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Hello! I’m Anjali. I’m a board certified health coach, author, wife, mom and food lover from the SF Bay area (now living in Seattle, WA!); with a passion for delicious food and a desire to make healthy eating easy, tasty and fun! Learn more about me here and stay for a while!

Anjali Shah

Are Sour Patch Kids Vegan?

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Sour Patch Kids is one of those childhood treats that is hugely popular. You can find bags of sour patch candies at the grocery store or convenience stores, in the United States and all around the world! If you are vegan, you may be asking the question ‘are Sour Patch Kids vegan?’. The short answer is: while they don’t contain any obvious animal products, they are still, technically, not vegan. Read on to learn more about these popular candies, whether Sour Patch Kids are vegan or vegetarian, key ingredients, and healthier vegan alternatives to Sour Patch Kids!!

are sour patch kids vegan cover image

If you were a kid back in the 90s, sour patch kids sweets were probably a favorite choice of chewy candy. Though they may be small, they pack a punch when eaten. Sour patch kids are known for their sharp, sour flavor (which comes from their sour coating), followed by a satisfying sweetness as you chew.

When I was a kid, I never paid attention to the ingredients in Sour Patch Kids, and even though I grew up vegetarian, I didn’t even think it was possible that candy could be not vegan or vegetarian friendly!

Once I started looking into the ingredients of some of my favorite childhood treats, I started asking questions like: Are sour patch kids healthy? Do sour patch kids contain real fruit? And most importantly, are sour patch kids vegan or vegetarian? 

The surprising thing is, most gummy candies are not vegan, because they include gelatin, which comes from animal sources. But Sour Patch Kids, even though they have many controversial ingredients, actually do have plant based ingredients when purchased in the US, despite them being a gummy!

However, even with that, because of the way the sugar used in Sour Patch Kids is processed, they are technically not a vegan candy. Note: In other countries, Sour Patch Kids do contain gelatin, making them not vegan friendly as well.

This post is going to take a deeper dive into what sour patch kids actually are, its ingredients, whether it’s healthy, and provide you with a clearer understanding as to why this favorite chewy candy is not vegan. We’ll also give you healthier, vegan friendly alternatives to sour patch kids!

What Are Sour Patch Kids?

Sour patch kids are a popular type of candy that is available in the United States and all over the world. The candies were originally produced in the early 1970s in North America, and now different countries have versions of Sour Patch Kids that account for regional differences and preferences.

But across the board, these chewy candies are always have an initial sourness that ends in a sweet taste as it is chewed.

The original sour patch kids were available in the fruity flavors lime, lemon, orange, and cherry. Now, there’s watermelon sour patch kids, and other flavors like tropical, strawberry, grape, pear and passionfruit. Sour patch kids can be found down the confectionary aisle along with other gummy sweets such as wine gums, fruit pastels, and Haribo.

This popular candy also has several variations that are holiday-themed such as Sour Patch Xmas Kids and Sour Patch Kids Heads & Bodies, or flavor specific to suit individual taste preferences e.g. Sour Patch Kids Soda Popz, Sour Patch Peach, and Sour Patch Xploderz.

What Is A Vegan Diet?

A vegan diet consists of eating food that does not originate from an animal or a byproduct of an animal. For example, vegans do not eat any meat, fish, dairy products, eggs, or honey.

Vegans consume plant-based foods e.g.

  • Fruit such as apples, watermelon, bananas, and coconut
  • Nuts and seeds e.g. cashew nuts, pumpkin seeds, and sunflower seeds
  • Vegetables e.g. zucchini, mushrooms, and carrots
  • Lentils and Beans e.g. chickpeas, green lentils, and black-eyed beans
  • Soya e.g. tofu, edamame beans, and tempeh

Many vegans would also argue that being a vegan is a lifestyle choice, not just a diet. For example, vegans are firmly against animal cruelty along with the use of unnatural ingredients in products.

A true vegan lifestyle consists of eating and using natural products without the need to cause harm to another living being.

What Is A Vegetarian Diet?

Similar to a vegan diet, vegetarians do not consume any meat or fish. However, they do still eat animal byproducts such as honey, eggs, and dairy.

Some vegetarians and vegans are concerned with artificial colors and flavors used, and healthy whole food based ingredients, but this tends to be more of a personal choice.

List Of Sour Patch Kids Ingredients

The ingredient list for sour patch kids ingredients can be completely different depending upon the country you are purchasing them from. For example, in the United States, gelatin isn’t used, but in the United Kingdom, gelatin is used, making the UK version of sour patch kids not vegan friendly!

