Are Jolly Ranchers Vegan?

As a kid, you couldn’t go far in the playground without seeing a pack of these in some kid’s hands. But with a keen eye on plant-based candies, we all want to know, are Jolly Ranchers vegan? The answer is they can be to some! 

But as always with confectionery items, it’s not as simple as that. Let’s take a closer look at why. 

Ingredients

Owned by The Hershey Company, Jolly Ranchers come in various flavors and types. The hard candy is the most iconic, and here is the ingredient list:

CORN SYRUP; SUGAR; CONTAINS 2% OR LESS OF: MALIC ACID; NATURAL FLAVOR AND ARTIFICIAL FLAVOR; ARTIFICIAL COLOR [RED 40; YELLOW 5; BLUE 1; YELLOW 6]; MINERAL OIL; LECITHIN (SOY).

The controversial ingredients jump off the ingredient label to the informed, and are as follows:

Sugar

That’s right, a lot of sugar processed in the US will be decolorized using bone char. This is where the charred bones of cattle and pigs are used to bleach sugar to make it a more desirable white.

The bones are imported, and although there is no trace in the sugar once the process has finished, it will be too unethical for many vegans. 

It can be hard to trace this since many brands are not transparent. Even when asked, they often give vague answers about how using multiple suppliers makes it difficult to say whether or not they use bone char in a certain product. 

Since Jolly Rancher has not specified this on the label, many following a plant-based diet will choose to avoid their products. Others will not mind so much since there is no confirmation.

To be sure, look for food that uses organic sugar, or sugar from beets or coconut. 

Dyes

Although they are derived from petroleum byproducts, many artificial colors are tested on animals. 

Red 40 was tested on rats in 2018, and they were euthanized after. Testing also involves cows and dogs which makes any product containing this ingredient a strong no for many vegans. 

Still, because it is not animal-derived, many will look past this. 

The fact that it has been linked to causing hyperactivity in children is also a concern. 

Are Jolly Rancher Lolly Pops Vegan? 

It is a similar story, unfortunately. This means the ingredient profile has the same culprits and is made up of the following:

Sugar, Corn Syrup, Malic Acid, Sodium Lactate, Natural and Artificial Flavors, Artificial Colors (Red 40, Yellow 5, Blue 1, Yellow 6), Lecithin, and BHT.

Sugar and artificial colors are there again, making their lollypops non-vegan for most.

Are Jolly Rancher Jelly Beans Vegan? 

With a similar ingredient profile, these are another to add to the list of non-vegan candies. The ingredients are as follows:

Sugar, Corn Syrup, Cornstarch, Sodium Lactate, Lactic Acid, Malic Acid, Natural and Artificial Flavors, Gum Acacia, Limonene, Mineral Oil, Carnauba Wax, Artificial Colors (Red 40, Yellow 5, Blue 1, Yellow 6), Lecithin, and BHT

Although they do not contain confectioners glaze which is a common non-vegan ingredient in jelly beans, they are made with artificial colors that will put many vegans off. 

Otherwise, they are plants based so it depends on your stance. 

Are Jolly Rancher Soft Candies Vegan?

With so many flavors, it will take a while to get through them all. Let’s start by saying the following flavors contain gelatin, and are therefore not vegan:

  • Chews – Original
  • Crunch ‘n Chew
  • Filled Gummies Bites

Of the remaining options, most follow a similar recipe to the Jolly Rancher Sour Chews which contain the following:

Corn Syrup; Modified Cornstarch; Contains 2% or Less of: Lactic Acid; Calcium Lactate, Tartaric Acid; Natural Flavor And Artificial Flavor; Sodium Lactate; Citric Acid; Artificial Color [Red 40; Yellow 5; Blue 1].

So, expect many to say these are vegan, but the inclusion of Red 40 will be problematic for many people. 

Do Jolly Ranchers Contain Gelatin? 

Although there are plenty of recipes that do not contain Gelatin, many of their soft candies do. 

We’ve already specified the culprits but a word on Gelatin shows just why it is unsuitable for any vegan. 

Because it is made by boiling bones, ligaments, cartilage, and skin of cattle and pigs, it is far from vegan. 

Jolly Rancher hard candies do not contain gelatin. 

Vegan Alternatives

Lovely Candy Co. Hard Candies

A vegan alternative that is both organic and non-GMO. There is a variety of flavors in every pack and a pleasant ingredient list that reads as follows:

Organic Cane Sugar, Organic Brown Rice Syrup, Citric Acid, Natural Flavors, Organic Fruit and Vegetable Juice for Color (Radish, Apple, Blackcurrant), Grape Color Extract

YumEarth Organic Fruit Drops

Another or a gif product which. This means the cane sugar is not going to be processed with bone char. A simple ingredient profile is also good to see:

Organic Cane Sugar, Organic Brown Rice Syrup, Citric Acid, Natural Flavors, Ascorbic Acid, Colored with Concentrate (Black Carrot, Blackcurrant), Organic Annatto (Color), Turmeric (Color)

Sr. Johns Healthy Hard Candies 

The word vegan is on the packet which is always a good sign. Made without sugar and with fruit and vegetable juice, the ingredients make for vegan-friendly reading, especially when compared to Jolly Ranchers: 

Dextrin (dietary fiber), Erythritol, Xylitol, Citric Acid, Ascorbic Acid, Natural Flavors, Fruit and Vegetable Juice for Color, Spirulina Extract (Color), Turmeric (Color), Stevia Leaf Extract.

Final Word

Whilst there is plenty of decent options, your local health food store may sell some hard candies that are vegan-friendly. 

The fact is, Jolly Ranchers are often made from exclusively plant-based ingredients, but the question of ethics will always ring true. For many vegans, this will be too difficult to ignore.

Featured Image: Willis Lam, CC BY-SA 2.0.