We are often asked where Dr. Oetker stands on specific issues. Therefore, we have compiled a list of some of the most frequently asked questions and our answers.
As of 2022, all our sites are climate neutral. To maintain this, we are actively continuing to reduce energy consumption and to generate more renewable energy or purchase it if necessary.
Overall, we would like to be able to operate on a climate neutral basis long term without offsetting. As we are unable to guarantee this at present, we invest in certified, carefully selected offsetting projects. We see this as an opportunity to take responsibility for the emissions we generate while working towards our goal.
When selecting projects, we only consider those that are certified according to one of the internationally highly recognized "Gold Standard" or "Verified Carbon Standard" standards.
In this way, we ensure that the projects meet the following criteria:
We are currently investing in a wind energy project in Turkey, in more efficient and cleaner stoves for private households in Ghana, and in the international tree planting and small group program TIST in Kenya.
Detailed information on our carbon offset projects can be found here.
It is important to us that all our employees receive a fair wage that enables them to meet basic needs of their families and to participate in social life. By that we mean access to nutritious food, affordable housing, sufficient clothing, safe transportation, adequate education, good health, and to build up savings. We regularly evaluate whether we are fulfilling these requirements based on cost-of-living data in the countries in which Dr. Oetker is active.
The use of genetic engineering has been met with varying degrees of acceptance worldwide and is viewed skeptically, particularly in EU countries. Consequently, Dr. Oetker does not use any genetically modified raw materials.
In Germany alone, we process around 1,500 different raw materials, and more than 95 percent of these are sourced in Europe while the rest are obtained from all over the world. Raw materials that are not available nearby are sourced from their native growing regions. We see this as an opportunity to make a positive contribution in less developed areas of the world. Two goals in our Sustainability Charter play a central role: to implement human rights due diligence in our supply chains by 2025, to identify current and potential risks for human rights violations and respond accordingly, and to establish deforestation-free supply chains to ensure that no forests are destroyed for the cultivation of our raw materials.
Insects in or as food have very different appeals: for some people they are a delicacy or serve as a source of protein, and for others they are uncommon as food.
In the EU, insects or their components in food are considered "novel foods" and are regulated under the Novel Food Regulation. According to the EU regulation, these novel foods include mealworms, grain mold beetles, grasshoppers and house crickets (Acheta domesticus). To protect consumers, food manufacturers are required to list these ingredients in the ingredients list of their products and also to provide an allergen statement for them. Thus, consumers can always find out about the use of this ingredient by looking at the label.
We do not currently use any of these novel foods in our products, nor do we have any plans to do so.
Shellac (E904) and carmine (E120) are no "novel foods" but additives that have been approved for more than 30 years and have long since successfully passed the relevant safety tests.
Shellac is often used as a coating agent for certain types of fruit. However, it is also approved for coffee beans, dietary supplements, confectionery or chocolate, among other things. Carmine is one of the food colorants obtained from natural sources and gives food an intense red color. We use these two additives mainly in our decorative articles. We always follow the principle of using as few additives as possible and only as many as necessary.
For more information on the use of additives, see our position on Additives and Flavor.
Worldwide, Dr. Oetker mainly uses Rainforest Alliance Certified cocoa. We allow a transition period of three years for newly acquired companies with existing supply contracts.
We explicitly call for all our suppliers to comply with internationally recognized human rights laws. This includes the prohibition of child labor under the conventions of the ILO (International Labor Organization) and thus addresses a pressing issue in cocoa production. Additionally, most of our suppliers run their own programs to promote sustainability in the cultivation and production of cocoa.
Dr. Oetker uses at least barn-laid eggs and egg products throughout Europe in the relevant Dr. Oetker products. This is contractually stipulated and can be confirmed by a corresponding certificate. Unfortunately, we are not yet able to fully confirm the full use of barn-laid eggs and egg products worldwide. For example, in South Africa, where we made an acquisition in 2018, the availability of barn-laid egg and egg products is still very limited. Overall, we already cover more than 90% of our requirements with barn-laid egg products and we are continuously working on increasing this quota.
The less food is wasted, the better it is for the climate and the environment. The immediate impact that food producers like Dr. Oetker have in this is relatively small. According to current studies in Germany, only 18 percent* of food waste is created during production. Nevertheless, our desire is to further reduce: our Sustainability Charter stipulates that we will have 25 percent less food waste in production by 2025.
We also see ourselves responsible beyond our direct influence. Through appropriate product and portion sizes, the longest possible shelf life, and consumer education on how to deal with the best-before date (BBD), we can indirectly ensure that as little food as possible is wasted.
