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What candy has animal in it?

Candy is a beloved treat for many, but some popular candies actually contain animal products as ingredients. This can be concerning for vegetarians, vegans, and those who avoid certain animal products for religious, ethical, or health reasons. In this article, we will explore which popular candies contain animal ingredients.


One of the most common animal products found in candy is gelatin. Gelatin is a protein obtained by boiling the skin, bones, and connective tissues of animals, most often pigs and cows. Gelatin gives candy a chewy texture and helps form gummy candies like:

  • Gummy bears
  • Marshmallows
  • Jelly beans
  • Starburst
  • Gummy worms
  • Swedish Fish

Gelatin can come from pigs, cows, or fish. However, most gelatin in the United States comes from pigs due to its availability and low cost. Vegetarian substitutes like pectin, gum arabic, and starch are sometimes used in place of gelatin to make candy suitable for vegetarians and vegans.

Milk Products

Many candies contain milk products like milk fat, milk protein, lactose, and casein. These ingredients are derived from cows or goats. Popular candies containing milk products include:

  • Milk chocolate – contains milk solids like milk fat and milk powder
  • Caramels – often contain milk fat and butterfat
  • Nougat – traditionally contains egg whites and honey but modern versions can contain milk fats and solids
  • Fudge – contains butter and sometimes condensed or evaporated milk

Those avoiding dairy for personal or health reasons should read ingredient lists carefully to identify products containing milk-derived ingredients.


Honey is produced by bees and therefore not considered vegan. Candies sweetened with or containing honey include:

  • Honeycomb
  • Honey caramels
  • Some fruit chews
  • Honey-flavored hard candies

Vegans should avoid any candy listing honey or honeycomb on the ingredients list. Vegetarians who eat dairy and eggs can consume honey.

Carmine and Cochineal Extract

Carmine and cochineal extract are red food colors derived from crushing cochineal insects. They are sometimes used to produce red, pink, or purple shades in candy like:

  • Jelly beans
  • M&Ms
  • Yogurt-covered raisins and berries
  • Fruit roll-ups and gummies
  • Nonpareils (tiny ball sprinkles)
  • Some red velvet cakes and icings

The ingredient will be listed as carmine, cochineal extract, natural red 4, or various numbers starting with 120. Vegetarians and vegans should avoid candies with these ingredients.


Shellac is a resin secreted by the female lac bug. It is sometimes used as a food glaze or coating on candies like:

  • Jellybeans
  • M&Ms
  • Candy apples
  • Some citrus peel candies

Shellac helps provide a shiny coating and seal in flavors. It will be listed on the ingredients list if present. Vegans and vegetarians typically try to avoid it.

Confectioner’s Glaze

Confectioner’s glaze, also called resinous glaze, is made from the secretions of lac bugs. It helps provide a glossy coating and prevent candies from sticking together. Confectioner’s glaze can be found on treats like:

  • Jellybeans
  • M&Ms
  • Skittles
  • Hot tamales
  • Sour patch kids
  • Necco wafers

Vegetarians and vegans commonly avoid candies containing confectioner’s glaze or natural glazes from lac resin. However, some vegans may find plant-based glazes acceptable.


Beeswax is sometimes used to coat candy pieces and make them shiny or prevent sticking. It may be found in:

  • Candy corn
  • Chocolate-covered treats
  • Some fruit chews
  • Caramels

Beeswax provides a subtle sweetness and is not acceptable for vegans. But vegetarians who eat honey may accept beeswax as an animal product.

Mono- and Diglycerides

Mono- and diglycerides are emulsifiers made from glycerol and animal fats or oils. They help bind ingredients together smoothly. Common sources include pork fat, beef tallow, and butter. Mono- and diglycerides may be found in:

  • White chocolate
  • Dark chocolate
  • Compound chocolate (uses vegetable oils)
  • Chewing gum
  • Hard candies

Products with mono- and diglycerides should be avoided by vegans and vegetarians who want to completely avoid animal fats.

Natural Flavors

“Natural flavors” is a broad ingredient category that includes flavors derived from plant, animal, and synthetic sources. Candy companies are not required to disclose the original source. Natural flavors could potentially come from:

  • Flower and fruit extracts
  • Spices and herbs
  • Meat and fish broths
  • Dairy products
  • Eggs
  • Insects

Vegans may want to avoid any candy with natural flavors listed, unless the company verifies they are completely plant-derived. Vegetarians can inquire with the manufacturer if concerned.

Summary Table

Here is a summary of common animal-derived ingredients found in candy:

Ingredient Source Found In
Gelatin Collagen from pig skins and bones Gummy candy, marshmallows, jelly beans
Milk products Milk fat, milk powder, whey from cows/goats Milk chocolate, caramels, fudge, nougat
Honey Bees Honeycomb, honey flavored candy
Carmine Crushed cochineal beetles Pink, red, or purple colored candy
Shellac Secretions of lac beetles Coatings for jelly beans, M&Ms, candy apples
Confectioner’s Glaze Lac beetle secretions Jelly beans, M&Ms, chewing gum
Beeswax Honeycomb from bees Candy corn, some chocolates, fruit chews
Mono- and Diglycerides Animal fat/tallow White, dark, compound chocolate

Checking Labels for Animal Products

Reading ingredient lists carefully is the best way to identify candies containing animal derivatives. Vegetarians and vegans should watch out for gelatin, milk products, honey, carmine, and other animal-based additives.

Kosher symbols like a K in a circle or a U in a circle indicate the candy is free of pork-derived gelatin, but other animal products may still be present. A green or brown V symbol means vegan, while an OU symbol means Orthodox Union approved and free of meat/dairy mixing.

Consumers can also contact candy companies directly via phone, email, or social media to inquire about certain ingredients, undisclosed “natural flavors” or ask if products are vegan.

Animal-Free Candy Options

Thankfully, there are many gummy, chewy, chocolate, and other candies that don’t contain any animal derivatives. Here are some better options for vegetarians, vegans, and anyone avoiding pig-derived gelatin:

  • Skittles – Fruit chews made without gelatin using pectin instead. No carmine dye.
  • Starburst – Chewy fruit candy free of gelatin and carmine dye.
  • Swedish Fish – Chewy fish-shaped gummies with no gelatin or carmine.
  • Airheads – Taffy-like chewy candy without gelatin.
  • SmartSweets – Gelatin-free, plant-based gummy bears and other candy.
  • Enjoy Life – Allergy-friendly chocolate bars and snacks free of dairy, eggs, nuts.
  • Justin’s – Wide range of vegan peanut butter cups and chocolate bars.
  • Turtles – Caramel and pecan candies also available in a gelatin-free vegan formula.

Choosing animal product-free candies available at many regular grocers and health food stores can let everyone indulge their sweet tooth while adhering to dietary preferences and restrictions.


Many popular candies contain animal-derived ingredients including pork gelatin, milk products, carmine dye, and beeswax. Carefully reading ingredient labels allows vegetarians, vegans, and those avoiding certain animal products for religious, ethical, or health reasons to identify which candy contains hidden animal components.

Choosing gelatin-free gummies, vegan chocolate, honey-free chews, and other plant-based candies allows everyone to enjoy sweet treats regardless of diet. With more confectionery brands offering animal-free candies, it’s easier than ever to indulge in delicious sweets without compromising one’s values or dietary needs.