At first glance, the tangy, sour candies called Sour Patch Kids may seem vegan. After all, the company boasts that they are one of the few gummy treats in the market that don’t contain gelatin (a common non-vegan ingredient made from cows and pigs).
But before you take a bite of these little kids’ heads, are Sour Patch Kids vegan?
What is Sour Patch Kids?
Sour Patch Kids candies have been around since the 1970s and were initially called “Mars Men.” The name change was supposedly due to the rising popularity of the Cabbage Patch Kids in the 1980s. Mondelez owns Sour Patch Kids, along with big snack names like Oreo and Cadbury.
Upon close inspection, Sour Patch Kids come in the shape of a small child with spiky hair, round eyes, and a big smile. Some of them have one or both arms up as though they were waving. It kind of makes you feel bad devouring them.
Each chewy candy has a white sugar coating and is gummy in texture. They are initially sour when you first bite into them but turn sweet as you chew and swallow, as promised by the brand’s slogan “Sour. Sweet. Gone.”
The original Sour Patch Kids flavors include lime (green), lemon (yellow), orange (orange), and red raspberry (red). In 2014, the brand added blue raspberry (blue). They also released a Sour Patch watermelon, which comes in a watermelon shape.
Aside from their original flavors, the brand released fun variants like Tricksters, wherein the color of the Sour Patch Kid doesn’t match its flavor; Fire, wherein there is a hint of heat in the aftertaste; and Chillers, wherein each bite would reward you with a fresh burst of menthol.
How Sour Patch Kids Are Made
Corn syrup and modified corn starch are used instead of gelatin to achieve the gooey texture, making Sour Patch Kids vegetarian. But is it safe for the vegan community?
Most sour candies, including Sour Patch Kids, incorporate one or more types of acids to achieve that mouth-puckering flavor. Manufacturers carefully create an acid mixture using common choices like tartaric acid, fumaric acid, and malic acid, with citric acid used the most. These acids are okay for the vegan.
Citric acid is found in nature in lemons, limes, grapefruits, and all other citrus fruits. On the other hand, malic acid is found in apples, cherries, and apricots and is the reason for the ongoing sour sensation you would typically experience with a Warheads candy.
Is It Vegan-Friendly?
The ingredients listed in Sour Patch Kids candy don’t seem to contain any non-vegan ingredients. The company lists sugar, citric acid, corn and glucose syrup, modified cornstarch, titanium dioxide, and natural flavors artificial flavors in its label. These are plant-based ingredients that do not directly harm, nor are they animal-derived ingredients.
However, a few components in the ingredients list may be considered controversial ingredients. These ingredients may be plant-based but can be associated with animal cruelty.
Sour Patch Kids Controversial and Questionable Ingredients
While these are not entirely obvious animal ingredients, most vegans who wish to lead a purely vegan lifestyle may want to avoid these components that we will list down below.
Natural and Artificial Flavors
If you look at the ingredient list, you’ll likely notice that Sour Patch Kids are made using “natural and artificial flavor.” These can come from either plants or animals, but it’s quite concerning how the brand doesn’t explicitly state the ingredients’ origins.
Artificial colors like Red 40, Yellow 5 and 6, and Blue 1 are made from petroleum. These colors undergo animal testing first to ensure no strange side effects like tumors show up, which can cause health issues. Although the animals don’t necessarily die from the procedure, these animals will be euthanized right after testing.
Carmine or carminic acid are used to create the red dye usually found in most processed food products. They are made from crushed cochineal bugs and mixed in with water. These are also not considered vegan.
The sugar you see in candy (or food, in general) comes from only two main sources: cane sugar and beet sugar. And although this ingredient may seem harmless at first, plain sugar is not always vegan.
One of the main differences between the two is the processing and production methods. Organic sugar from beets is made by thinly slicing sugar beets to extract its natural flavors and juices. Sugar suppliers also mix additives in to crystallize the sugar.
Cane sugar, on the other hand, is produced using the same method. However, an extra step is added: its refining process to achieve the bone-white color is done by using bone char particles in the filtration process.
In case you didn’t know, bone char comes from the charred bones of cattle.
And while the animal bones are not technically added to the final product itself, it’s still worth avoiding them altogether if you’re trying to be 100 percent vegan.
A thorough look at the ingredients list would tell you that Sour Patch Kids candies don’t contain gelatin, a common non-vegan ingredient obtained from the skin, bones, ligament, and collagen of animals like cows and pigs. Gelatin is the ingredient responsible for making gummy treats bouncy, chewy, and rubbery.
Sour Patch Kids uses agar, corn syrup, and modified corn starch instead to mimic the gooey texture, which is okay for a vegan implementing a plant-based lifestyle.
The UK version of the Sour Patch Kids is made with almost the same ingredients as the US version, but it does contain gelatin.
Also Read: Swedish Fish - Is It Vegan?
Vegan Alternatives to Sour Patch Kids
Candy People treats are made using only the natural flavors of fruit juice and ingredients. These are manufactured and produced in Sweden, are vegan friendly, gluten and gelatin-free, and non-GMO. The bold, bright colors of these treats come from turmeric and paprika extract.
Haribo’s Sour Rainbow Strips contain interesting yet non-controversial ingredients such as tartaric acid, sodium hydrogen, and copper complexes. They are, however, considered vegan. This brand also does not undergo any animal testing.
YumEarth Organic Sour Beans may be small, but they pack quite the flavorful punch. They are gluten-free, vegan friendly, and are certified USDA organic. No artificial colors or flavors have also been added to this sour treat.
SmartSweets Treats are a great alternative to Sour Patch Kids if you want to go fully vegan. These gummy treats are made with non-GMO corn fiber, organic cane sugar and are made using plant-based recipes. Each bag contains only three grams of sugar and 100 calories, with no artificial flavors and sweeteners.
Strict vegans who are on a diet would enjoy Project 7, as each pack only has three grams of sugar with 60 calories. These sour gummies are both keto-approved and certified vegan. The recipe for making these gummy treats are plant-based. Aside from all these, the company supports seven non-profit organizations, hence their name.
Why Some Vegans Still Eat Sour Patch Kids
It’s possible that many vegans do not realize that sugar is a potentially controversial product. After all, not many people know that sugar is filtered using bone char, and that’s okay. Because if you think about it, almost nothing is 100 percent vegan.
For strict vegans, though, this is absolutely a no-no.
Yes, the chewy, gooey Sour Patch Kids are gluten-free. None of the ingredients listed contain gluten or are gluten-based.
Yes, the Sour Patch Kids treats are halal . These chewy candies do not contain alcohol or any obvious animal products.
Although the brand does not infuse any ingredients derived from animals directly into the treats, they cannot be considered 100 percent vegan due to the methods used to produce some of the ingredients. However, if you want to lead a strict vegan diet and lifestyle, Sugar Patch Kids might not be the best option for a sweet treat.
If you really think about it, nothing is 100 percent vegan. But now that you’re well informed, you can make better decisions that would eliminate harm to animals as much as you can.