Are Hi Chews Vegan or Vegetarian?

Hi-Chew is a popular soft and chewy candy that’s been around since 1975. If you count Chewlets, the version of the candy that preceded the current form, it’s been around for much longer than that.1

Because it’s been around for a while, a lot of vegans and vegetarians grew up eating the stuff and want to know if they can continue to do so after switching to a plant-based diet.

Is it vegan or vegetarian? No, Hi-Chews are not considered vegan or vegetarian. Formulations vary, but most varieties contain gelatin. Further, some varieties contain insect-derived ingredients like honey and carmine.2,3

What we’ll do here is go over the various ingredients that render Hi-Chews non-vegan, and even non-vegetarian.

Why Hi-Chews Are Not Considered Vegan or Vegetarian

Hi-Chews Contain Gelatin

For example, the tropical mix contains:2

  • Glucose Syrup and Sugar
  • Vegetable Oil (Palm Kernel Oil and Hydrogenated Palm Kernel Oil)
  • Gelatin
  • Malic Acid, Citric Acid
  • Natural and Artificial Flavors
  • Chia Seeds
  • Mango Puree
  • Apple and Pineapple Juice Concentrate, Dragon Fruit Juice
  • Fruit and Vegetable Juice Concentrates (for Color)
  • Purple Carrot Juice Concentrate (Color)
  • Sucrose Fatty Acid Esters
  • Sorbitan Monostearate
  • Kiwi Puree
  • Maltodextrin
  • Honey
  • Ascorbic Acid (Vitamin C)
  • Beta-Carotene (Color)
  • Soy Lecithin

Gelatin is a protein derived from collagen in animal tissues. It’s a semi-transparent, odorless and tasteless substance with a mildly yellow color that’s produced by boiling animal tissues (bones, skin, bones, ligaments, etc.) in water.4

Unlike other gelatinous substances, such as those that fall into the category of vegetable gums (CMC, gum Arabic, etc.), gelatin is always animal-derived and thus never considered vegan or vegetarian.

A lot of manufacturers have moved on to using other alternatives, but apparently, Hi-Chews has yet to make the transition. I’ve searched several labels, and this ingredient pops up in every single one I’ve come across.

It’s also listed on the Hi-Chew Wikipedia page as a primary ingredient.3

Additional Non-Vegan Ingredients in Hi Chews

Some Hi-Chews Use Carmine

Not all versions of the candy contain this additive.

For example, I found one stick of Hi-Chew Stick Strawberry that contains:5

  • Glucose Syrup and Sugar
  • Hydrogenated Palm Oil
  • Gelatin
  • Natural and Artificial Flavors
  • Citric Acid, DL-Malic Acid
  • Strawberry Juice Concentrate
  • Emulsifiers (Sucrose Fatty Acid Esters, Sorbitan Monostearate)
  • Concentrated Yogurt
  • Purple Carrot Extract (Color)

Not a trace of the stuff in sight. I bring up this flavor because strawberry is the version in which you’d expect to find carmine.

However, I then ran across a variety pack that contains the following ingredients:6

  • Glucose Syrup, Sugar
  • Hydrogenated Palm Kernel Oil
  • Gelatin
  • Natural and Artificial Flavors
  • DL-Malic Acid, Citric Acid
  • Strawberry Juice from Concentrate, Apple Juice from Concentrate
  • Emulsifiers (Sucrose Fatty Acid Esters, Sorbitan Monostearate)
  • Orange Juice from Concentrate
  • Natural Colors (Carmine, Beta-Carotene, Purple Carrot Extract)
  • Sodium Lactate Solution
  • FD&C Blue 1.

Also, like gelatin, it’s also listed on the Wikipedia page as a common ingredient.3

One of the main categories of artificial dyes is the azo dyes which include Red 40 (Allura Red) Yellow 6 (Sunset Yellow), etc.7

Azo dyes are considered vegan.

