Sour Patch Kids is a popular brand of sour fruity-flavored candies. The candies are also known as Maynards Sour Patch Kids (in Canada and the UK) and Very Bad Kids (France). For whatever reason, I get asked quite a bit about the vegan-friendliness of the watermelon flavor, so I thought I’d take some time to write an article on the subject.
Are they vegan? Yes, watermelon sour patch kids are considered vegan. They contain simple sugar sources (sugar, invert sugar, and corn syrup), modified corn starch, organic acids (citric and tartaric), natural and artificial flavors, titanium dioxide, and vegan-friendly food dyes.1
What we’ll do here is go over the various reasons the candy is considered vegan, focusing on ingredients that might easily be confused for being animal-derived.
Why Watermelon Sour Patch Kids Are Considered Vegan
They Contain Red 40 Instead of Red 4
Red 40, aka Allura red, often gets confused with Red 4, or carmine. Both are very common in processed foods, but you’ll likely encounter Red 40 much more frequently, which is good news because it’s an azo dye which is a class of food dyes that are derived from petroleum and thus vegan-friendly.
Red 4, on the other hand, is produced from a certain species of beetle.2
It’s a bright-red pigment derived from carminic acid, the compound that’s actually obtained from the beetles.3
Not only is it obtained from bugs, but some methods used to produce it also involve other animal products like egg whites, fish glue, and gelatin.4
I’m not saying that all vegans avoid carmine, but it is largely considered a non-vegan ingredient.
Yellow 5 and Blue 1 Are Vegan
Yellow 5, or Tartrazine, is a lemon-yellow food coloring. Like Red 40, it’s a type of azo die, so it’s petroleum-derived. It was initially manufactured via coal tar. Nowadays, it tends to be made as a by-product of the petroleum industry.
It is somewhat controversial in terms of health because some reports have linked exposure of the ingredient to certain effects, including allergic reactions (e.g. skin rashes and asthma), hyperactivity, and migraines.5,6
The idea is that maybe it binds to and activates estrogen receptors. It’s also thought to bind to serum albumin forming a complex that can interfere with physiological functions.7
In the US, the additive is recognized as safe in small amounts (i.e. amounts typically used in food products).
I just mention this because a lot of vegans are primarily concerned with health.
Blue 1, or Brilliant Blue, is another common synthetic dye used in processed foods, medications, dietary supplements, and cosmetics.8
It’s brilliant, hence the name, so it’s commonly used for flavors like blue raspberry. In this product, it seems to be combined with yellow to produce the green needed for the watermelon peel. If you’ve seen this candy product, you probably noticed that they’re made to resemble slices of watermelon.
Anyway, Blue 1 is chemically synthesized without animal precursors, so it’s vegan.9
They Don’t Contain Gelatin or Albumen
Gelatin and albumen are among the most commonly used ingredients in chewy candy because they both serve as an aerator in confections.
Gelatin is only found in animal tissue. It’s derived from collagen in various body parts such as the epidermis of the skin. So, it’s always non-vegan.
Albumen is the water/protein mixture that makes up egg whites. Albumin (with an “i”) is the actual protein content. Egg proteins are commonly used in candy making to produce a nice chewy texture.
Thankfully, there are other plant-based substances that can be used.
Plant-based gums like pectin are common. But, it seems that this product uses modified cornstarch to produce the chewy texture.
I know some acid-treated modified cornstarch can take on a gel or gummy-like texture.10
Anyway, thankfully for vegans, food manufacturers are getting creative these days in coming up with plant-based alternatives to common animal ingredients.
They Don’t Contain Confectioner’s Glaze
Finally, this particular food product doesn’t contain any of what’s known as shellac. There’s a certain bug, known as the lac bug, that secretes a sticky substance called sticklac as it traverses tree branches.11
Well, the sticklac contains shellac which is filtered out by the food industry to be used in confectioner’s glaze.
Like carmine, it’s largely considered a non-vegan ingredient, though I’m sure some vegans are okay with consuming it. While gelatin and egg albumin are never considered vegan, some in the community give the green light to insect-derived substances like honey, beeswax, etc.12
So, I’d imagine confectioner’s glaze would be no exception.
I personally don’t consume the product, because it’s highly likely that many bugs have to be killed when the sticklac is scraped from trees.
Thankfully it’s not an issue for Sour Patch Kids, because it seems that none of their products contain the stuff, at least in the US.
I also haven’t run across any Sour Patch Kids with beeswax as an ingredient. This might be because waxes tend to be used on really glossy looking candy such as Mike and Ikes and Hot Tamales.
Candy products like Sour Patch Kids and Trolli worms are covered in sugar, so perhaps they’re less likely to make use of wax. I’m just speculating.
Anyway, that’s it for the vegan status of watermelon Sour Patch Kids. Thanks for reading.
You may also want to check out the following related articles:
- Sour Patch Kids, Watermelon. https://www.kroger.com/p/sour-patch-watermelon-soft-chewy-candy/0007046203600
- 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 Production. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carmine#Production
- Berzas, J.J., Flores, J.R., Llerena, M.J.V., Farinas, N.R., 1999. Spectrophotometric resolution of ternary mixtures of tartrazine, patent blue V, and indigo carmine in commercial products. Analy. Chim. Acta. 391 (3), 353–364.
- Kapadia, G.J., Tokuda, H., Sridhar, R., Balasubramanian, V., Takayasu, J., Bu, P., Enjo, F., Takasaki, M., Konoshima, T., Nishino, H., 1998. Cancer chemopreventive activity of synthetic colorants used in foods, pharmaceuticals, and cosmetic preparations. Cancer Lett. 129 (1), 87–95.
- Natural and Artificial Flavoring Agents and Food Dyes Alexandru Grumezescu-Alina Holban – Academic Press, an Imprint Of Elsevier – 2018
- Brilliant Blue FCF. https://iacmcolor.org/color-profile/brilliant-blue-fcf-fdc-blue-no-1/
- 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.
- Gelatin Replacements Evolve. https://www.candyindustry.com/articles/86165-gelatin-replacements-evolve
- Flinn, Angel. “Shellac and Food Glaze” http://gentleworld.org/shellac-food-glaze/
- Why Vegans Can’t Decide Whether They’re Allowed To Eat Honey. Daniel Engber – https://slate.com/human-interest/2008/07/why-vegans-can-t-decide-whether-they-re-allowed-to-eat-honey.html