil without hydrogenation is excellent frying oil. Unlike unsaturated oils such as soybean oil, corn oil, and sunflower seed oil, it has a lower tendency to oxidize. It is also resistant to the formation of polar components and cyclic polymers.
  • Palm oil can ease digestion, absorption, and utilized as a source of energy.
  • Palm oil is a necessary component in current dietary recommendations. Because to achieve a balanced distribution between saturates, monounsaturated, and polyunsaturated. When humans consume diets having such fatty acid distributions, there is a tendency to improve the overall cholesterol lipoprotein ratios.
  • Compared to several other edible oils, dietary palm oil reduces the amount of chemically- induced tumors in rats.
  • The minor constituents in palm oil, namely; carotenoids, tocopherols, and tocotrienols, have beneficial health properties, including antioxidant, anti-cancer, and cholesterol-lowering effects.

If you are interested to know more about the health and nutritional aspects of Palm Oil, visit this page for further information.


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