Ok so I’ll be honest I have a sweet tooth. Since a child I have always loved the chewy fizzy jelly type sweets with Haribo being my favourite. This didn’t stop when I grew up and I would still occasionally indulge when I got the urge. Image then over 10 years ago, as I gave up all animal products and decided to become vegan, my surprise to find that my favourite sweets, not only weren’t vegan but not even vegetarian.
Of course when we first decide to undertake a vegan lifestyle sweets are probably one of the last things that we think we may have to avoid. But the fact is that many sweets, or candies as they are sometimes called are not vegan. So today we are going to look at why and give some vegan alternatives, so what sweets are vegan?
Why aren’t sweets vegan?
So why then you may be asking aren’t sweets vegan or even vegetarian? Well there are two main reasons for this and the first is gelatine. Chewy sweets such as wine gums, jelly babies, cola bottles and even soft mints have traditionally got their texture and chewiness from gelatine. Maybe not that bad you are thinking until you realise exactly what gelatine is.
Gelatine is made from the boiled, heat treated, skin, bones and connective tissue of animals usually cows or pigs. To make sweets it is often dyed to give it a bright inviting colours with sugars and sweeteners added. Mmm doesn’t sound quite so nice now does it? If you want to see the process a Belgian filmmaker has charted how gelatin sweets are made by showing the process of their creation in reverse.
While that one reason alone is enough for any vegan to avoid sweets there is another and that is the colourant we just mentioned. This is called carmine and is made from (want to have a guess?), crushed bugs! That’s right the red colourant found in many of our favourite chewy sweets comes from bugs. The bugs used to make carmine are called cochineal, and are native to Latin America.
Millions of these insects are farmed every year to produce the colour that is not just used in sweets but in many other food products including fizzy drinks, yoghurts, fruit pies, cupcakes and doughnuts. Believe it or not it is also used extensively in the cosmetics industry and is found in many lipsticks.
So how do we know what sweets are vegan?
Well the good news is that many manufacturers now actually label their products vegan. If however you want to check the ingredients, gelatine should be easy to spot. You may not however see carmine and that is because it is sometimes labelled ‘natural red four’ or if you are in the EU it should have its EU classification number which is E120
Well at least we now know what to look for when trying to find out what sweets are vegan. Thankfully there are plenty of options available for those with a sweet tooth, or who just feel like a treat, that are vegan. Some are labelled vegan and some are not, so let’s look at 10 vegan sweets we like to see if we can find something you fancy.
Ten great vegan sweets
Haribo Sour Rainbow Strips
I’ve started with Haribo as they are the sweets we always used to have as children. Haribo are poor when it comes to vegan options and in fact at the time of writing their sour rainbow strips are their only vegan option. These fizzy fruit-flavoured gums that are made with real fruit extracts and of course no animal by-products.
Another childhood memory, jelly tots are made by Rowntree and are small sugar coated chewy drops that come in 5 flavours. They contain 25 % fruit juice and no artificial colours or preservatives.
This really is a journey in to the past, to me starburst will always be opel fruits, I can still remember the TV advert from the 1970’s. Starburst are made with real fruit juice, are chewy, very moorish and now vegan at least in the UK. (please do check if you outside of the UK, that your Starburst don’t contain gelatine)
I feel like writing this article I have jumped in a time machine back to the 1970’s. Love hearts are the cute tablet shape sweets that come in 6 flavours and have a message in a heart on one side. They were originally an updated version of a “conversation lozenge” from the 19 century and now in the 21 century are vegan and can even be personalised for presents, parties and weddings
Skittles used to be vegan in the US but not in the UK which is unusual because we often find it is the other way around. This was because E120 was still used as a colourant in the UK. The good news is that Wrigley’s removed this in 2016 so both versions are now vegan. Skittles have a hard sugar shell with a chewy fruity inside using both natural and artificial flavouring. Now they are vegan we can all “taste the rainbow”
I have had enough chewing for a few minutes so on Rainbow drops. Rainbow drops are one of Swizzels oldest sweets being launched before the second world war. They are a sugar coated cereal type puffed maize and corn. They are free from artificial colours and are either yellow, purple, green, pink or orange.
Fox’s Glacier Mints
I wonder how many of these I ate in my childhood during car journeys. Fox’s glacier mints have just celebrated their 100th birthday and are the most popular branded boiled mint in the UK. Fox’s glacier mints resemble miniature blocks of ice and are clear. They use mint oil as a natural flavouring and all varieties are vegan.
I think I should have worn my flares to write this article as I seem to have spent most of it in the 1970s. Flying saucers are a real retro sweet. They are brightly coloured dimpled discs in the shape of a flying saucer made from rice paper. They are filled with a fizzy, powdery sherbet and are naturally coloured.
Sadly the original fruit pastilles are not vegan as they contain gelatine. The good news is though we have managed to find a vegan version. Asdas own fruit pastilles are part of their classic favourite range, contain no artificial colours or flavourings and are just a chewy as the original.
Bourbon Cream Biscuit
Ok so I am going a bit “off topic” with this one as it’s not a sweet but all that reminiscing about sweets from my childhood made me think of my favourite bourbon cream biscuit. The bourbon cream biscuit is a sandwich biscuit consisting of two thin rectangular dark chocolate biscuits with a chocolate fondant filling (and I love them!). There are now many makers of bourbon cream biscuits and they are virtually all vegan. It is always best to check however as at one time Fox’s bourbon creams did contain whey powder.
So hopefully that has given you an idea of what sweets are vegan. There are of course many more with the market growing all the time. Of course we are not advocating making sweets a part of your daily diet, buy hey don’t we all deserve a treat from time to time and if sweets are your thing it’s good to know that there are some vegan options.
Do you have a favourite vegan sweet, or maybe you even make your own? Do let us know we would love to hear from you