Ring Pop is a popular brand of fruit-flavored lollipops. Real Ring Pops are put out by Topps, though I’m sure other knock-off brands are available. The lollipop comes in the form of a wearable plastic ring containing a large hard candy “jewel”.
It comes in an assortment of flavors, but red seems to be the default color.
Are they vegan? Yes, Ring Pops are considered vegan. Ingredients vary per flavor, but all flavors are some combination of sugar, corn syrup, lactic acid, natural and artificial flavors, fruit juice concentrate, and artificial food dyes.1 All of which are vegan-friendly.
This goes for the original Ring Pops. The brand currently offers several variations of the original (e.g. twisted, sour, gummies, etc.).
What we’ll do here is go over the various reasons Ring Pops are considered suitable for 100% plant-based eaters.
Why Ring Pops Are Considered Vegan
Processed Sugar Doesn’t Render Food Products Non-Vegan
At least, by most standards.
Sugar is always the main ingredient in lollipops.2
Candy makers expose sugar to heat, breaking the molecules apart which generates a complex color and flavor profile.3
Processed sugar—the kind that tends to be used in mainstream candy making (at least in the US)—is only an issue for the strictest of vegans.
In case you’re new to the subject, most sugar is processed to remove impurities in order to create white sugar as we know it (white sugar is also used to make brown sugar by adding molasses).
Anyway, the process of removing impurities often involves using bone char, which is a non-vegan ingredient. Animal bone char is a common sugar refining agent that’s used to decolorize and de-ash cane sugar.
It’s useful in large quantities to remove impurities, turning the sugar white and reducing the amount of scaling needed later in the refining process.4,5
Compare this to organic sugar which doesn’t use refining agents and thus always has a light to dark brown color.
Overall, the vegan community does not seem to consider the presence of non-organic sugar sufficient to render foods unsuitable for consumption.
For one, not all white sugar has been processed using bone char as a refining agent. Other alternatives exist including activated carbon and ion-exchange resins.6
Secondly, vegan advocacy organizations like PETA usually discourage us from being too strict in this area.7
It’s impractical and some believe it sends the wrong message: to be vegan you have to only purchase organic food products.
I don’t necessarily agree with that. I think it’s great if someone wants to avoid white sugar. Each to their own.
My personal policy is that I don’t purchase non-organic sugar (i.e. by the pound in the baking aisle), but I do consume processed foods (for example, Oreos and candy) that contain non-organic sugar.
Ring Pops Use Artificial Food Dyes
Flavor profiles include Twisted Berry Blast, Blue Raspberry, Cherry, Strawberry, Watermelon, and Strawberry Lemonade.1
Red is the most iconic color and it’s used in several of the above flavors.
I bring this up because “natural” dyes can spell trouble for vegans, as some can be derived from insects.
For example, Red 4 or carmine, is derived from beetles.8
Carmine is a bright-red pigment produced from carminic acid, the compound that’s actually derived from the bugs.9
It’s insect-derived, and some methods of its production can involve other animal products like fish glue, egg white, and gelatin.10
So, yeah not vegan-friendly.
Thankfully, Ring Pops make use of Red 40, or Allura red, which tends to be produced from petroleum, and can even be derived from strawberries.11
For example, the cherry variety contains:1
- Sugar and Corn Syrup
- Buffered Lactic Acid
- Natural and Artificial Flavors
- Pear Juice Concentrate
- Red 40
Red 40 is a dark red dye common in soft drinks, children’s medications, and confections. Thankfully, it’s the most commonly used dye in the US for candies and other sweets like sodas and popsicles.
Red 3 is also common and is included in Cherry Cola, Strawberry, Twisted Berry Blast, Twisted Citrus Craze, and Twisted Raspberry Lemonade.1,12
Thankfully, Red 3 is also an azo dye, so it’s suitable for vegans.
Other common dyes in Ring Pops include Yellow 5, Yellow 6, and Blue 1.
