Are M&M’s Vegan?

If you have recently become a vegan, you are likely to be wondering which of your favorite confectionery items you need to stay away from. The question is, are m&m’s vegan? Sadly, the answer is no.

There are alternatives. We are going to dig them out and explore different m&m flavors to see if there are any options. 

M&M Ingredients

There is plenty to get through, but only a handful are problematic. Here are the ingredients according to their global website:

MILK CHOCOLATE (SUGAR, CHOCOLATE, SKIM MILK, COCOA BUTTER, LACTOSE, MILK FAT, SOY LECITHIN, SALT, ARTIFICIAL AND NATURAL FLAVORS), SUGAR, CORNSTARCH, LESS THAN 1% – CORN SYRUP, DEXTRIN, COLORING (INCLUDES BLUE 1 LAKE, YELLOW 6, RED 40, YELLOW 5, BLUE 1, YELLOW 6 LAKE, RED 40 LAKE, YELLOW 5 LAKE, BLUE 2 LAKE, BLUE 2), CARNAUBA WAX, GUM ACACIA.

Non-Vegan Ingredients in M&M’s

Dairy

The issue is mainly with the different types of dairy products. These include skim milk, lactose, and milkfat. 

This makes m&m’s not vegan because they are animal-derived products. The way dairy cows are treated is inhumane and their young are often stripped from them on the day they are born. 

Food Coloring

But dairy isn’t the only ingredient that makes these unsuitable. These bright-colored snacks are going to get their vibrancy from somewhere, and it is the coloring ingredients that are problematic.

Red 40 is one such ingredient. Often tested on mice and rats, it raises questions of ethics that many vegans cannot ignore. Of course, everyone has different standards and a vegan diet looks different for everyone. 

Because it is made from petroleum byproducts and is not animal-based, it is technically vegan, but the use of animals for testing is a no-go for many.

Red 40 is not the only color included in m&m’s that can be an issue, many of them will have been at some point. 

Sugar

That’s right, even sugar can be problematic. This is because a lot of sugar processed by US confectioners uses bone char. This is made from cattle and pig bones and is used to decolorize sugar to make it a more desirable white.

Imported to the US, there is no trace of it in the sugar, but it raises questions of ethics. The problem facing any vegan is that it can be difficult to tell where a company sources its sugar. Even when asked directly, they will often say it comes from various suppliers.

For a strict vegan, the only way to be safe is to buy products made with organic, beet, or coconut sugar, 

FAQ

Are M&M’s Vegan In The UK?

They are not, and they are also not vegetarian according to the UK M&M Twitter account that confirmed their product is not suitable for vegetarians in the following post from 2019:

M&M’s aren’t suitable for vegetarians. We use additives that come from animal products when we’re making M&M’s and traces of these can be found in the sweets. They aren’t listed in the ingredients because they’re only present in such small amounts.

Are All M&M’s Non-Vegan?

Dark Chocolate

This is the main hope of many vegans since dark chocolate can often be made without dairy. However, the ingredients list reads as follows:

Semisweet Chocolate (Chocolate, Sugar, Cocoa Butter, Skim Milk, Milkfat, Lactose, Soy Lecithin, Artificial Flavors, Salt), Sugar, Cornstarch, Less than 2% – Corn Syrup, Dextrin, Coloring (Includes Blue 1 Lake, Yellow 6, Red 40, Yellow 5, Blue 1, Blue 2, Red 40 Lake, Blue 2 Lake, Yellow 6 Lake, Yellow 5 Lake), Gum Acacia.

It is a similar story with basically the same ingredient profile as the original M&M’s. This means Dark Chocolate M&M’s are not vegan.

After taking a look at the numerous flavors available, we can confirm that none of their products are currently vegan. Don’t lose all hope though…

Vegan Alternatives

Unreal Dark Chocolate Peanut Gems

With a similar look and that crunchy on the outside, chocolate and peanut on the inside texture, these are an excellent alternative and vegan friendly. 

Made without artificial ingredients, flavors, or colors, they are the sort of sugary snack that will please vegans young and old. 

The ingredients read as follows:

Dark Chocolate (Chocolate Liquor‡, Cane Sugar‡, Cocoa Butter‡, Vanilla), Roasted Peanuts (Peanuts, Peanut Oil), Organic Cane Sugar‡, Gum Acacia, Colored with )Beet Juice, Spirulina Extract), Organic Tapioca Syrup, Carnauba Wax.

Some of the other Unreal products look tempting but are not vegan, so be mindful of this. They are made on equipment that processes milk chocolate as well, so there is a risk of cross-contamination.

Clarana – Colorful Chocolate Beans

A popular choice and vegan, these have the same texture as M&M’s without the cruelty element. The ingredients list is far more wholesome than the commercial alternative.

Dark chocolate (52%) (sugar, cocoa mass, cocoa butter, emulsifier: soya lecithin, vanilla extract, sugar, rice starch, glucose syrup, thickener: gum arabic, vanilla extract, coating agent: carnauba wax, Carthamus concentrate, lemon juice concentrate, radish concentrate, spirulina concentrate, carrot juice concentrate, sweet potato concentrate, Black currant concentrate, apple concentrate.

Cocomels Chocolate Sea Salt Caramel Bites

Another vegan M&M alternative, they are a little different but in a good way. Made with sustainably sourced ingredients, they are award-winning and creamy, certified organic, and vegan.

organic 60% dark chocolate (organic chocolate liquor, organic cane sugar, organic cocoa butter, soy lecithin (emulsifier), organic vanilla extract), organic coconut milk (organic coconut, water), organic brown rice syrup, organic cane sugar, sea salt, organic Madagascar vanilla extract (water, organic ethyl alcohol, organic vanilla bean extractives), xanthan gum.

Final Word

Whilst M&M’s use an abundance of dairy products, at least it is easy to see that they are not vegan. 

Thankfully, there are plenty of brands making plant-based and cruelty-free alternatives although you may want to order them in bulk as they are not so readily available.