Candies are often made with real fruit juice, but that doesn’t always bode well for a plant-based diet. So, are Mike & Ikes Vegan? The answer is no. This does depend on how strictly one follows a vegan lifestyle.
We’re going to take a closer look at this popular candy, and see if there are any vegan alternatives.
Mike & Ikes Ingredients
The issue for many people is a contentious ingredient known as confectioners glaze. This isn’t the only potentially non-vegan ingredient. The full list of what goes into these candies of 10 flavors are as follows:
SUGAR, CORN SYRUP, MODIFIED FOOD STARCH, CONTAINS LESS THAN 0.5% OF THE FOLLOWING: CITRIC ACID, MALIC ACID, FUMARIC ACID, SODIUM CITRATE, NATURAL AND ARTIFICIAL FLAVORS, DEXTRIN, CONFECTIONERS GLAZE, CARNAUBA WAX, MEDIUM-CHAIN TRIGLYCERIDES, RED #40, YELLOW #6, YELLOW #5 (TARTRAZINE), BLUE #1
How Are Mike & Ike’s Made?
Let’s start by taking a look at the problematic ingredients:
It might not seem like a big deal, as sugar is not an animal-derived ingredient, but without knowing the way it is processed, it could be unethical.
This is because a lot of sugar used in candy is decolorized using bone char. Made from the charred bones of cattle and pigs, it is imported into the US and used to bleach sugar so it is a more desirable white.
The problem is, not many companies disclose such information. Trying to contact them directly can work, but it will often result in a generic reply of “we use multiple suppliers.”
It is a controversial ingredient and whilst many will argue that many products that contain sugar will be fine, it will be avoided by many. Sugar such as organic, beet, and coconut will all be fine.
This is made from the deposits left behind by lac beetles when they traverse branches, consuming sap. What is collected is a shiny resin called ‘shellac.” Popular in cosmetics, it is also used in food to provide a shiny coating, for better mouthfeel.
Some will say that shellac is vegan because it doesn’t harm lac beetles, but it is animal-derived and the scraping of these branches does result in some beetles being scooped up. Because some beetles will be killed in the process, it is a no-go for many.
This is another tricky ingredient because it raises questions of ethics. Since many food dyes are tested on animals to ensure they are safe for human consumption, they are not vegan.
Red #40 is one such ingredient that has been tested on rats and mice among other animals. It is not animal-derived, so technically it can be vegan, but again, it is a matter of personal ethics. Other dyes include Yellow #5 and Yellow #6 which are both tested on animals.
Are Mike & Ikes Healthy?
When compared to a lot of the alternatives candies out there, they are not the worst. Still, they are full of refined sugar which is bad news for blood sugar levels, not to mention teeth.
Red #40 has been linked to cancer in some animal trials. This is not the only dye that appears in candies that is cause for concern.
Are There Any Flavors That Are Vegan?
Unfortunately, there are no flavors of Mike & Ikes that are vegan. This is because they all contain confectioner’s glaze.
We should note that even PETA lists Mikes & Ikes among their vegan-friendly treats, so they stick to the animal-derived theory, and are not as concerned with the above ingredients.
Although Mike & Ikes are controversial, there are fruit-based candies available that are vegan. The following options do not contain animal-derived ingredients or any that are tested on animals.
YumEarth Organic Fruit Drops Hard Candy
It’s always good to find products that state their vegan status on the pack. On top of being plant-based, these candies are non-GMO and made without artificial flavors or dyes. Their flavors include Pomegranate Pucker, Mango Tango, Wet-face Watermelon, Strawberry Smash, Very Very Cherry, and Perfectly Peach. The ingredients read as follows:
Organic Cane Sugar, Organic Brown Rice Syrup, Citric Acid, Natural Flavors, Ascorbic Acid, Colored with Concentrate (Black Carrot, Blackcurrant), Organic Annatto (Color), Turmeric (Color)
Lovely Organic Chewy Candies
Again, we have another brand making vegan candies and letting us all know about it. They are also organic and do not contain artificial ingredients. Instead, they are made up of the following:
Organic Brown Rice Syrup, Organic Cane Sugar, Organic Palm Oil, Citric Acid, Organic Rice Extract, Color With Beet Juice Color Extract, Natural Flavors, Strawberry Flavor, and Organic Curcumin.
Some may raise an eyebrow at the Organic Palm Oil, but because it is organic, it is vegan.
Yupik Gummy Bears
Gummy bears made without gelatin are a bit of a rarity, so this vegan-friendly candy is a welcome surprise.
They are labeled as vegan, organic, and without artificial flavors or colors. The issue many will have is that of the inclusion of Allura red (Red #40) dye, as well as others. Ingredients are as follows:
Corn Syrup(from corn), Sugar(from beets), Water, Gelatin, Citric Acid, Natural and artificial flavors, Pectin(derived from fruit), vegetable oil (Coconut, Canola), Carnauba Leaf Wax (to prevent sticking), tartrazine, Allura red, sunset yellow FCF, brilliant blue FCF.
Even brands that label themselves as being vegan are controversial. Because of the murky ethics surrounding food dyes, it is up to the individual to decide.
Mike and Ike’s may be vegan for some, but it is a matter of personal choice.