Arnotts and Coca-cola use slave-free sugar!

We’ve been delighted to discover recently that two major food brands have long-term commitments to use Australian sugar: Arnotts and Coca-cola. We consider Australian sugar to always be slave-free and have been delighted to add these companies to our slave-free sugar guide.

logos of Arnotts and Coca-Cola.  The Arnotts logo has a parrot and the word Arnotts in white on red; Coca-Cola was the words Coca-Cola written in cursive in red on white

Check out the Arnotts and Coca-Cola websites to see the range of products they offer. Note that we are only confident the sugar they use is slave free; some products from each company also use cocoa, and we are less sure that is slave free.

Estimated read time: 5 minutes

Arnotts

Arnotts are an Australian company with a strong commitment to using local ingredients. From correspondence (July 2021) we have learned that they use wheat, eggs and sugar produced in Australia as well as dairy products sourced from both Australia and New Zealand. The biscuits are then manufactured in Australia and exported to New Zealand. They also have a factory in Indonesia which makes biscuits for various Asian markets, and those biscuits are also made with ingredients (where possible) that have been sourced locally. We’re confident the sugar in all Arnotts biscuits sold in Australia and New Zealand is slave-free, but we haven’t looked into those manufactured in Indonesia.

Arnotts makes a wide range of both sweet and savoury biscuits, including TimTams, Farmbake, Tiny Teddies, Shapes crackers and more; they also have a small gluten free range.

As well as sugar, Arnotts uses a number of other ingredients that are at risk of being produced with slave labour. Arnotts is well aware of this and is working hard to mitigate these risks. We note that:

  • they are working towards child-labour-free cocoa. They buy cocoa in three forms: powder, butter and liquor. The cocoa liquor is sourced from West Africa, where there is a very high risk of child labour; this is all Rainforest Alliance certified and is free of child labour. The cocoa powder and butter is sourced from Indonesia, where the child labour risk is much lower. These products are currently uncertified, although they hope to change that in the future.
  • they recently changed tomato supplier because of slavery risk in their region;
  • they have asked one of their yeast suppliers to be subject to slavery audits because of concerns in the region where they are located;
  • they only source palm oil from peninsula Malaysia as that is a region known to be at lower risk for forced and child labour.

They also engage a third-party company to carry out regular SMETA audits of the working conditions of their Indonesian factory to make sure everyone working there is being treated well and there is no child labour or forced labour.

We’re not willing to recommend their chocolate biscuits until all the cocoa in them is certified slave-free (although we think they’re a lower-risk choice than any other mainstream brand other than Griffins), but we are confident their other sweet biscuits have no significant ingredients that are likely to be produced with slave labour. We haven’t looked into their savoury biscuits in as much detail, but they also seem to be extremely likely to be slave free.

Other biscuit brands

We contacted Griffins, Oreos, Ernest Adams, and Cookie Time to ask about the sugar that goes into their biscuits. None of those that replied were using either Australian sugar or certified slave-free sugar. However, we did learn that Griffins is now using Rainforest Alliance certified cocoa for all their biscuits except Cameo Cremes (which are made in an overseas factory). They are currently (August 2021) in the process of updating their packaging to reflect this. As cocoa is at higher risk for slavery than sugar, we recommend buying Griffins biscuits for chocolate biscuits and Arnotts for everything else.

Coca-Cola

Coca-Cola in New Zealand is manufactured by Coca-Cola Europacific Partners. They produce a very wide range of beverages, including Barista Bros, Live+ energy drinks, Keri juice, Baker Halls cordial, Powerade and Deep Spring alongside the soft drinks more readily associated with the company (Coke, Schweppes, Fanta, L&P etc.). Not all these products include sugar, but we have learned from correspondence (August 2021) that all the sugar they use for products sold in New Zealand is BMP Smartcane accredited. This accreditation is only available to Australian producers, so all BMP Smartcane sugar is Australian and therefore slave free. It is primarily an environmental accreditation (which is why Coca-Cola chose it), but it does also have some worker health and safety requirements. Note that we do not know if Coca-Cola products in other countries use slave free sugar or not.

Coca-Cola also has responsible sourcing guidelines for all businesses that supply them with ingredients. These require suppliers not to use either forced or child labour, but we don’t have any information on how well these are adhered to for other ingredients. In particular, a handful of Coca-Cola beverages (such as Nutriboost) use cocoa, which is is at much higher risk of slave labour in its supply chain than sugar is. We don’t know if the cocoa in these drinks are slave free and we recommend not buying them. We also don’t know if their tea and coffee ranges are slave free.

Other soft drink brands

Karma drinks logo (white words on a red circle) and Bundaberg logo (Bundaberg Brewed to be Better in a half circle)

Just Kai also recommends two other soft drink brands:

  • Karma drinks use Fairtrade certified sugar across their product range. The majority of their drinks are Fairtrade certified, the company is also B-corp certified, and a portion of their profits from sales of their Karma Kola goes back to the community that grows their cola nuts. They sell a range of sodas and juices, all in single-serve bottles or cans.
  • Bundaberg soft drinks (including their signature ginger beer) are made with Australian sugar, so the sugar is slave-free. We haven’t looked into their other ingredients as they are at lower risk for slave labour, but we do know that their ginger is also Australian produced and hence slave free. Note that Bundaberg rum appears to be produced by a different company.

We have asked Pepsi whether their sugar is slave-free but didn’t receive a reply. The Modern Slavery Act statement on the website of their parent company was unclear on this matter. We know that they use some Bonsucro-certified sugar internationally, but don’t know if that is the case in Aotearoa.