For vegans hoping to enjoy a soft and chewy candy, ingredients matter. That’s because many gummies contain gelatin, a by-product of the meat industry that gives treats their toothy texture. Luckily, almost all Sour Patch Kids candies are vegan-friendly.
Sour Patch Kids also offers non-vegan cookies, yogurt, and ice cream (as well as vegan-friendly energy drink mixes)—but here, we focus on their sweet and sour classic candies. Find out what makes your lips pucker and your taste buds drool in our guide to vegan Sour Patch Kids.
Why Sour Patch Kids Are Vegan
Since Sour Patch Kids don’t contain gelatin, the only vegan-questionable ingredient is sugar, which strict vegans evaluate based on processing. Otherwise, the natural and artificial flavors, colors, and texturizers are all plant-based or were created synthetically in a lab.
The first ingredient in Sour Patch Kids is labeled “sugar,” likely making it a mix of beet and cane sugar. While vegan-friendly beet sugar transforms from vegetable to table sugar in a single process at a single refinery; cane sugar is secondarily processed with animal bone char to whiten the crystals.
Foods that don’t elucidate the sugar source generally contain both vegan beet sugar and non-vegan cane sugar. For some strict plant-based eaters, this disqualifies Sour Patch Kids as vegan-friendly.
Sour Patch Kids also contain invert sugar, a sweetener common in candies and drinks because of its smooth texture and water solubility. Invert sugar is table sugar that has had the bonds between the glucose and fructose molecules broken through a chemical reaction known as hydrolysis.
Natural and Artificial Flavors
According to federal law, natural flavors can be derived from plants, fungi, or animal products that have been heated to extract their essential compounds. In contrast, artificial flavors refer to products synthesized from other chemicals and not directly derived from animal products, fungi, or plants.
Given the fruity flavors of Sour Patch Kids, the natural and artificial flavors do not contain animal products, but they may have been derived from petroleum, the burning and extraction of which is a leading cause of global warming.
An organic acid found naturally in grapes, citrus fruits, bananas, and tamarinds, tartaric acid gives Sour Patch Kids their sour kick. This ingredient may seem unfamiliar, but you’ve likely encountered the salt of tartaric acid: cream of tartar. When mixed with baking soda, tartaric acid becomes baking powder—a common leavening agent.
Citric acid is used in food as both a preservative and a natural flavor. This colorless, weak organic acid occurs naturally in citrus fruits like lemons and limes and has a pH level between 3 and 6.
Another sour flavoring ingredient, sodium citrate is the salt of citric acid. Sodium citrate can also be used as a preservative.
As the name implies, most artificial colors do not come from natural sources, and they are often petroleum-derived. For environmental vegans, that may be enough to pass on foods with coloring.
The food whitener titanium dioxide is also listed in Sour Patch Kids’ color. This food additive has been deemed safe by the FDA, but a 2021 study out of the UK concluded titanium dioxide is not safe for consumption.
A hard, plant-based wax derived from Brazilian palm trees, carnauba wax is vegan. However, carnauba wax has sustainability concerns because the extraction of the wax can cause habitat destruction for native wildlife and deforestation.
Gum arabic only appears in Sour Patch Kids’ non-vegan jelly beans. This binding agent gives candies and confectionery treats their texture, sometimes in the place of gelatin.
When Sour Patch Kids Are Not Vegan
Just one variety of Sour Patch Kids candies contains animal products: watermelon jelly beans. Other Sour Patch Kids products (yogurt, ice cream, and cookies) contain non-vegan ingredients.
Found in Sour Patch Kids yogurt, gelatin is the primary protein in animal skin, bones, and connective tissues. Gelatin comes from the partial hydrolysis of collagen found in remnants from the beef and pork industries. It commonly provides foods like gummy candies, marshmallows, and desserts with a proper mouthfeel.
Beeswax is excreted from the glands of female worker bees and harvested alongside its co-product honey. A controversial food in vegan circles, many vegans refrain from beeswax and honey because they view these products as the result of forced animal labor. For other vegans, the fact that 15-30% of the world’s food supply would disappear without bee pollination means they make exceptions for these animal products.
Like beeswax, the confectioner’s glaze is made by another small animal: the lac insect. They excrete a resin that is then scraped off the trees in which the insects reside. During harvesting, lac insects are both intentionally and unintentionally killed.
Combined with alcohol, the resin creates edible shellac, which gives foods a glossy top coat. Research estimates that it takes about 50,000 lac bugs to produce 1 kg. of edible shellac.
Did You Know?
Sour Patch Kids’ parent company Mondelez International announced in 2021 that their entire line of products (and their supply chains) would reach net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. They’ve signed the Science Based Targets’ Business Ambition for 1.5℃ in accordance with the Paris Agreement as well as the UN’s Race to Zero Campaign.
Vegan Sour Patch Kids Varieties
If sugar processing doesn’t concern you, then all the flavors of Sour Patch Kids’ classic sugar-crusted sweets are vegan-friendly. None of these varieties contain gelatin or other animal products. This is true for Sour Patch Kids’ energy drink mixes as well.
- Just Blue Raspberry
- Crush Soda Fruit Mix
- Heads, 2 Flavors in One
- Bunnies Candy, Easter Edition
- Bites Original
- Bites Watermelon
- GHOST BCAA x Sour Patch Kids Watermelon Energy Drink Mix
- GHOST Legend x Sour Patch Kids Redberry Energy Drink Mix
Non-Vegan Sour Patch Kids Varieties
Alas, Sour Patch Kids’ jelly beans contain several non-vegan ingredients. The cookies, yogurt, and ice cream contain more obvious non-vegan ingredients.
- Watermelon Jelly Beans
- Chips Ahoy! Cookies with Sour Patch Kids Candy, Limited Edition (contains milk and whey)
- Yoplait Sour Patch Kids Go Gurt (both flavors contains milk and gelatin)
- Light Ice Cream & Sorbet (contains milk and whey)
Frequently Asked Questions
Do Sour Patch Kids have gelatin?
Nope! None of the Sour Patch Kids candies contain gelatin. The only Sour Patch Kids product that does is the non-vegan Go Gurt yogurt.
Do Sour Patch Kids have pork?
None of the Sour Patch Kids candies contain pork. The non-vegan Sour Patch Kids Go Gurt yogurt, however, does contain gelatin, which may be derived from pork.
Are regular Sour Patch Kids vegan?
By standard definitions, regular Sour Patch Kids candies are vegan because they don’t contain animal products. However, the sugar in all of the Sour Patch Kids candies was likely, at least in part, processed with animal bone char. That may be reason enough for some vigilant vegans to abstain.