Also counted among the petroleum-derived dyes are Yellows 5 and 6.13
Yellow 5 (tartrazine) and Yellow 6 (Sunset Yellow) are both considered azo dyes (aka “coal tar dyes”), so they are also considered vegan.14,15
Blue 1, or Brilliant Blue, isn’t an azo dye, but it is vegan because it is produced synthetically without animal-derived precursors.16
Ring Pops Don’t Contain Non-Vegan Edible Coatings
Edible coatings are common in processed foods and some are even used on fresh produce to improve visual appeal.
They give food products a nice glossy look and provide a barrier to prevent damage and moisture loss. Unfortunately, there are a few edible coatings in use today that are largely considered non-vegan—namely, beeswax and confectioner’s glaze.
Beeswax would be considered non-vegan insofar as honey is non-vegan.
Confectioner’s glaze might be tree sap (which is plant-based), but it’s tree sap after it’s been sucked out of the tree by lac bugs to be used in cocoon-like structures as they traverse tree branches.
I know self-identifying vegans who don’t actively avoid insect products, but the ingredients are largely considered non-vegan. Sure enough, most vegan and vegetarian organizations consider such ingredients off-limits for vegans.17,18
Fortunately, it doesn’t matter in the case of Ring Pops.
The original Ring Pops don’t contain any edible coating, which isn’t too surprising because waxes tend to be used on softer candies. Only the gummy variations contain an edible coating and they went with carnauba wax, which is vegan.
Lactic Acid Is Not the Same as Lactose
This is important because while formulations vary per flavor, a few ingredients are common to all flavors. Buffered lactic acid (LA) is one such ingredient.1
Lactose is the simple sugar found in milk, so it’s always considered non-vegan. Lactic acid, on the other hand, can be produced from lactose but tends to be made industrially from LA-producing bacteria or via chemical synthesis using precursors from the petroleum industry.19,20
Hence, it is generally considered vegan.18
That’s it for the vegan status of Ring Pops. Thanks for reading.
You may also want to check out the following related articles:
- Candymania – Ring Pops. https://www.candymania.com/category/ring-pop/
- Lollipops. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lollipop
- McGhee, Harold (2004). On Food and Cooking. Scribner. pp. 647–712.
- Asadi, Mosen (2006). Beet-Sugar Handbook. Hoboken: John Wiley & Sons. p. 333. ISBN 9780471790983.
- Chou, ed. by Chung Chi (2000). Handbook of sugar refining: a manual for the design and operation of sugar refining facilities. New York, NY [u.a.]: Wiley. pp. 368–369. ISBN 9780471183570.
- Bone Char. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bone_char
- Is Sugar Vegan? https://www.peta.org/living/food/is-sugar-vegan/
- 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
- Carminic Acid https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carminic_acid
- Potera, C., 2010. Diet and nutrition: the artificial food dye blues. Environ Health Perspect. 118 (10), A428–A431.
- Ring Pop Candy Variety Party Pack, Assorted Flavor Lollipop Suckers, 20 Count. https://www.walmart.com/ip/Ring-Pop-Candy-Variety-Party-Pack-Assorted-Flavor-Lollipop-Suckers-20-Count/715193852
- 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
- Yellow 5. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tartrazine
- Yellow 6. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sunset_Yellow_FCF
- El Ali, Bassam M.; Bassam El Ali; Ali, Mohammad Farahat (2005). Handbook of industrial chemistry: organic chemicals. New York: McGraw-Hill. ISBN 978-0-07-141037-3.
- Animal-derived Ingredients Resource | Living https://www.peta.org/living/food/animal-ingredients-list/
- Vegetarian Journal’s Guide To Food Ingredients. https://www.vrg.org/ingredients/
- Lactic Acid. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lactic_acid
- H. Benninga (1990): “A History of Lactic Acid Making: A Chapter in the History of Biotechnology”. Volume 11 of Chemists and Chemistry. Springer, ISBN 0792306252