We also maintain a close dialog with our suppliers on the topic of food waste. What happens to the raw materials that we have to return to suppliers because they fail to meet our size and quality requirements? Most of our suppliers ensure that they responsibly reuse these edible food returns.
*Johann Heinrich von Thünen Institute (TI) on behalf of the German Federal Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Consumer Protection (BMEL) in cooperation with the University of Stuttgart as part of the study “Food Waste in Germany - Baseline 2015”, 2019.
By introducing the Nutri-Score and other initiatives for more transparency, Dr. Oetker hopes to encourage customers to make conscious purchasing decisions and provide the best possible guidance in their food choices. We launched the Nutri-Score in Spain, the Netherlands, Portugal, Switzerland, Germany, France, Belgium, and Luxembourg. In accordance with the trademark statutes of Santé Publique, owner of the trademark rights and therefore licensor for the Nutri-Score, all Dr. Oetker brand products sold in these countries will be labeled accordingly within 24 months. This means that by the end of 2023 at the latest, the identifying label will appear on the front of the packaging of all our brand products in the respective markets. For countries that do not accept the Nutri-Score, a comparable label will be available in the future.
Dr. Oetker uses various vegetable oils, which may come from different countries depending on availability. We source palm oil mainly from Indonesia and Malaysia.
We have been a member of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) since 2011 and apply the criteria established by the RSPO to ensure the sustainable cultivation of palm oil. To counteract the global destruction of forest areas, we intend to only use palm oil that meet the RSPO “Segregated” standard. With regards to the palm oil we purchase directly, we are already more than 90 percent compliant with this goal internationally. The current status of “Segregated” and “Mass Balance” palm oil purchased by Dr. Oetker can be found at the RSPO: Dr. August Oetker KG | Member | RSPO - Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil
When newly acquiring companies, we allow for a transition period, as this can mean having to take over existing supply contracts. These supply contracts may include raw materials or products that are not yet certified according to the “Segregated” standard. After a maximum of three years, the companies must meet the “Mass Balance” standard. After a maximum of five years, the implementation of the “Segregated” standard must have taken place. Especially for ingredients in which palm oil is only a minor component of the raw material, as in emulsifiers, it is sometimes challenging to source these in a “Segregated” quality.
Currently, the situation on the global market for vegetable oils is changing rapidly. The reasons for this include widespread crop failures for some oil crops and the war in Ukraine. The supply of palm oil is also affected by these constant changes on the world market. We only use small quantities of palm oil in our products, so we are currently still able to cover our requirements. However, depending on the development of the markets for palm oil, we cannot completely rule out difficulties in obtaining sustainably grown palm oil.
Within the framework of the Sustainability Charter, Dr. Oetker has set itself the goal of using only recyclable packaging by 2025 and avoiding it all together wherever possible and sensible.
However, after careful consideration, momentarily plastic can still be the better packaging material compared to paper. Plastic offers a high level of product safety and is lightweight. This benefits both safety and the carbon footprint of transport. Needless to say, we are continuously reviewing how we can keep the amount of material used for packaging to an absolute minimum.
Furthermore, we are working to ensure that our plastic packaging components are as recyclable as possible. The mono-materials we predominantly use, i.e., those that consist of only one type of material, have their advantages. Our transparent and light-colored plastics are usually identified without error by the recycling sorting systems and assigned to the correct material streams.
We are, of course, monitoring the market for alternative packaging materials. However, many plastic alternatives cannot (yet) be recycled by the existing recycling systems.
Our next step regarding sustainable packaging development is to use as high a proportion of recycled material as possible. For our packaging materials made of paper or cardboard, for 70 to 80 percent, this is the case, depending on the material. The folding boxes we use for The Good Baker pizzas are made of 100 percent recycled fiber and are FSC-certified (license code FSC-C164707).
According to the current regulations, the use of recycled materials for food packaging is barely possible, and if so, only under very limited conditions. For instance, it is not permitted to use recycled plastics from non-closed material cycles when in direct contact with food. To significantly increase the use of recycled packaging materials, i.e., those made from recycled materials, for food, the EU needs to revise the approval requirements.
Taking sustainable action is the cornerstone of our journey towards regenerative business. Our aim is not only to reduce or avoid our negative impact on the world but to improve the state of the earth and, with it, the livelihood of both people and animals. For Dr. Oetker, this is a critical aspect of a future worth living, for which we are now laying the foundations.
