Are Gummy Bears Vegan?

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Key Takeaways

  • Never buy any brand of gummy bears or any other gum jelly-type sweet snack without first checking the ingredients. If pectin or agar-agar isn’t implicitly listed, then the gummies in question are almost certainly not vegan. 
  • If the gummy bears or gummy candies you’re considering list gelatin that is derived from animals or any of its other terms of reference, namely hydrolyzed collagen, collagen hydrolysate, gelatin hydrolysate, hydrolyzed gelatin, or collagen peptides, stay away. 
  • Any brands without their ingredients listed most likely include gelatin. Plant-based ingredients only are a selling point, and plant-based alternatives to gelatin typically cost the manufacturer more, so they’ll always be listed. 

Whether or not gummy bears are vegan depends on which brand is in question. Unfortunately, the vast majority of gummy bears contain gelatin and therefore are not vegan-friendly. However, given the massive demand for the world’s favorite fruit-flavored chewy bears, several manufacturers have adapted their formula to use plant-based ingredients only. Here’s a look at how gummy bears are made, which brands to avoid and why, and the types of gummy bears that are safe for all to eat. 

So, Are Gummy Bears Vegan?

The original Gummy Bears fruit gum candies made by the German company Haribo since 1922 contain gelatin and two types of beeswax, which means they’re definitely not vegan. Only four products out of the entire Haribo line are vegan. Those who’d like to know more about the brand should check out our extensive piece on the inventor of the first gummy candy, originally called ‘Gummibärchen.’ The use of gelatin overwhelmed the food industry up until recent years. This fact, combined with a trend to mimic the founding recipe of the original manufacturer, means that the vast majority of gummy bears are not vegan unless they specifically state that they are. 

What Are Gummy Bears Made Of?

All gummy bears are made of a blend of glucose, sugar, or a sugar alternative, an acidifying compound, natural or artificial flavoring, a gelling agent, and a coating. The ingredients for Haribo Gummy Bears are stated on the Haribo website and packaging as:

Glucose syrup; sugar; gelatin; dextrose; fruit juice from fruit juice concentrate: apple, strawberry, raspberry, orange, lemon, pineapple; acidifier: citric acid; fruit and plant concentrates: safflower, spirulina, apple, elderberry, orange, black currant, kiwi, lemon, chokeberry, mango, passion fruit, grape; flavoring; elderberry extract; coating agent: beeswax white and yellow, carnauba wax.

Bovine, Porcine & Fish Gelatin

Unless otherwise stated, gummy bears, and most other gummy candies for that matter, are made using gelatin derived from cattle, fish, or pigs. Collagen is extracted from animal bones and converted into gelatin by boiling the bodies, cartilage, and skin of various animals or dissolving it in an acid solution before cleaning and processing. While the concern for vegans is clear, bovine gelatin has also been connected to the presence of disease-causing misfolded proteins called prions that are responsible for Creutzfeldt–Jakob disease and several other neurological degenerative disorders.

Beeswax Hardening Agent

Furthermore, Haribo’s recipe for the original Gummy Bear includes beeswax, which is a trend adopted by most of the sweet gummy industry. After Haribo and most other non-vegan gummies undergo drying, they are given a coating of white beeswax, and yellow beeswax, followed by carnauba wax derived from the carnauba Brazilian palm tree in order to reduce their stickiness while granting each bear an inviting shiny veneer.

Other Questionable Ingredients

Haribo and many other manufacturers looking to limit their manufacturing costs resort to using carmine red food color. Carmine, also known as cochineal extract, is directly derived from crushing female cochineal scale insects (Dactylopius coccus) as well as, at times, Armenian cochineal and Polish cochineal as well.

What Are Vegan Gummies Made Of?

Vegan gummies use agar-agar instead of gelatin and refrain from the inclusion of beeswax. Agar agar is extracted from the cell walls of red algae of various types but particularly the ogonori and tengusa varieties. The composition of agar, as it is most commonly known in cooking circles, is made up of agaropectin and polysaccharide agarose, which grants the jelly-like substance properties identical to gelatin.

Agar comes powdered or as cubes of agar-agar jelly. It is made by slowly boiling and then filtering cleaned seaweed while powdered varieties undergo further drying and grinding. The only differences between agar and gelatin is that agar needs to be boiled before it will set, whereas gelatin only needs to be dissolved in warm water. Also, gelatin sets slower and softer than agar, and agar stays firmer for longer when exposed to heat. 

The only wax included in vegan gummies is carnauba wax. It is used as a coating in the same manner as conventional gummies and jellies are made. Many vegan gummies feature a source of hydrolyzed protein, such as pea protein, and health-orientated brands come fortified with vitamins. Those opposed to corn syrup, a primary ingredient in regular gummies, will be happy to know that plant-based gummies typically use alternative sweeteners as well. 

Vegan Gummy Bear Brands

These gelatin-free gummy bears have a taste and texture that’s nearly identical to their non-vegan counterparts. Many would even say that they’re superior in a certain way or, for some, every way. We certainly can’t fault any of these amazing vegan gummy bear brands on anything. Each is well worth a try.

Vegan Gummy Snacks That Aren’t ‘Bears’

While there are, in essence, countless different vegan gummies available, these notable, overwhelmingly popular brands carry plant-based gummies that resemble gummy bears in every way except their shape. 

Vegan Gummy Bears – Frequently Asked Questions

Are you still wondering something about vegan gummy bears? Here are all the answers you need. 

How Can You Tell If Gummy Bears Are Vegan?

The only way to tell if gummy bears are vegan is to check the ingredients. If gelatin and/or beeswax are listed, they’re not vegan. Another ingredient to avoid is hydrolyzed collagen, as this is an interchangeable term for gelatin. Plant-based gummies without any animal derivative ingredients will cite agar-agar or pectin in the place of gelatin, and the only type of wax used is carnauba wax.

Are Haribo Gummy Bears Vegan?

No. Haribo Gummy Bears, across all variations, are not vegan. Haribo only makes four vegan products: Rainbow Spaghetti, Rainbow Strips Zing, Rainbow Twists (Sour), and Soft Jelly Bears. Shoppers will find gelatin listed as an ingredient in almost all of the company’s gummy and jelly-based sweets. Haribo uses pork gelatin across all applicable products. 

Are Black Forest Gummy Bears Vegan?

No. All Albanese Gummy Bears and other gummy products include pork gelatin. All sweets from Albanese Candy typically include gelatine as a gelling agent. The brand carried no vegan-friendly products at the time of writing and has no history of ever carrying vegan goods. 

Are Lifesaver Gummies Vegetarian? 

No. Life Savers gummies and mints include gelatin and stearic acid, a fatty acid derived from tallow and fish, so they are not vegan. The Creme Savers range also includes dairy. However, Life Savers hard candies and sugar-free hard candies are vegan.

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