Are Sour Patch Kids Vegan?

Many candies contain hidden animal ingredients - here’s everything you need to know about whether Sour Patch Kids are vegan


8 Minutes Read

Sour patch kids, a non-vegan sweet containing gelatin, on the supermarket shelf Here's what to know before buying Sour Patch Kids as a vegan - Media Credit: Patti McConville / Alamy Stock Photo

Sour Patch Kids are a hugely popular candy brand eaten all over the world, and many vegans or plant-based eaters may be wondering if they contain gelatin or other hidden animal ingredients. So, are Sour Patch Kids vegan?

Read more: Two Thirds Of Brits Unaware Of ‘Hidden Meat’ In Sweets, Study Finds

To some people, it might come as a surprise that candies are often non-vegan. But there are actually only a limited amount of popular brands that are completely animal-free.

Here’s everything you need to know about eating Sour Patch Kids as a vegan.

A history of Sour Patch Kids

Sour Patch Kids, a popular sweet and sour candy, originated from a candy created in the early 1970s by Frank Galatolie. Initially called Mars Men, these candies were shaped like little Martians in a nod to the growing fascination with space and the extraterrestrial that marked the era, particularly fueled by the space race and popular sci-fi films of the time. The original Mars Men candies were designed to capitalize on the widespread interest in alien and space themes.

Read more: Why Aren’t Haribo Vegan? Full List Of The Brand’s Plant-Based Sweets

In 1985, as interest in space waned and the market evolved, Mars Men were rebranded to Sour Patch Kids. As part of the rebrand, the candy also changed shape, going from Martians to childlike figures. The new name and design aimed to evoke a sense of nostalgia and playfulness, which proved to be a successful marketing strategy. The “Kids” in the name, coupled with the unique sour-then-sweet flavor profile, helped the candy to stand out in a crowded confectionery marketplace.

Over the decades, Sour Patch Kids have grown in popularity and expanded into a global brand. The basic formula has remained largely unchanged, providing a chewy candy coated in a sour sugar layer that dissolves to reveal a sweet taste, though new flavors and variations have been introduced throughout the years. Their sour sugar coating is made from citric acid, tartaric acid, and sugar. Flavors include lemon, redberry, orange, lime, grape, blue raspberry, pink strawberry, and white pineapple.

Whether you’re in the UK or US, here’s everything you need to know about whether Sour Patch Kids are vegan.

Are Sour Patch Kids vegan in the UK?

Non-vegan jelly sweets Sour Patch Kids
Adobe Stock Sour Patch Kids are a sweet and sour candy

Those new to the vegan lifestyle will probably be aware that candies such as this often contain gelatin (also spelled gelatine). This ingredient has surprisingly grisly origins, and the reason why gelatin it isn’t vegan may come as a shock to some.

In the UK, Sour Patch Kids do indeed contain gelatin, which makes them unsuitable for vegans. The full list of ingredients is below:

Sugar, Glucose Syrup, Water, Starch, Gelatin, Acid (Malic Acid), Concentrated Apple Juice, Colors (Anthocyanins, Vegetable Carbon, Paprika Extract, Lutein, Curcumin). Acidity Regulator (Calcium Citrates), Palm Oil, Flavorings

The problem with gelatin

Gelatin is an ingredient found in a range of candies, sweets, and other desserts, and it’s used to give products a jelly texture.

Gelatin is a protein derived from collagen, which is obtained by boiling the skins, bones, and connective tissues of animals such as cows, pigs, and occasionally fish. The process begins by cleaning the animal parts and treating them with either a strong acid or a strong base to prepare the collagen for extraction. These materials are then heated in water, where the collagen fibers break down into gelatin. The solution is concentrated, filtered, and dried into sheets or powdered form, which is then used in various food products and pharmaceuticals. Gelatin was first discovered in the 170th century when a French physicist called Denis Papin discovered you could remove collagen from animal bones by boiling them. In the 19th century, the gelatin production process was fully developed and patented.

Given that it’s a direct product of animal exploitation, and is derived from an animal who has been killed, gelatin is neither vegetarian nor vegan. This means that vegans living in the UK are not able to eat Sour Patch Kids. 

The ethical issues with palm oil

Palm oil is a type of edible vegetable oil derived from the fruit of oil palms. The oil is extracted from both the pulp of the fruit and the kernel, with each part yielding different types of oil used in everything from cooking and baking to cosmetics and biofuels. Palm oil itself is vegan, as it is a plant-based product. It does not involve the use of animal products or by-products in its production process, making it suitable for vegan diets.

