Taffy or simply “chews” (British English) is a popular type of candy. It’s made by boiling a bunch of ingredients to form a sticky mass and then pulling the mass to become aerated. Taffy is very popular in itself and is also a base for a number of popular candy products.
Is it vegan? Like a lot of food products, taffy can be vegan but often contains animal products. In its most basic form, it contains sugar, glucose syrup, a fat source, and flavoring.1 When it is non-vegan, it’s usually due to the presence of gelatin, butter, and other dairy products.
Now and Laters are a great example. I recently wrote an article on the candy where I listed the current flavors on offer that are animal product free.
But, this article is going more in-depth on the vegan status of taffy in general—i.e. Now and Laters are just one brand of ultra-processed taffy. Here I’ll be covering standard taffy, saltwater taffy, etc.
So, without further ado, let’s get into the ingredients you’ll need to keep a lookout for when purchasing taffy.
Non-Vegan Ingredients Often Present in Taffy
Again, taffy always contains sugar, glucose syrup, flavorings, and fat.
However, in addition to these basic ingredients, the candy may also contain animal ingredients.
Some Taffy Contains Egg and/or Gelatin
This one is not that common, but remember that taffy is an aerated candy.
While corn syrup serves as the foundation ingredient for aerated candies (taffy, marshmallows, gumdrops, jelly beans, etc.), candy can also be aerated physically (via a process known as pulling) or by use of egg whites (albumen) and gelatin.2 Chemical aerators such as sodium bicarbonate can also be used.2
Any time a candy product has a really chewy texture, it should be considered a red flag. The gummy texture characteristic of so many candies is often achieved by adding gelling agents. Some gelling substances are vegan (starch, pectin, various veggie gums, etc.), but gelatin and egg whites are among the most common.
Gelatin is used in confectionery production in order to add air, stability, and elasticity to chewy candies, and to soften and bind water in chewable sweets like caramels and taffy.3
Egg is a very common aerator and you’ll likely run across it in taffy from time to time.
For example, Sweet’s Candy Company Banana Taffy contains corn syrup, sugar, vegetable oil (soybean and/or coconut oils), salt, natural and artificial flavors, food coloring, and egg whites.4
Albumen is the water and protein content of whole eggs, while albumin (with an “i”) is the actual protein content of the egg whites. It has a number of uses in food production. Most folks know that egg, due ot its protein, is used as a binder, but fewer know that it’s used as an aerator in confections and desserts.
The ability of egg whites to add air accounts for why the food is used to make meringues. If you whip up the egg white with air long enough, you get a nice fluffy medium that becomes chewy when baked/solidified.
A Lot of Taffy Contains Milk
Milk is a very common ingredient in taffy. You might be wondering what the difference is between caramel and taffy. That’s a great question because they are similar, but the two are considered to be different confections.
Taffy is similar to caramel, but the mixture is more concentrated and it’s pulled to incorporate air.
Caramel candies are often referred to as taffy (think of taffy apples), but if you sampled them together, you’d notice caramel is quite different from common taffy.5
The concentrated solution used to produce taffy makes it quite a bit firmer. Also, once solidified, the mass of syrup is pulled to incorporate air bubbles. The extra air transforms the candy into a lighter, paler, and chewier confection compared to caramel.6
One other major difference relevant to vegan diets is that caramel is typically made by boiling down milk, while taffy is made largely of corn syrup. Taffy can but doesn’t always contain milk.
Caramel gets its brown color from the lactose content of the milk which undergoes a browning reaction. It’s not aerated like taffy, so the brown color kind of takes over.
Butter Is a Common Ingredient in Taffy
Once the sticky mass of boiled sugar is pulled, vegetable oil or butter is often added along with flavorings and colorings until tiny bubbles are produced which results in a light, fluffy end product.7
Keep in mind that a lot of food manufacturers love to use margarine, which is typically 100% plant-based. It has a low melting point and is easier to work with.
But, I’d imagine that a lot of “natural” and “organic” taffy producers would likely make use of real butter.
Is Salt Water Taffy Vegan?
