Updated: Mar 15
"We believe that yummy sweets should be enjoyed by everyone."
The Vegan Candy Company
Mmm... vegan sweets, like regular sweets but cruelty free. Most people have no idea that a lot of sweets aren't vegan, they think of sweets as sugar and colourings, but if you look at the ingredients you will see a whole list of ingredients, some that you can't identify. This can make it difficult to know which sweets are vegan friendly and which aren't.
There are some sweets that everyone knows aren't vegan, milk chocolate is an example, there are vegan varieties available but they will clearly state that they are dairy-free. What about dark chocolate? Many people believe that the difference between milk chocolate and dark chocolate is whether or not they contain milk, but this isn't the case. Dark chocolate has a higher percentage of cocao then milk chocolate, but many brands also use milk powders or milk derivatives in the production making them unsafe for those with a milk allergy and not vegan friendly. For other sweets it may not be so clear that they are safe for vegans to eat, especially as many aren't labelled as vegan. Some of the ingredients that aren't okay for vegans are honey, beeswax, shellac, carmine and gelatine.
There is an argument that honey and beeswax are vegan as bees make these things naturally, no one has to kill bees to get the honey or wax. The problem is that bees don't make these things for humans. Bees make honey so that they will have food to eat in the winter when there are no flowers to collect nectar from; taking this honey is like someone walking into your kitchen and helping themselves to your food. Their attitude is that you buy food all the time, so what's the problem, your attitude is, my food is gone. The bees have to start from scratch, going out, collecting nectar, making honey and storing it, to replace what humans took from them, just for the process to start again. Bees use wax to store their honey and to protect their larva and pupa, like cots for baby bees, it doesn't seem right to take that to make your sweets shiny.
Shellac comes from the female lac beetle, she secrets a resin as she eats tree sap. This resin is raw shellac and is collected by shaving the surfaces of the tree where the beetles have been eating. These scrapings contain bark shavings and lac beetles removed during the scraping; they are placed in canvas tubes, like long socks, and heated over a fire. This causes the shellac to liquefy, and it seeps out of the canvas, leaving the bark and beetles behind, the beetles are killed in the process.
Carmine also comes from beetles, it is used to make a red colouring. Certain scale beetles, such as the cochineal, are collected and killed, their bodies are dried out and then boiled in an ammonia or sodium carbonate solution to get the colouring out. There are better ways of making things red.
Gelatine, this is used to make sweets chewy and is often used in marshmallow, ice cream, yogurt, chewy sweets and jelly. Gelatine is made by boiling collagen that comes from animal body parts for hours, sometimes days; pig skins, pig and cattle bones, split cattle hides and fish by-products.
It can be hard to completely avoid gelatine as it is commonly used in medicines, medication and vitamin capsules, even skin lotions, but in all cases we do our best.
Accidentally Vegan Sweets
There are many sweets that are accidentally vegan, sweets that aren't made to be vegan, they simply don't use use any animal, or animal derived ingredients, however, do be careful as ingredients can be changed without any obvious sign on the packaging.
Starburst - In the UK Starburst chewy sweets, formally Opal Fruits, are vegan and available pretty much everywhere.
Jelly Tots - Jelly Tots are small, fruity flavoured, sugar coated, jelly sweets made by Rowntrees. Rowntrees make quite a few different sweets, but only the Jelly Tots are vegan friendly.
Skittles - Skittles used to contain carmine, E120, but this has been removed so now Skittles are vegan friendly.
Flying Saucers - Rice paper domes filled with sherbet, one of my absolute favourites.
Sherbet - In the UK sherbet is a fizzy powder that contains sugar and flavourings. In other countries the ingredients may differ so always check.
Millions - These are tiny chewy sweets that can be bought in packs or from dispensers. They come in loads of flavours including strawberry, bubblegum, iron brew and banana.
Sour Strips - Sour strips are chewy sweets that come in packs of strips that you pull apart yourself. They are coated in sour sugar and are made by many different companies and supermarkets and have basically the same recipe, they also come in loads of flavours, the apple ones are good, very good.
Love Hearts - Love Heart sweets are hard, tablet-like sweets made by Swizzels Matlow in the UK and are all embossed with a heart that contains messages like "U Rock", "Love You" and "Be Happy".
Boiled Sweets - Almost all boiled sweets are vegan as they are sugar boiled with flavourings and colourings; however, there are some that contain milk or milk derivatives so always check the ingredients before you buy.
There are many manufacturers that are now making vegan sweets, some make a range of sweets that they sell along with non-vegan offerings, but there are companies that only make vegan friendly sweets, brands like Vego, Jealous Sweets and Candy Kittens. These companies produce sweets, chocolate and candies that contain no animal products, animals derived ingredients and do not use animals in any way during their production. They often mimic non-vegan sweets, taste the same and have the same or a very similar texture, in other words they're really good. The number of brands and vegan options that are available in supermarkets and high street shops is increasing every week, with even more available online. With so many options there really is no need to miss out on a sweet treat, just don't eat too many.