They are one of the most iconic candies that have delighted kids for decades, but are smarties vegan? The answer is that it depends where you are buying them from
This is the admission of Nestle, the company behind the product, but what is it that makes them unsuitable, and are there any plant-based alternatives? We’re going to take a closer look.
The recipe varies as do the candies themselves. In the US they are available in tablet candy roll form, but the crunchy chocolate pebble types from the UK are not suitable for a vegan diet.
The official smarties website claims that all their Smarties products are vegetarian and vegan. However, the UK website says that none of the smarties range is vegan. This is what they have to say:
All Smarties candy made by Smarties Candy Company is vegan! There is no need to worry about your dietary and ethical choices coming in conflict with satisfying a sweet tooth. Smarties candy is the perfect solution. Smarties ingredients contain no animal products, making them a tasty and cruelty-free choice for anyone looking for delicious vegan candy.
Let’s take a look at how the recipes differ.
DEXTROSE, CITRIC ACID, CALCIUM STEARATE, NATURAL AND ARTIFICIAL FLAVOR, COLORS (RED 40 LAKE, YELLOW 5 LAKE, YELLOW 6 LAKE, BLUE 2 LAKE)
Sugar, Skimmed Milk Powder, Cocoa Mass, Cocoa Butter, Wheat Flour, Butterfat (from Milk), Lactose and Proteins from Whey (from Milk), Rice Starch, Emulsifier (Lecithins), Colours (Beetroot Red, Carotene, Curcumin), Natural Flavouring, Spirulina Concentrate, Glazing Agents (Carnauba Wax, Beeswax White), Fruit and Vegetable Concentrates (Safflower, Radish), Barley Malt Extract
Yes, one is a candy, and the UK version is more of a chocolate-based product. In truth, both of these products are problematic in different ways. The UK version is obvious because of the number of dairy products used, but we are going to take a closer look at the products sold closer to home in the US.
They are vegan as they are not made from animal-derived ingredients. However, many will say that these smarties are not vegan because of the artificial colors.
These are routinely tested on animals and are cruel. One of the most common in confectionery is Red 40. This is a synthetic food dye made from petroleum but is still being tested on animals now.
There are also health concerns because it has been linked to causing hyperactivity in children.
It is not exclusively used in confectionery though. Red 40 can be found in sauces, ice cream, sports drinks, breakfast cereals, fruit bars, and many other food items.
Still, this does mean that there are no animal-derived ingredients in Smarties, but it is down to personal choice as to what you do with the above information. It will be a deal-breaker for many vegans, but not all.
Natural flavors are also controversial in some products. This is because the FDA has a very broad metric as to which brands can hide behind on the label. Sometimes, they can be made from animal-derived sources.
“The essential oil, oleoresin, essence or extractive, protein hydrolysate, distillate, or any product of roasting, heating or enzymolysis, which contains the flavoring constituents derived from a spice, fruit or fruit juice, vegetable or vegetable juice, edible yeast, herb, bark, bud, root, leaf or similar plant material, meat, seafood, poultry, eggs, dairy products, or fermentation products thereof, whose significant function in food is flavoring rather than nutritional.”
Thankfully, Smarties has already confirmed that the US version is vegan, so it should be using plant-derived Natural Flavors.
Do Smarties Contain Dairy?
This is a question of where you buy them from. If it is the UK market you are talking about, then yes, and they are therefore not vegan.
The USA ingredient list does not contain any dairy, and outside of the food coloring ingredients, are vegan.
Do Smarties Contain Gelatin?
They do not. Gelatin is a protein made up of the boiled tendons, ligaments, skin, and bones of cattle or pigs and is generally used as a stabilizer for chewy confectionery.
There is no gelatin in Smarties in either the UK or USA recipe.
Is Nestle Vegan?
This is a bigger question but one that many vegans will find easy to answer. Because of their questionable ethics and practices, they are often avoided by many who are environmentally conscious.
This attitude may have changed their approach in some ways, especially since they are launching more and more vegan products. There are plant-based meals and even vegan KitKats in the making.
For many vegans, this will be a difficult decision as supporting such a company won’t be easy.
Since the USA version is vegan friendly for many people, there aren’t many alternatives that are doing it better.
Anyone looking for a crispy out on the outside, chocolate on the inside alternative to the UK version will find the following option to be tasty and vegan:
Clarana Colorful Chocolate Beans
Their ingredients are less worrying although we would always like to know where the sugar is sourced from to eliminate the risk of it being decolorized using animal bone char, this is touted as a vegan product for a reason.
The ingredients read as follows:
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.
With the two products being wildly different, it is easy to see why so many vegans avoid Smarties in the UK. Many people will find the USA version to be vegan friendly, but it is a matter of ethics.
Otherwise, read the label, and educate yourself like you have to say to make sure you are leading your best vegan life.
Featured Image: LaurelG, CC BY-SA 4.0