You’ve probably heard the term saltwater taffy before. It’s just a variety of soft taffy that originated in Atlantic City, NJ, specifically the Jersey Shore, back in the 1880s.8
Despite its name, this version of taffy doesn’t contain saltwater—i.e. as in seawater, though it does contain both water and salt. I’ll save you the history lesson, just know that supposedly it was initially referred to as saltwater taffy as a joke, and the name just kinda stuck.9,10
Is it vegan? Traditional saltwater taffy is non-vegan, as the classic recipe calls for sugar, corn syrup, cornstarch, glycerine, water, salt, flavorings, and butter.11
Flavoring, if used in saltwater taffy, usually include vanilla, maple, lemon, banana, red licorice, raspberry, watermelon, or mint extracts.11
The above is not to say you can’t buy vegan-friendly saltwater taffy. In fact, there is at least one specialty product on the market that’s perfectly suitable for vegans.
Which brings us to the next subject.
Commercial Vegan Taffy
Angel’s Tropical Salt Water Taffy by Florida Candy Factory
- Non-High Fructose Corn Syrup
- Non-Bone Char Pure Cane Sugar
- Organic Sustainably Sourced Palm Oil
- Sunflower Lecithin
- Natural Vegan Flavors
Non-bone char sugar? Sustainable palm oil? That’s about as vegan-friendly as it gets.
Mamba Fruit Chews
Yep, these are 100% vegan. This one is great for those of you who like the fruit-flavored variety.
- Glucose Syrup (from Wheat or Corn)
- Vegetable Oil (Palm Oil and/or Sheanut Oil)
- Sorbitol (Humectant)
- Modified Food Starch
- Citric Acid
- Artificial Flavors
- Concentrated Elderberry Juice
- Turmeric and Paprika
- Emulsifier Polysorbate
As you can see, only high-quality natural ingredients. There is a bit of palm oil, so if you like to avoid food products containing the ingredient, you may want to opt for another product.
Now and Later is another fruit-flavored taffy-like product. I wrote an entire article on the candy (listing the vegan-friendly flavors) you can check out here.
That’s it for the vegan status of taffy. Thanks for reading.
You may also want to check out the following related articles:
- Chocolates and Confections: Formula, Theory, and Technique For the Artisan Confectioner (Page 238). Peter Greweling-Ben Fink – John Wiley & Sons – 2013
- Alexander RJ. Sweeteners: Nutritive. Eagan Press, 1998.
- Pszczola DE. Ingredient developments for confections. Food Technology 51(9):70, 1997.
- Sweet’s Candy Company Banana Taffy, 3 Lbs. Hdcdi – https://www.walmart.com/ip/Sweet-s-Candy-Company-Banana-Taffy-3-lbs/54593157
- Understanding Food: Principles and Preparation (Page 519). Amy Brown – Wadsworth Cengage Learning – 2011
- Understanding Food: Principles and Preparation (Page 525). Amy Brown – Wadsworth Cengage Learning – 2011
- Science Of Candy: Why Do You Pull Taffy? http://www.exploratorium.edu/cooking/candy/taffy-story.html
- Chew on This: 125 Years Later, Jersey Shore Still Daffy Over Salt Water Taffy. Peter Genovese – http://www.nj.com/news/index.ssf/2013/08/chew_on_this_125_years_later_jersey_shore_still_daffy_over_taffy.html
- History. https://web.archive.org/web/20160623211346/http://www.fralingers.com/history/
- Joseph F. Fralinger, the History Of Salt Water Taffy, and the Gager Family. https://ahg3rd.wordpress.com/joseph-f-fralinger-and-the-history-of-salt-water-taffy/
- Saltwater Taffy Recipe. http://www.exploratorium.edu/cooking/candy/recipe-taffy.html
- Angel’s Tropical Salt Water Taffy By Florida Candy Factory Nicole Taylor-Valentina Strong-Craig Gardner-Marko Vegano- Catres – https://store.veganessentials.com/angels-tropical-salt-water-taffy-by-florida-candy-factory-p4033.aspx
- Storck Mamba Fruit Chews, 6 Ea. https://www.walmart.com/ip/Storck-Mamba-Fruit-Chews-6-ea/192069997