When it comes to their choice of sweet treats from regular grocery stores, vegan options are still much more limited than non-vegan options, unfortunately.
Many popular types of candy are made with animal products to enhance the color and texture, which means they’re not suitable for vegans.
The most common animal byproduct found in candy is gelatine, which may come from the bones of either cows or pigs, and is not vegan-friendly due to the fact that purchasing or collecting this substance from slaughterhouses constitutes support for the animal agriculture industry.
Sour Patch Kids are one of the most popular candies today. They’re known for their balanced sweet and sour flavor, and they’re listed by USA Today as the 6th most popular candy in America.
Since gelatine is not on the ingredients list for Sour Patch Kids, many vegans assume that they are vegan-friendly and will add them to their cart without another thought.
However, our experts have warned that Sour Patch Kids are not actually suitable for vegans.
Read on to find out why Sour Patch Kids aren’t vegan, why not, and what vegan options you can snack on instead.
About Sour Patch Kids
Sour Patch Kids, as the name suggests, are candy with a sour flavor, sweetened by the sugar coating. They are a type of gummy candy.
Sour Patch Kids were invented by Mondelez International, which happens to be the largest snack company in the world.
Mondelez International has a reputation for manufacturing delicious treats, including trident gum and Ritz crackers. They also produce vegan snacks, like Hu chocolate.
Mondelez International’s Sour Patch Kids were first released in 1985 but they continue to be very popular to this day.
What Ingredients Are In Sour Patch Kids?
If you want to know whether something is vegan, you should usually start by looking at the ingredients.
However, if you want to be 100% sure that a food is totally vegan, it’s often best to do some extra research since the ingredients list doesn’t always tell the full story.
Let’s begin by considering the ingredients listed on the Sour Patch Kids packaging.
These include sugars, citric acid, cornstarch Tartaric acid, e-numbers such as Yellow 5, Yellow 6, Blue 1, and Red 40, and also some artificial flavorings to give the candy its signature sour taste.
At first glance, this ingredients list doesn’t appear to present any problems for vegan consumers. However, there’s more to the ingredient content of Sour Patch Kids than meets the eye.
Is The Sugar Vegan?
We mentioned that one of the main ingredients in Sour Patch Kids is sugar. This is not surprising considering that each piece of candy in a bag of Sour Patch Kids is covered with a layer of sugar.
The ingredients list does not tell consumers exactly what kind of sugar is present in Sour Patch Kids, which is where things can get confusing, because sugar comes in many different varieties, and not all of them are vegan.
If you’re thinking ‘how could sugar not be vegan?’ we don’t blame you! After all, sugar comes from plant-based sources, so many people are shocked when they find out that some kinds of sugar aren’t suitable for vegans.
However, the distinction between vegan sugar and non-vegan sugar is tied into the difference in production methods between beet sugar and cane sugar.
As far as beet sugar is concerned, vegans have nothing to worry about. Beet sugar is made from sugar beet, which is a plant.
The process of creating beet sugar simply involves harvesting the sugar beet, extracting its sugars using hot water, crystallizing using chalk, and then drying out the crystals to be sold as sugar.
There are no animal products used in this process, so beet sugar is totally vegan-friendly.
Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for cane sugar – or at least, not all types of cane sugar.
That’s because refined cane sugar is processed using bone char to bleach the naturally brown sugar, turning it into the white crystals we’re all familiar with.
Bone char may be listed as ‘carbon’ or ‘natural carbon’ on food packaging, which doesn’t sound too sinister.
However, as you can probably guess from the term ‘bone char’, there’s something not altogether vegan-friendly about this ingredient.
Bone char is produced by exposing animal bones to very high temperatures so that it’s reduced to carbon.
It’s important to note that when a food is made using bone char, there aren’t actually any charred bone pieces in that product. The particles are typically filtered out of sugar before it’s packaged and sold.
However, for obvious reasons, most vegans are not comfortable paying for a food item made by a company that financially supports such practices.
Things get even trickier when you consider the fact that not all cane sugar is refined, so some cane sugar actually can be vegan. That’s because some sugar manufacturers use granular carbon instead of bone char to bleach their cane sugar.
Unfortunately, this information is never included on food packaging, so where sugar is listed in the ingredients, it’s pretty much impossible for vegans to tell whether or not it’s refined with bone char and, therefore, whether or not it’s vegan.
So, straight away, there’s a valid question as to whether Sour Patch Kids are really vegan, even though the ingredients list doesn’t automatically rule it out.
Other Animal Products In Sour Patch Kids
It’s not only the sugar vegans have to worry about when it comes to Sour Patch Kids. Experts have suggested that there may be some other sneaky animal-derived ingredients lurking in this candy.
As we mentioned earlier, gelatine is not listed on the Sour Patch Kids packaging, which is the main reason why vegans have been buying them for years without suspecting that they might not be in alignment with their lifestyle.
Experts have recently been saying that there is probably a trace amount of gelatine in Sour Patch Kids.
The reason for this is that the packaging doesn’t list a gelling agent, and since Sour Patch Kids are gummy candy, there must be some kind of gelling agent involved.
Usually, vegan gummy candy gets its jelly-like consistency from either agar or pectin, and since these substances are not indicated in the ingredients list, it stands to reason that there could be a trace amount of gelatine not listed on the packaging, small enough to not be legally disclosed.
With that being said, it’s also possible that the gummy texture comes from the cornstarch or corn syrup, so the presence of gelatine can’t be confirmed.
