Are Gummy Bears Vegan? – Short answer: Most gummy bears found in convenience stores, gas stations, and supermarkets are not vegan.
But the long, more realistic answer is: it depends.
A small amount of gummy bear brands are vegan. You need to know what makes these candies non-vegan before deciding to buy them.
- Whether or not gummy bears are vegan depends on the ingredients used to make them.
- Gelatin, which is derived from animal collagen, is the most common non-vegan ingredient in gummy candy.
- Vegan-friendly gummy bears use alternative gelling agents such as agar-agar or pectin, which are derived from plants. They also use plant-based coloring.
What Makes a Non-Vegan Gummy Bear?
Simple, animal-based ingredients. But you already know that right?
The thing is, some of these ingredients aren’t so easy to catch.
The untrained eye might read ingredients like: “gelatin” or “carmine” and not notice these are sourced from animals.
Let’s look at the most common animal-based ingredients found in gummy candy and inspect them a little further.
Gelatin is one of the main animal-based ingredients found in these treats. This ingredient is what gives the bears their squishiness and texture. What are the raw materials of gelatin?
To make gelatin you would need; animal skin, ground bones, ligaments, and tendons. A collagenous protein is extracted from these animal remains. It’s a complicated purifying process but we don’t need to get into that here. What’s important for you to know is, it’s not vegan. So be suspicious of any chewy jelly-type candy. Odds are, they’re made with gelatin.
You know how gummies be all shiny and glossy? That’s thanks to something called beeswax. Beeswax is extracted from the honeycomb of bees and is not considered vegan.
Worker bees produce this substance to seal the honeycombs once it’s filled with honey. The bees vomit this wax-like substance from their abdomen and create “caps”. To harvest the honey, these caps are removed, separated, and refined into beeswax. (See the whole process here, it’s fascinating.)
Harvesting beeswax involves disturbing the bees in their natural habitat. Certain vegan philosophies might also interpret this as stealing something the bees made for their own well-being. If you consider this an invasive procedure, beeswax is certainly unsuitable for your lifestyle.
The Red Gummy Bear’s name is…Carmine.
Gummy bears come in a variety of vibrant colors. I present to you, Carmine! The red-colored bear and boy does he have a story to tell!
The red coloring agent used in common food products is known as Red Food Color Number 4 or Carmine. Manufacturers use this artificial color to give foods a vibrant red hue.
But beware! The raw material used for this will bug you out, to say the least!
Small beetles. – Yikes!
A beetle called the cochineal is commonly used as a food coloring in many products.
Cochineal insects are native to South America and live below the thick and prickly pads of cacti. They produce carminic acid as a defense mechanism for other predators. This acid is what produces the bright and deep red dye.
The harvesting process for carmine involves the destruction of these insects to obtain the pigment from the crushed remains.
In short, when selecting gummy bears or any other food product, check the ingredients list for the presence of Gelatin, Beeswax, Red Food Color Number 4, Carmine, or Carminic Acid. Any one of these ingredients will put an end to your sweet craving.
Unless you find more suitable options…
Ingredients in Vegan-Friendly Gummy Bears
Fortunately, there are vegan alternatives available in the market. To avoid animal-derived ingredients, companies use plant-based sources like fruits and vegetables. Gelling agents from the apples and citrus peels, also known as pectin, achieve a similar chewy texture. Beet juice, for example, gives a vibrant red hue without the need for carmine.
Check out the table below and train your eyes to spot these replacements while you inspect the ingredient list.
VEGAN INGREDIENT ALTERNATIVES
|✅ Pectin, Cornstarch or Xanthan Gum
|✅ Carnauba Wax
|✅ Fruit & Vegetable Juice
Wrapping it up
Vegan-friendly gummy candies are relatively available if you look hard enough.
Let’s be real…you probably won’t find them in your everyday gas station or convenience store. But if you go to the right stores or make a quick search online, you’ll find multiple brands to buy from.
The most important thing is to check the ingredients list before you purchase. Opting for all-natural, plant-based alternatives, you can indulge in your favorite sweet treat without compromising your dietary preferences.
- “Gelatin.” Wikipedia, 27 June 2023, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gelatin.
- GELITA AG. “Gelita – How Is Gelatine Made?” YouTube, 21 Feb. 2011, www.youtube.com/watch?v=6bYIow9pc6M.\
- Fall Line Ridge. (2022). From Garbage to Gold: Making Pure Beeswax. YouTube. Retrieved September 9, 2023, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dOe70WEal98&t=42s.
- Carman, K. (2020, June 22). How carmine, the Red Dye made from bugs, makes it into your food. HowStuffWorks. https://recipes.howstuffworks.com/food-science/carmine.htm
- Denenberg, Z. (2023, May 9). What is pectin, anyway?. Bon Appétit. https://www.bonappetit.com/story/what-is-pectin