Are Skittles Vegan?

A vegan diet is one that excludes animal-derived products, such as meat, fish, dairy, and eggs, and generally aims to minimize harm to animals as much as possible.

While vegan diets are often based on whole plant foods, they may include processed or packaged foods like candy.

Some candies are more obviously made using animal-derived ingredients like milk chocolate, cream, or other dairy-based compounds. Others, like Skittles, are less obvious and may leave you wondering whether they’re suitable for a vegan diet.

This article examines whether Skittles are vegan.

Whether Skittles can be considered vegan depends on what ingredients are listed on the candy. As of 2020, the ingredients in original flavor Skittles include the following (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7):

  • Sugar. Conventional white sugar used in candy like Skittles is derived from sugar cane stalks and refined into smaller, whiter granules.
  • Corn syrup. Also called glucose syrup, this syrup is made from corn starch and used to soften, add volume, improve taste, and prevent sugar crystallization in Skittles.
  • Hydrogenated palm kernel oil. This is a plant oil taken from the kernel of the oil palm plant Elaeis guineensis. It’s used in candy to enhance flavor and texture.
  • Citric acid. Naturally found in citrus fruits, a manufactured version of citric acid is used in candy to increase acidity, improve flavor, and preserve ingredients.
  • Tapioca dextrin. This is a starch extract derived from the yucca plant or cassava root. It’s used in Skittles as an adhesive candy coating and to help preserve flavor and color.
  • Modified corn starch. Made from corn, this is an emulsifier and gelling agent that contributes to the gumminess of Skittles.
  • Natural and artificial flavors. Details of these flavors are typically proprietary, but given Skittles’ fruit-based flavors, it can be assumed they either come from natural fruit sources or are artificially made to mimic fruit flavors.
  • Colors. Skittles use Red 40 Lake, Red 40, Yellow 5 Lake, Yellow 5, Yellow 6 Lake, Yellow 6, Blue 2 Lake, Blue 1, Blue 1 Lake, and titanium dioxide. These are derived from raw materials obtained from petroleum.
  • Sodium citrate. This is the sodium salt of citric acid, and it’s used as a preservative and to provide a tart flavor.
  • Carnauba wax. This is derived from the wax of the leaves of the palm plant Copernicia prunifera. It’s used in candy to keep coatings shiny and prevent them from melting.

Other flavors of Skittles, such as sour, tropical, and wild berry, contain the same ingredients, but the natural and artificial flavorings, as well as the colors, may slightly differ.

That said, it’s possible that special edition, limited-time flavors may use animal-derived ingredients that aren’t found in the mainstream flavors. As such, it’s best to read the ingredient list.

Until approximately 2010, Skittles contained gelatin, which is not a vegan ingredient. Gelatin is derived from animal collagen, the protein found in connective tissues, and used to give foods a chewy, gel-like texture. Skittles’ manufacturer has since removed gelatin.

Additionally, until 2015, Skittles made in the United Kingdom contained carmine, also called E120 or cochineal, a red coloring derived from the Dactylopius coccus beetle (8).

Although no animal-derived ingredients are used to make Skittles today, some people on a vegan diet may be concerned about the use of white sugar.

This is because refined cane sugar may be processed with animal bone char to remove both impurities and the natural coloring of sugar to make it white. However, the final product contains no animal traces.

Still, it’s impossible to determine whether bone char has been used unless the food or candy is certified organic. This is because bone char is not on the National Organic Program’s National List of allowed substances.

SUMMARY

The mainstream varieties of Skittles do not contain any animal-derived ingredients. However, it’s best to read the label for special edition varieties, which may use ingredients not found in the original varieties.

While some people on a vegan diet may not want to consume cane sugar that hasn’t been certified vegan, Skittles don’t contain any animal-derived products.

The natural and artificial flavorings, colorings, thickeners, sweeteners, and other ingredients used to make Skittles are either made synthetically or derived from plants.

This means, by definition of veganism, the standard varieties of Skittles are suitable for a vegan diet.

To be safe, it’s a good idea to always read the ingredient label to make sure no animal-derived compounds are being used if you avoid these.

SUMMARY

The major Skittles varieties do not contain animal-derived ingredients, so you can rest assured that these can fit into a vegan diet.

With slight differences in the composition of colors and flavor additives, all of the mainstream varieties of Skittles are free of animal-derived ingredients as of 2020.

That said, the cane sugar used to make Skittles may have been processed with animal bone char. Even though the final product doesn’t have any animal traces, this may be something some vegans don’t want to support.

The best way to make sure your Skittles are vegan is to read the ingredient list, especially because special edition flavors may contain ingredients not found in the original varieties.

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