Nonetheless, many vegans will still want to avoid these candies based on the fact that it’s unclear whether or not gelatine is used in production.
Another thing to note is that while we’ve specifically been discussing American Sour Patch Kids so far, depending on which country you’re in, the Sour Patch Kids you find in stores will be produced by different countries, and the ingredients lists may be slightly different.
For example, if you look at the back of a packet of Sour Patch Kids in the UK, you’ll notice that gelatine is clearly listed on the label. Therefore, it’s highly probable that the substance is also used in the US Sour Patch Kids.
Coloring and Flavoring
If you thought you had enough on your plate trying to work out whether Sour Patch Kids are vegan in terms of sugar and gelatine, there’s more: some of the flavors and colors in Sour Patch Kids also may not be vegan.
Sour Patch Kids come in various colors, one of which is red. A common source for red food coloring is the cochineal bug, and the dye is made by crushing the bugs to make a powder, which can then be added to water to create a liquid dye.
Usually, this kind of red dye is listed as carminic acid or simply camine, which makes it more difficult to identify on food packaging.
Additionally, many of the flavorings and colorings in candy are tested on animals, which makes them not vegan by most vegans’ standards.
For instance, Blue 1, Red 40, Yellow 5, and Yellow 6 (all of which are found in the ingredients for Sour Patch Kids) are petroleum-based, and petroleum is typically tested on animals.
Moreover, most food dyes are tested on animals by feeding to check if they cause any health issues when ingested.
The animals having the dyes tested on them frequently experience negative health effects such as tumors and neurotoxicity, which often result in death.
Even if the animals do not die during the testing process, they are normally euthanized after the fact.
While some vegans do still use products that have been tested on animals, for other vegans, this is a complete deal-breaker since the point of veganism for many in the community is to minimize the pain and suffering of animals.
If you are a vegan who is opposed to animal testing, you may wish to avoid Sour Patch Kids.
Are Sour Patch Kids Vegan?
Based on the information provided above, Sour Patch Kids are probably not vegan-friendly.
It’s likely that they contain traces of gelatine, even though this isn’t explicitly stated on the packaging (at least, in the US version).
Additionally, they may be made with sugar that has been refined using bone char. Again, this isn’t clearly stated in the ingredients, but it’s likely based on how often refined cane sugar is used in candy.
Even if there were no gelatine or bone char-refined cane sugar in Sour Patch Kids, they still wouldn’t be vegan by everyone’s standards.
That’s because they contain colorings and flavorings that are usually tested on animals.
Since this kind of animal testing has been known to cause cancer and neurotoxicity in the lab animals, who are usually killed after testing, most vegans would be opposed to giving money to companies who support these practices.
Therefore, on balance, it seems that Sour Patch Kids are not vegan, even though the ingredients list would initially suggest that they are.
Vegan Sour Patch Kids Alternatives
If you’re a vegan who loves the taste of Sour Patch Kids, the good news is that there are vegan alternatives with a similar taste and texture.
Here are some of the delicious alternatives to Sour Patch Kids that are certified as suitable for vegans:
The Sour Vikings by Candy People are organic sour sweets, so they’re a great alternative to Sour Patch Kids.
They contain glucose syrup and grape concentrate for texture and flavor, and the only colorings added to the candy are derived from spices like turmeric and paprika.
Haribo is a popular candy brand, and while most Haribo candy is not vegan, the Rainbow Fizz strips are!
Some of the ingredients are difficult to trace back to their origin, but ingredients such as hydrogen, copper, and sodium complexes are definitely not animal-based, so these sweets are both sour and vegan – a great replacement for Sour Patch Kids!
Another organic candy option vegans could have instead of Sour Patch Kids are the YumEarth Organic Sour Beans.
The Sour Beans contain organic cane sugar, which means it hasn’t been refined with bone char. Other sweeteners in the candy are also vegan, including organic brown rice syrup. The bright colors come from natural fruit and vegetable ingredients like apple, carrot, and blueberry.
If you’re a fan of watermelon flavors, the SmartSweets Sourmelon Bites will be the perfect vegan alternative to Sour Patch Kids.
These candies are made from soluble, organic corn fiber. The flavorings are berry-based, while juices from fruit and vegetables are used to give the sweets their color. Extra sugary flavor is added with the natural, vegan sweetener, Stevia.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do Sour Patch Kids Have Pig Gelatine?
It’s not clear whether Sour Patch Kids in the US contain gelatine at all, although it’s likely due to the fact that gelatine is on the Sour Patch Kids ingredient list in the UK. If there is gelatine in Sour Patch Kids, it will either come from pigs or cows.
What Candy is Not Vegan?
Many popular kinds of candy in the US are not vegan. These include, but are not limited to, Junior Mints, Starbursts, Candy Corn, and most marshmallows.
Can Vegans Eat Sour Patch Kids?
Some vegans may be fine with the idea of eating Sour Patch Kids because no animal ingredients are specifically listed on the packaging. However, many vegans will not want to eat Sour Patch Kids because of the potential for bone char in the sugar, the chance that there is a chance that they contain gelatine.
Additionally, vegans who are opposed to animal testing will probably want to avoid Sour Patch Kids due to the practices involved in testing the dyes and flavorings.
Sour Patch Kids might not be obviously non-vegan, but they might contain traces of gelatine, and the sugar in this candy may be processed with bone char. Additionally, some of the dyes and flavorings may be tested on animals.
Due to these reasons, Sour Patch Kids are not 100% vegan.