However, despite being technically vegan, some vegans choose to avoid palm oil due to environmental and ethical concerns. The expansion of palm oil plantations has led to widespread deforestation in tropical regions, particularly in Indonesia and Malaysia, where it’s mostly grown. This deforestation has significant environmental impacts, including habitat destruction, loss of biodiversity, and increased greenhouse gas emissions. The industry has also been linked to various human rights abuses, including labor violations and conflicts over land rights with indigenous communities. As a result, some vegans and environmental activists choose to avoid palm oil products.

Sour Patch Kids USA ingredients

If you’re living in the US, you may be pleased to know that Sour Patch Kids do not contain gelatin. From looking at the label, it appears that they could be considered an accidentally vegan product with no animal ingredients. The ingredients list is as follows: 

Sugar, invert sugar, corn syrup, modified corn starch, tartaric acid, citric acid, natural and artificial flavor. Yellow 6, red 40, yellow 5, blue 1.

Sour patch kids, a non-vegan candy containing gelatin, on the supermarket shelf
Adobe Stock Sour Patch Kids don’t contain any obvious animal ingredients in the US

Is sugar vegan?

There is sometimes some confusion in the US, however, over whether sugar is acceptable to eat as a vegan. This is because bone char is used in the production of sugar cane. This ingredient is made from the bones of farmed cows, and is often bought from farmers of slaughtered animals in other countries. 

By some people’s definition, therefore, many sweets with sugar of unknown origin may not be vegan. Others take a more liberal approach, however, pointing out that veganism isn’t about perfection. As we live in a non-vegan world, it is often impossible to avoid all indirect forms of animal exploitation all the time. 

“Don’t stress too hard about sugar if you’re unsure about how it was produced,” PETA previously said. “You’re saving more than 100 animals per year by following a vegan lifestyle, and the effect will snowball as people around you, inspired by your choices, may start trying vegan meals once you’ve shown them how easy it can be.”

It’s also worth noting that some artificial flavorings in the ingredients may have been tested on animals. While these ingredients are not animal-derived, therefore, they may therefore not be considered cruelty-free, and some vegans will avoid them.

Which Sour Patch Kids flavors are vegan in the USA?

The following flavors of Sour Patch Kids contain no animal products, and therefore may be considered vegan:

  • Original 
  • Watermelon
  • Berries
  • Strawberry
  • Just Blue Raspberry
  • Bunnies Candy, Easter Edition
  • Heads, 2 Flavors in One
  • Extreme
  • Crush Soda Fruit Mix
  • Big Kids
  • Bites Original
  • Bites Watermelon

Where to buy Sour Patch Kids in the USA

Sour Patch Kids are widely available across the United States. Major national grocery store chains, convenience stores, and pharmacies typically carry them. For instance, Walmart, Target, Walgreens, and CVS usually stock various sizes and flavors of Sour Patch Kids in their candy aisles. They can also be found in Kroger, Safeway, and Publix. Sour Patch Kids are sold in a range of package sizes: including standard packages, family-sized bags, and sometimes in bulk containers, particularly in larger stores or those with extensive candy sections.

You can also buy Sour Patch Kids online. Websites like Amazon often stock Sour Patch Kids in larger sizes, which is particularly useful if you’re planning a large party or event. Speciality online retailers that focus on sweets and snacks also tend to stock Sour Patch Kids.

Vegan-friendly candy in the UK

If you live in the UK and are unable to eat Sour Patch Kids, there are a number of vegan-friendly candies to choose from. All of the below are free from animal products and palm oil.

  • Jealous Sweets – Its range includes gummy bears, worms, and other shapes, all made without gelatin and palm oil.
  • Candy Kittens – These gourmet gummy candies are vegan and free from palm oil, available in a variety of flavors.
  • LoveRaw’s Butter Cups – These treats come in several flavors like Peanut Butter and Salted Caramel, made without palm oil.
  • Doisy & Dam’s Chocolate Bars – These bars come in various unique flavors and are made with ethically sourced ingredients without palm oil.
  • Vego Whole Hazelnut Chocolate Bar – Vego has a wide range of dairy-free and palm oil-free chocolate bars
  • Moo Free Chocolates – Offering a wide range of chocolate bars and Easter eggs that are vegan and free from palm oil.
  • Peakz Crunchy Chocolate Squares – These are vegan chocolate-coated squares with no palm oil.
  • The Raw Chocolate Company – Their chocolate bars and snacks are vegan-friendly and palm oil-free.
  • Panda Licorice – Offering soft licorice that is both vegan and free from palm oil.

Read more: Are Jelly Babies Vegan? What You Need To Know About The Sweets

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