Although a chew doesn’t have to mean an unsuitable sweet treat for a vegan, this is sadly the case for Hi-Chews. Due to the gelatin content, they are not made solely with plant-based ingredients.
There are different flavors, and each one has a handful of culprits to avoid. We’re going to take a close look at why they are unsuitable, and see if any brands are making vegan options.
It is a mixture of syrup and sugar that gives it the sweetness, but the following is the ingredient profile of the Strawberry flavor (https://www.hi-chew.uk/nutrition-information/#10stick-nutrition)
GLUCOSE SYRUP, SUGAR, HYDROGENATED PALM KERNEL OIL, PORK GELATINE, MALIC ACID, CITRIC ACID, STRAWBERRY FLAVORS, STRAWBERRY CONCENTRATED JUICE, EMULSIFIERS (SUCROSE ESTERS OF FATTY ACIDS, SORBITAN MONOSTEARATE), COLOUR ANTHOCYANIN
Here is a breakdown of the non-vegan ingredients:
An initial glance shows the use of pork gelatin. This is an instant red flag for any vegan, making these unsuitable.
It is a protein made by boiling bones, ligaments, skin, and tendons of a pig (https://www.peta.org/about-peta/faq/what-is-gelatin-made-of/) and is a thickener used to give a variety of candies their chewy texture.
Of course, all this makes any product using it non-vegan.
Hydrogenated Palm Kernel Oil
This is what is destroying rainforests, (https://www.nationalgeographic.com/environment/article/palm-oil-destroying-rainforests-household-items) increasingly cutting down the natural habitat of several species. From an ethical and vegan point of view, palm oil is an ingredient to avoid.
That’s right, even the sugar content is cause for concern. This is because of the way a lot of sugar is decolorized in the US. To make it a more desirable shade of white, sugar is often processed with bone char.
This is made from the bones of cattle (https://www.peta.org/about-peta/faq/are-animal-ingredients-included-in-white-sugar/) and although there is no trace of it in the sugar, it still raises questions of ethics.
The problem is, it can be difficult to tell which brands use this approach and which do not. One way of being sure is to look for organic sugar, or beet sugar, or coconut sugar.
We cannot say for sure that Hi-Chews are made with this process, but it does raise many questions.
Another potential one to avoid. The inclusion of sorbitan monostearate is made from the combining of Stearic Acid and sorbitol (https://pubchem.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/compound/Stearic-acid).
This is another ingredient for any vegan to look out for since stearic acid can be made from animal-derived fats, although it is also possible to find it is made from plant-based fats.
Anything that is used as a thickener for soaps and detergents makes it even less desirable as an ingredient in something you might eat.
The above flavor did not contain this bee-derived ingredient, but others do contain honey. This is another reason to check the ingredients list, but even without it, Hi Chews are not vegan.
There is not any dairy in the Hi-Chew flavor, and that goes for the Strawberry, Cherry, and Pineapple flavors. Still, there is yogurt in some varieties. Often included because of its smooth mouthfeel properties, keep an eye out for yogurt in any creamy candy.
How They’re Made
Over a million pieces of this popular Japanese chew are made every day. Here’s how:
The ingredients are combined with real fruit juices, it is heated to make it into a gooey texture. Then, it is cooled down to make it easier to move along the production line.
From here, it can be shaped into a long snake by a machine. This is how it manages to cut into perfect-sized pieces.
How they manage to get the fruity inside section that is a different color is a secret.
As far as the Hi-Chew version goes, there are no flavors that are suitable for a vegan diet. However, the following can offer a chewy alternative to animal-derived Hi Chews.
YumEarth Organic Chewy Candies
A vegan-friendly option that is also non-GMO, gluten-free, but does contain palm oil, although it is organic so this should mean it is not problematic as it should be sourced responsibly.
The ingredient profile reads as follows:
ORGANIC RICE SYRUP, ORGANIC CANE SUGAR, ORGANIC PALM OIL, ORGANIC NATURAL FLAVORS, CITRIC ACID, ORGANIC SUNFLOWER LECITHIN, COLORED FROM ORGANIC CONCENTRATES (CARROT, BLACKCURRANT), ORGANIC TURMERIC (COLOR), PECTIN.
No animal-derived products are to be found, and even the cane sugar is organic.
Lovely Co. Organic Chewy Candies
Another brand keeping tabs on their ingredients, expect organic chews that are vegan, as well as gluten-free. There are no artificial ingredients, or soy and each pack include strawberry, lemon, and cherry flavors.
Although many would expect Hi-Chew to contain gelatin, the non-vegan ingredients kept coming. Because of this, the hunt for a vegan alternative led to healthier organic alternatives, something we are all for.
Related: What fruit snacks are vegan?