Red Vines is a popular brand of red licorice candy. At least, they’re referred to as red licorice, despite not containing any licorice at all. They’ve been around for decades—at least as far back as the early 1950s.1
Red Vines do put out black twists made with real licorice.
Because it’s been around for so long, a lot of vegans grew up eating the candy and want to know if they can continue to do so after switching to a 100% plant-based diet.
Are they vegan? Yes, Red Vines are considered vegan. This goes for both the red and black varieties. They’re pretty minimalistic with their ingredients, and most food panels only list corn syrup, citric acid, artificial flavor, Red 40, and wheat flour.2
What we’ll do here is go over the various reasons Red Vines are generally considered vegan.
Why Red Vines Are Considered Vegan
Red Vines Use Vegan-Friendly Red Food Dye
If a food dye is said to be artificial, it just means that the structure of the compound isn’t found in nature or derived from a natural source.3
One of the main categories of artificial colorings is the azo dyes like Sunset Yellow (Yellow 6), Tartrazine (Yellow 5), Allura Red (Red 40), etc.4
These dyes are sourced from petroleum, and thus always considered vegan. There are people who take issue with the fact that dyes are usually tested on animals (for carcinogenicity, etc.), but only the strictest of vegans would avoid petroleum-based food dyes on the grounds that they’re tested on animals.
The red food coloring issue is a point of confusion for many because there’s another popular food dye called Red 4, or carmine, which is derived from beetles.5
It’s a brighter-red pigment but is often used in place of Red 40, though it is a bit less common in candy foods. It’s produced from carminic acid which is the compound that’s actually derived from beetles.6
Not only is it sourced directly from insects, but some methods used to produce the chemical involve animal products (e.g. fish glue, egg white, and gelatin), even though the ingredients aren’t present in the end product.7
So, yeah not vegan-friendly.
Red 40 can even be produced from a certain type of strawberries, a hybrid species from the genus Fragaria.8
Fortunately for vegans, Red 40 tends to be the most common dye used in “accidentally vegan” foods like soft drinks, cotton candy, etc. whereas carmine tends to be used in yogurt which is already a non-vegan food product.
Red Vines Don’t Contain Gelatin
Gelatin is a protein derived from collagen, which is only found in animals—specifically, the epidermis of the skin, as well as ligaments, bones, etc.9
Gelatin tends to be used in confections that require a chewy texture, and is a common aerator for this purpose—along with other animal products like egg albumen.
Fortunately, several plant-derived substances are useful for this purpose.
In fact, the term “gelatinization” is used in the food science world to refer to the process in which heating plant matter in the presence of water causes the starchy content to swell up to several times its original size.10
It weakens the hydrogen bonds that hold the starch together, allowing water to penetrate the starch molecules. This process causes the starch molecules to swell up until their peak thickness is reached.10,11
This swelling causes the food to develop a gelatinous texture, taking on a different consistency than it had previously.12
If you take a bite into Red Vines, you’ll notice a wheat-like texture that’s similar to cooked noodle—not exactly the same, because wheat is only one of several ingredients used to make the candy.
Red Vines Don’t Contain Confectioner’s Glaze
It seems most fruit candies these days make use of some kind of edible coating. An edible coating is a thin layer of edible material, such as an oil or wax (natural or petroleum-based) that serves as a barrier between gas and moisture.13
A lot of waxes are completely vegan-friendly, but confectioner’s glaze is often used in candy making (hence the name).
It’s not that all vegans avoid the stuff, but it is insect-derived and mentioned in PETA’s list of animal-derived ingredients.14
Confectioner’s glaze is composed mostly of the shellac content of sticklac, a substance scraped from tree branches after being left behind by lac bugs.15
It’s highly likely that a lot of bugs are killed in the process of removing the sticklac from tree branches. After all, it has to be purified to remove pieces of bark and bugs and it seems unlikely that any previously dead bugs could account for the number of bugs filtered from the crude sticklac.
Again, I’m not saying that all vegans avoid the ingredient, but it seems to be considered off-limits by most.
In this case, we needn’t worry about the arguments on either side (in terms of whether or not vegans should consume confectioner’s glaze), as Red Vines don’t contain the stuff.
That’s it for the vegan status of Red Vines. Thanks for reading.
You may also want to check out the following related articles:
- Red Vines. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Red_Vines
- Red Vines, Jumbo Original Red Licorice Candy, 8oz. https://www.walmart.com/ip/Red-Vines-Jumbo-Original-Red-Licorice-Candy-8oz/38323325
- NATCOL, 2013. Position on the Term “Natural Colour” and the Categorisation of Food Colours.
- Kobylewski, S., Jacobson, M.F., 2010. Food Dyes. A Rainbow of Risks. Center of Science in the Public Interest (Online) http://cspinet.org/new/pdf/food-dyes-rainbow-of-risks.pdf
- Bug-Based Food Dye Should Be Exterminated, Says CSPI. https://cspinet.org/news/bug-based-food-dye-should-be-exterminated-says-cspi-20060501
- Carminic Acid https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carminic_acid
- Carmine https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carmine#Production
- Potera, C., 2010. Diet and nutrition: the artificial food dye blues. Environ Health Perspect. 118 (10), A428–A431.
- Gelatin. https://www.dictionary.com/browse/gelatin
- Aguilera JM, and E Rojas. Rheological, thermal and microstructural properties in whey protein cassava starch gels. Journal of Food Science 61(5):963–966, 1996.
- Hoover R, and T Vasanthan. Effect of heat-moisture treatment on the structure and physiochemical properties of cereal, legume and tuber starches. Carbohydrate Research 252:133–153, 1994.
- Galvez FCF, AVA Resurreccion, and GO Ware. Process variables, gelatinized starch and moisture effects on physical properties of mungbean noodles. Journal of Food Science 59(2):378–381, 1994.
- Understanding Food: Principles and Preparation (Page G-3). Amy Brown – Wadsworth Cengage Learning – 2011. ISBN-10: 0-538-73498-1
- Animal-derived Ingredients Resource: Living. https://www.peta.org/living/food/animal-ingredients-list/
- Flinn, Angel. “Shellac and Food Glaze” http://gentleworld.org/shellac-food-glaze/