An example of this are the methods of "regenerative agriculture." Here, food is produced in a way that improves soil health, strengthens water cycles, and promotes biodiversity. This results in more viable soil that sequesters additional carbon, stores more water, has improved nutrient availability, and consequently requires less fertilizer and pesticides. In the long term, this leads to improvements in climate protection, biodiversity, water balance, and greater resilience to extreme weather events.
Dr. Oetker is currently working on a project to promote various forms of regenerative agriculture and source raw materials from regenerative agriculture. In its initial phase, the project focuses on the raw materials wheat and cereals, and sugar (beets). Related pilot projects are to be launched in 2023.
When we talk about the levels of salt in food, we refer to the sodium content of the food. For the most part, this sodium content results from the amount of table salt, chemically known as sodium chloride (NaCl). Other sources of sodium salts, e.g., baking powder or the naturally occurring sodium content of ingredients, also play a role here.
Salt is vital for specific functions in the human body, like maintaining the fluid balance of the body’s cells and regulating blood pressure. If we eat too much salt, it can lead to high blood pressure in the long term, which is why Dr. Oetker keeps the salt content in its products to a minimum.
On the one hand, table salt is a vital ingredient in pizza doughs and is added for the taste; on the other hand, salt is often already an ingredient within many raw products.
Especially in ingredients such as salami, ham, and cheese, salt is needed for its preservative properties to prevent bacterial and mold growth and protect the ingredients' microbiological safety. A lack of salt jeopardizes food safety and product shelf-life; other ingredients or preservatives would have to take over this function. If you want to do without these, as we do at Dr. Oetker, a residual amount of salt is still required for certain types of products, which ultimately cannot be reduced any further.
Nevertheless, between 2007 and 2021, we were able to reduce the salt content in our frozen pizzas from 1.59 grams / 100 grams to 1.12 grams / 100 grams through a gradual reduction. For 2022, the salt content is forecasted at 1.06 grams / 100 grams.
By 2025, we have set ourselves the goal of reaching a maximum content of cooking salt of 1 gram/100 grams for all of our pizzas.
In cooperation with raw material manufacturers, suppliers, and universities, Dr. Oetker is conducting research into reducing the salt content of the basic raw materials, particularly for our pizzas. However, due to the properties of salt, this process proves to be challenging.
We greatly value any advocacy for animal welfare and believe that food production should be in harmony with the needs of animals as much as possible.
We are currently developing concepts for purchasing animal products more sustainably. Challenges exist here regarding costs and the availability of animal products that meet a higher sustainability standard. As a result, we are also increasingly reviewing investments in high-quality plant-based alternatives. For us, the basic requirements here are an equivalent taste and corresponding nutritional value profiles and as few additives as possible in the recipes.
We are, however, confident that by the end of 2025, we will only purchase chicken that at least meets the criteria of the European Chicken Commitment (EMI). These go beyond the legal requirements for animal welfare and offer animals a longer life, improved air quality, more daylight, and more space. For example, according to these standards, a maximum stocking density of 30 kilograms per square meter is allowed instead of 42 kilograms per square meter permitted under European law. To ensure this high animal welfare standard, we have defined raw material specifications that our audited suppliers must meet.
Since January 2022, we have only been using chicken meat according to EMI criteria for the production of Ristorante Pollo in our plants in Germany and Poland. Unfortunately, from January to June 2023 we will only be getting conventional chicken meat here, too. From July 2023, however, the chicken meat that we use as standard and that meets the EMI criteria will be used again.
Our Ristorante Pollo is sold in the Netherlands, Norway, Belgium, Spain, Finland, Portugal, Sweden, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Romania, Lithuania, the United Kingdom and Canada.
For our products containing tuna, we only use skipjack (Katsuwonus pelamis), which is considered not to be endangered. The products are labeled according to the corresponding fish species. We obtain most of the tuna from the FAO 71 fishing area in the Western Pacific.
We are already using tuna certified according to the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) criteria in some pizza ranges such as Pizza Tradizionale, Casa di Mama, Die Ofenfrische, Bistro Baguette, La Mia Grande, and Intermezzo. The corresponding seal can be found on the front of the packaging.
For products where the adaption to MSC certified tuna is not yet possible, we have established the following criteria for sustainable fishing: The tuna we use on these non-MSC certified pizzas is caught without the use of decoy buoys (FAD-free).
Furthermore, it is important to us that no dolphins are hunted or killed in the tuna fishery, which is why we have required all our tuna suppliers to comply with the control conditions of the Earth Island Institute (http://savedolphins.eii.org), which defines the rules for dolphin-safe fishing.