U.S. Ingredients

  • Sugar
  • Invert sugar
  • Corn syrup
  • Modified corn starch
  • Tartaric acid
  • Citric acid
  • Natural flavors and artificial flavors including Yellow 6, Red 40, Yellow 5, and Blue 1. Note: while red 40 is vegan, “natural red 4” is not vegan as it is derived from insects.
sour patch kids ingredients label

UK Ingredients (Maynards Sour Patch Kids)

  • Sugar
  • Glucose syrup
  • Water
  • Starch
  • Gelatine
  • Malic acid
  • Concentrated apple juice
  • Colors including anthocyanins, vegetable carbon, paprika extract, lutein, and curcumin
  • Acidity regulator from calcium citrates
  • Palm oil
  • Flavorings

You will notice that the food colors listed in the UK are completely different than those within the U.S.

Within the U.S. the artificial colors used are red 40, yellow 5, yellow 6, and blue 1. However, within the UK, the sour patch kids gain their coloring from vegetable carbon, paprika extract, lutein, anthocyanins, and curcumin.

The reason for this is that the artificial food coloring used in the U.S. are synthetic colors and are banned in the UK and the EU overall. This is due to the correlation between artificial colors and health problems in children such as hyperactivity and attention disorders.

The alternative colors used in the UK version of sour patch kids are all plant-based and more naturally derived, and don’t come with negative side effects.

Are Sour Patch Kids Vegan?

Upon first glance, it might seem like these candies contain vegan ingredients.

But there are three reasons why sour patch kids are not vegan: 1) In the UK version, gelatin is used. 2) In the US version and the UK version, animal bone char is used to process the sugar used in Sour Patch Kids. 3) Artificial colors and flavors often undergo animal testing before they are added to food products.

The UK ingredients list clearly states that sour patch kids are made using gelatin. While gelatin can be plant-based, when it isn’t specified, you have to assume it is the animal form and isn’t vegan.

Gelatin is made from boiling skin, tendons, ligaments, and bones from pigs or cows with water. It is often a key ingredient used in gummy candies to give them that chewy texture. For vegan candies, agar agar is used instead – which is an alternative to gelatin that’s made from plant sources, more specifically – seaweed!

Secondly, the ingredients listed contain sugar. Although plain sugar itself is vegan, the refining process the sugar industry uses is not always vegan friendly. 

Often, plain sugar is refined with the use of bone char, which comes from animal bones – most often charred bones of cattle. Bone char is used as a decolorizing agent, helping sugar gain its pure, white color. However, it makes it very difficult to trace which types of white sugar have gone through this process and which hasn’t.

Often, multiple types of sugar are used when making processed candy – so you may get some cane sugar that is processed using bone char, along with beet sugar which is extracted from sugar beets and is vegan.

Unfortunately, Mondelez International who owns sour patch kids has confirmed that bone char is used by their sugar suppliers. This makes sour patch kids not truly vegan.

Lastly, while artificial flavorings and colors are not healthy, they may seem like they are vegan friendly. But the artificial colors used in sour patch kids are derivatives of petroleum. Before included in products for people, they are often tested extensively on animals. This goes completely against vegans’ philosophy of not causing harm to any living being which makes these ingredients technically not vegan either!

Are Sour Patch Kids Vegetarian?

For similar reasons as to why sour patch kids are not vegan, vegetarians might also question whether to consume these candies due to how the sugar is processed using bone char.

As vegetarians do not consume meat or fish, sour patch kids are likely to not be suitable for you if you eat a vegetarian diet.

Additionally, the UK version of sour patch kids contains gelatin and do not specify whether the gelatin is plant-based from agar-agar or animal-based from boiled skin, tendons, ligaments, or bone from cows or pigs.

With this in mind, if you are a vegan or vegetarian, I would not recommend purchasing and eating sour patch kids.

sour patch kids candies in a pile

Are Sour Patch Kids Healthy? 

Unfortunately, Sour Patch Kids are not healthy at all! Almost every single ingredients in Sour Patch Kids is bad for you.

Let’s look at the US Ingredients List:

  • The first 3 ingredients are different types of sugar: “sugar”, “invert sugar,” and “corn syrup”. 12 pieces of this favorite candy has 24 grams of added sugar! That’s as much as a regular sized Snickers bar, or 4 Oreo cookies!
  • Modified corn starch: This acts as a stabilizer, thickening agent, or an emulsifier in processed foods. While by itself it’s not harmful, it indicates how processed the particular food is.
  • Tartaric acid and Citric acid: Not harmful, used as a preservative.
  • Natural flavors and artificial flavors including Yellow 6, Red 40, Yellow 5, and Blue 1. These are extremely harmful and unhealthy and are linked to ADD, ADHD and hyperactivity in kids!