Red 40 comes pretty standard in fruit-flavored candies these days, so I was surprised to find that Hi-Chews opted for another red dye known as Red 4 or carmine, which is derived from beetles.8

It’s a bright-red pigment produced from carminic acid—the compound that’s derived from beetles.9

It’s not only insect-derived, but its method of production can often involve other animal products like egg whites, fish glue, and gelatin.10

So, yeah not vegan-friendly.

Hopefully, one day they’ll make the switch to Red 4 which is petroleum-derived and can even be obtained from hybrid species from the genus Fragaria.11

Some Hi-Chews Contain Dairy

This one I did not see coming. For one, it’s only listed on the Wikipedia page as an ingredient for some of the fringe flavors like strawberry cheesecake.

But, when scanning the label for carmine, I ran across yogurt in the plain strawberry variety.5

It could be a mistake or misprint of some sort, but at the very least you should expect to find it in any cream-based flavors.

Yogurt is a common ingredient in creamy candies because it provides a smooth mouthfeel. It also imparts a tangy aftertaste which is desirable for some flavor profiles.

Some Hi-Chews Contain Stearic Acid

Keep in mind that this wouldn’t render the candy non-vegan by most standards. More on that below.

I did find a few flavor profiles with this particular additive.

For example, the mango sicks contain:12

  • Glucose Syrup and Sugar
  • Hydrogenated Palm Oil
  • Gelatin
  • Mango Puree
  • Citric Acid, DL-Malic Acid
  • Natural and Artificial Flavors
  • Concentrated Yogurt
  • Emulsifiers (Sorbitan Monostearate, Sucrose Fatty Acid Esters)
  • Natural Color (Beta-Carotene)

Keep in mind that only the strictest of vegans would avoid a food product because of stearic acid. But, I mention it because it’s just one more potentially problematic ingredient in this candy product.

And the ingredient is mentioned in PETA’s list of animal-derived and potentially animal-derived ingredients.13

It’s obtained from fats and oils via saponification of the triglycerides (TGs) which can be derived from both plants and animals.14

It is looked upon with suspicion, because this particular FA is found more abundantly in TGs sourced from animal fat, compared to plant oils.15

However, there are some plant sources that are unusually high in the FA, such as cocoa butter and shea butter, where the content of stearic acid is around 28–45%.16

Anyway, stearic acid is the least of our problems when it comes to this candy.

That’s it for the vegan and vegetarian status of Hi-Chews. Thanks for reading.

You may also want to check out the following related articles:


  1. Story – Hi-chew™
  2. Hi-Chew Tropical Mix, Stand Up Pouch,12.7 OZ.
  3. Hi-Chews.
  4. Gelatin.
  5. Hi-Chew Stick Strawberry 1.76OZ 15CT.
  6. Hi-Chews – Strawberry, Green Apple, and Orange.
  7. Kobylewski, S., Jacobson, M.F., 2010. Food Dyes. A Rainbow of Risks. Center of Science in the Public Interest (Online)
  8. Bug-Based Food Dye Should Be Exterminated, Says CSPI.
  9. Carminic Acid
  10. Carmine
  11. Potera, C., 2010. Diet and nutrition: the artificial food dye blues. Environ Health Perspect. 118 (10), A428–A431.
  12. Hi-Chew Stick Mango 1.76OZ 15CT.
  13. Animal-derived Ingredients Resource: Living.
  14. David J. Anneken, Sabine Both, Ralf Christoph, Georg Fieg, Udo Steinberner, Alfred Westfechtel “Fatty Acids” in Ullmann’s Encyclopedia of Industrial Chemistry 2006, Wiley-VCH, Weinheim.
  15. Stearic Acid Production.
  16. Beare-Rogers, J.; Dieffenbacher, A.; Holm, J.V. (2001). “Lexicon of lipid nutrition (IUPAC Technical Report)”. Pure and Applied Chemistry. 73 (4): 685–744.