Vanilla is one of the most prominent flavors that people worldwide associate with cakes and desserts. This makes vanilla an essential for Dr. Oetker.
The cultivation regions of the vanilla beans used in our products are in Madagascar, the Comoros, Indonesia, and Papua New Guinea. We procure our vanilla through partners rather than directly on site. To this end, we work with our suppliers according to internationally established standards. These are based, in part, on the standards of the International Labor Organization (ILO) and include specifications regarding environmental protection, origin, and quality of the raw materials and products.
Of course, our goal is to make sure that our products contain ingredients produced under socially and environmentally responsible conditions. That is why we are increasingly involved in local initiatives.
For instance, we are a member of the Sustainable Vanilla Initiative (SVI), launched in 2015 by international food manufacturers and the vanilla industry. They aim to improve the sustainability and quality of vanilla production in the long term, especially in Madagascar, the world’s largest producing region for vanilla.
We will continue our efforts to purchase sustainable vanilla products. By 2023, 20 percent of the vanilla we use will be sustainably certified. We are also in talks with
various organizations about this.
One of the best-known and most popular aromas is vanillin. It is the primary flavoring substance of the vanilla bean and can be extracted from it and then processed. The challenge, however, is that the global demand for vanillin cannot be met by vanilla beans alone. Theoretically, only 40 metric tons of vanillin can be extracted from the approximately 2,200 metric tons of vanilla beans harvested each year. This would be equivalent to only 0.2 percent of the global demand of around 20,000 metric tons and, would not be nearly enough. For this reason, Dr. Oetker not only uses natural vanilla but also offers products with the flavoring vanillin. This is clearly indicated in the list of ingredients on the packaging of each product.
Besides serving as a source of energy, sugar has many other functions in food: It adds flavor, influences the texture and consistency of food, and has natural preservative properties. With its products, Dr. Oetker represents indulgence – and at the same time is aware that people should only eat sugar in moderation. We want to use sugar as sparingly as possible and so, we take a close look at all our products to see how we can reduce the amount of sugar while maintaining great taste.
As part of our Sustainability Charter, we have set ourselves the goal of reducing the content of sugar in our desserts by 15 percent and in our ready-made cakes and baking mixes by 10 percent by 2025.
In the chilled desserts range, for example, several recipe adjustments have already been made. For our two most popular flavors, Paula vanilla-flavored pudding with chocolate chips and Paula chocolate pudding with vanilla-flavored chips, the amount of sugar was reduced from 14.1g/100g in 2013 to 10.69g/100g in 2022 via three gradual steps. As a result, the average sugar content of the Paula dessert range is now less than 12g/100g.
Between 2006 and the end of 2021, the average sugar content of the entire Vitalis range was gradually reduced from 24.6g/100g to 18.9g/100g in 2021 (*the values are sales-weighted averages, based on the German market).
For some products, manufacturing companies cannot entirely forego the use of additives for the same reason as artisans or consumers in the home kitchen could not go without, e.g., leavening agents, which are used in baking to make cakes rise. Additives (also known as E-numbers) have always been used in food production, and without them, today’s rich and high-quality food supply would not have been possible. They help ensure the safety and shelf life of food and thus reduce food waste. Dr. Oetker follows the quantum satis principle: as few additives as possible, and only those that are necessary are used. By improving technologies and further developing recipes, for years, Dr. Oetker has been working on reducing additives as well as on new ranges that do without additives as much as possible.
Dr. Oetker uses natural flavors in its products whenever possible. Only “nature-identical” flavoring substances, natural flavoring substances, and flavoring extracts are used which comply with the European flavoring regulation, are evaluated in the EU, and are expressly approved. Natural flavor extracts, such as vanilla extract, do not require this type of approval. They are obtained from foods and substances of plants, animals, and microbiological origins and consist of a bouquet of natural flavoring substances. Used flavors are clearly stated in the list of ingredients in accordance with the applicable labeling regulations.
Flavorings are to preserve, support, or enhance the taste of our products. The original character of flavor in the product is usually retained. Due to their intensity, flavorings are only used in very small quantities.
Unlike homemade food, which is usually eaten immediately, industrially produced food can lose some of its original flavors due to processing, storage, and transport. In addition, in the case of purely natural products, such as strawberries, not every strawberry tastes identical. This is due to, among other things, the degree of ripeness. Consumers, however, always expect an almost identical taste. To ensure this, food manufacturers use flavorings in their products when necessary - and Dr. Oetker is no exception.