Nutrition-wise, sour patch kids are ‘empty’ calories, providing no nutritional value whatsoever. Kids are supposed to have no more than 19 grams of sugar in a day, which means that if your child has even one serving of sour patch kids candy, they have already exceeded the maximum daily amount of sugar a child should consume!

Which is why, though sour patch kids candies might be a delicious treat, they provide no nutritional value, contain questionable ingredients in terms of artificial flavors and colors, and are indeed, a junk food that should be eaten in moderation.

Vegan-Friendly Alternatives for Sour Patch Kids

If you are still looking for that sour-sweet occasional treat as a vegan, but sadly cannot enjoy sour patch kids, then don’t worry you’re not out of luck!

The good news is, thanks to the increasing demand for vegan-friendly products, there are plenty of vegan alternatives to sour patch kids.

Take a look at some of these alternatives and see if they hit that sour spot most of us love:

Candy Kittens, Sour Watermelon

These sour candies are delicious but not quite as zingy as sour patch kids. They are full of fruity flavor with up to 10% of the candies made from concentrated fruit juice. This particular candy is watermelon flavored, but Candy Kittens also offer these sour-sweet candies in strawberry or cherry flavor.

Yum Earth Organic Giggles Chewy Candy, Sour Flavored

These organic candies are both sour and sweet, and are made from 100% organic ingredients. They’re also Non-GMO, vegan and gluten-free, and contain no artificial flavors, no dyes and no high fructose corn syrup! THey come in 5 different flavors including: Sour Orange, Sour Green Apple, Sour Lemon, Sour Strawberry, Sour Grape

Lovely Chewy Sour Candies

Lovely’s sour fruit chews are absolutely delicious and are Non-GMO with a super clean ingredients list! They also happen to be certified Kosher, vegan and gluten free and come in multiple fruit flavors!

Make Your Own

Alternatively, to be 100% sure of the ingredients included within your gummy candies, why not consider making your own at home. Simply boil fruit juice and honey, or agave syrup if you are vegan. Then add agar-agar, a vegan alternative to gelatin, and pour into your molds to set!

Healthier Alternatives for Sour Patch Kids

Candy isn’t the healthiest choice of snack, but we all know how much kids (and adults) love a tasty treat. When consumed in moderation, candy isn’t necessarily unhealthy. But what does make candy unhealthy is the ingredients used such as artificial colors, artificial flavors, and a high amount of sugar.

Luckily, to satisfy your sweet tooth, you can enjoy these healthier alternatives to sour patch kids:

Smart Sweets, Sourmelon Bites

These offer a great healthier alternative to the classic sour patch kids but without compromising the sour-sweet taste.

Sourmelon bites are produced with no artificial sweeteners, flavors, or colors. All ingredients are plant-based with each bag containing 100 calories and only 3 grams of sugar and 13 grams of fiber! Now that’s a treat you can feel great about eating!

Astro Blasters Pink Panda Sour Candies

These better for you soft, chewy, sour gummies are low sugar and taste amazing! Made with natural colors derived from vegetables and fruits, one whole bag of these sour candies has just 90 calories, 9 grams of fiber and only 2 grams of sugar!

Smart Sweets, Fruity Gummy Bears

Made by the same brand as Peach Rings, Fruity Gummy Bears offer a juicy yet chewy snack. Though they aren’t sour, they are still packed full of flavor with one pack including raspberry, apple, lemon, and peach flavored bears.

These candies are free from sugar alcohols, artificial sweeteners, artificial flavors, and artificial colors. They are sweetened with natural sweeteners from monk fruit and allulose.

Each serving contains only 4g of sugar, but also 9g of fiber and 4g of protein.

Final Thoughts

Though Sour Patch Kids are a popular and well-known candy, they are most certainly not vegan and questionable as to whether they are vegetarian. They are a type of ‘junk food’ that can have a negative impact on your kids if consumed due to the artificial colors and artificial flavors used.

Instead, if you are craving that sour-sweet chewy candy, try some of the healthier alternatives mentioned in this post. Or why not make your own?!

Looking for more healthy guides? Take a look at some of these popular posts of your favorite foods below:

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