When people turn to a vegan lifestyle, they sometimes feel like they’re sacrificing a lot, especially when it comes to their favorite sweets.
Thankfully, vegan gummy bears are a popular way to get that sugary, chewy hit you need, making them a worthy substitute for those on a plant-based diet.
What is a vegan gummy bear? A vegan gummy bear is a sweet made without the use of gelatin, which is sourced from animals, or any other animal product like honey and milk.
To get the chewy consistency, they usually feature something like agar agar, but there are other substitutes available.
If you’ve ever wondered what are gummy bears made of, vegan or non-vegan, we can give you the lowdown. This guide to gummy bears will explore the most common ingredients of this famous treat and how to ensure you’re choosing a healthier and vegan-friendly brand.
The Gummy Bear History
Ask any adult and they can probably recall eating gummy bears either in their teenage years or as a kid, with most memories dating back to the 1980s.
However, the eighties might have been when the gummy candy craze took off in the US, but the beloved sweet has a much longer history than that and it spans all the way to Europe.
Known as the original gummy experts, the Haribo company was founded in the early 1920s by a German entrepreneur called Hans Riegel, and it was he who was credited with creating the world’s first gummy bear.
Even today, Haribo is considered the ultimate when it comes to gummy bears, and the brand is instantly recognizable by people everywhere.
The first iteration of these gummies was shaped like a bear, just as they are today, and Riegel gathered the inspiration for this unique shape from the bears that he grew up watching perform in Europe.
It’s this cute shape that has ensured people fall in love with the candies and continue eating them, as well as their sweet taste and addictively chewy texture.
What Were Traditional Gummy Bears Made Of?
Although the shape of gummy bears has remained the same throughout the years, it’s the ingredients these candies are made of that have changed.
When Hans Riegel first invented the bears, he used a substance called gum Arabic to create the chewy texture, which is where the ‘gummy’ part of the name came from.
Gum Arabic is made with polysaccharides and glycoproteins, and it acts as a binding agent which holds all of the ingredients together. Today, you’ll find gum Arabic in products like chewing gum and icing, but it’s no longer commonly used for gummy bears.
The modern gummy bear binding agent is usually gelatin, which is made with animal products like bones, skin, tendons, and ligaments, making them unsuitable for vegans and vegetarians.
The process for making gummy bears has also changed slightly, thanks to advancements in the machinery used in these factories. A large vat houses all of the ingredients, including corn syrup, gelatin, and food coloring, and mixes them before it’s cooked and thickened.
The mixture is poured into molds that shape their gummy bears and then cooled and hardened before being packaged.
The Emergence of Vegan Sweets
As the trend of vegetarianism began to grow in the 1990s and early 2000s, people started paying closer attention to what was really in their favorite foods and the market for these foods started to change.
This meant that their once beloved gummy candies were now off-limits, thanks to the inclusion of gelatin in most of the popular brands.
However, this change in diet and lifestyle preference also sparked a revolution where candy manufacturers looked for new ways to cater to this demographic.
Brands began experimenting with other ingredients that would let them create a high sugar sweet treat for their consumers without any of the animal products or cruelty, and they succeeded.
Today, there is a massive selection of sweets, candies, and other desserts that are suitable for vegetarians and vegans.
As more people jump on board with veganism and vegetarianism, the appeal of these cruelty-free sweets becomes even greater, and many brands are making the switch to animal-free ingredients to keep up with the times.
What Are Vegan Gummy Bears Made Of?
Vegan gummy bears are one of the leading plant-based snacks that people flock to, thanks to their ability to taste and feel just like the real deal. If you were to inspect the ingredients list of a packet of vegan-friendly gummy bears, you might find things like this:
Agar agar – a gelling agent made from red algae and used to replace gelatin.
Fruit juice – this natural sweetener ensures no white sugar is included.
Agave syrup – another natural sweetener often found in vegan candies.
Fruit extract – this might be used to describe the natural coloring acquired from fruits to coat the candies.
Tips for Finding Vegan Gummy Bears
Gummy candies are the perfect way to appease your sweet tooth, as long as you’re enjoying them in moderation. If you’re on the hunt for vegan-friendly gummies but don’t know where to start, here are some tips:
Buy vegan brands: There are plenty of delicious brands that advertise their vegan status and these are the easiest ones to choose from. You don’t have to second guess what’s included in them and you know you’re buying from a brand that’s committed to being vegan friendly at all times. This is the perfect option for people who don’t want to shop with ‘accidentally vegan’ brands but prefer the real deal.
Find simple ingredients: If you look at the back of a gummy bear packet and see a long list of ingredients that you can’t understand, they’re probably not the healthiest option. Some of these ingredients could also contain animal products, so opt for those with names and products you can understand.
Be careful of sugar: Sometimes the inclusion of white sugar on an ingredients list indicates that products aren’t 100% vegan, but not always. It’s worth checking with the manufacturer to see how their sugar is harvested and processed before eating something new, just to be safe.
Learn the hidden ingredients: Look out for ingredients that don’t sound like animal products, but actually are. Gelatin, carmine, gelatin, and bone char are just some of the non-vegan ingredients you might find.
Make your own: If you have the time and inclination, you might want to try and make vegan gummy bears at home. There are some great recipes out there with minimal ingredients that can turn out just as good as the real deal.
Enjoy in moderation: Just because a gummy bear is vegan, doesn’t mean it’s healthy. One of the biggest misconceptions people have is that all plant-based foods are good for you, but that’s not true. With any type of candy, you’ll usually find they’re loaded with sugar, so must be eaten in moderation.
The Perfect Vegan Treat
Gummy bears are one of the world’s most beloved sweets, and there are now more ways than ever for vegans to enjoy them too. As long as you’re eating them in moderation, these colorful and chewy bears can help you fill the void that you might be missing in your new plant-based diet.
Just because you’ve gone vegan, doesn’t mean you have to miss out on your favorite foods for the rest of your life.
Many people are surprised to learn there’s a much bigger range of food available to them when they follow a vegan diet, so check out these FAQs about vegan sweets to find out more.
Is Hershey’s Syrup Vegan?
Hershey’s Syrup is suitable for vegans to eat in moderation as it contains no animal products, and this includes both their chocolate and strawberry varieties.
Even the sugar content comes from corn syrup rather than white sugar, so there’s no need to worry about the use of bone char either.
Are Oreos Vegan?
Although classed as an ‘accidentally vegan’ food, the Oreo brand claims that its cookies aren’t entirely vegan-friendly.
This is due to potential cross-contamination with milk products, even if there are no animal products within the Oreo recipe. Depending on how strictly you follow a plant-based diet, this could make them off-limits.
What Foods Contain Gelatin?
Gelatin is a common ingredient in many foods, which people come to realize when they become vegetarian or vegan.
Cakes, candy, ice cream, Jell-O, yogurt, wine, and puddings are just a few popular foods that may contain gelatin, so it’s worth scanning the ingredient list for any animal products before consuming.
Lorraine Pinnix is a passionate nutritionist and loves seeing people living healthy, and fulfilled lives. She believes that food is an essential piece of staying fit and strongly believes in going vegan. PureGrowthOrganic is a passionate work that details her research in helping you go on complete organic diets. She is available for questions, comments, and follow-ups.