Are Jolly Ranchers Vegan? The Truth Behind This Popular Candy


Heads up: this page includes affiliate links. If you click and make a purchase, I may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. I only recommend products or equipment I have personally vetted.

Jolly Ranchers-Are They Vegan

Sometimes you just want a piece of vegan candy. Jolly Ranchers seem harmless. But are they vegan? This may seem like a simple question, but it’s actually not so easy to answer. Jolly Rancher makes several different candy treats. Some are vegan and some aren’t. And all Jolly Ranchers have ingredients that are controversial in the vegan community. So whether or not Jolly Ranchers are vegan comes down to your personal definition of vegan.

This review will give you all the information you need to decide whether or not to eat Jolly Ranchers. In order to do that I will cover the four following questions:

  1. Does the food contain any animal-derived ingredients?
  2. Does the food contain controversial additives that are derived from animal products or are processed using methods involving animals?
  3. Have any of the ingredients been tested on animals?
  4. Is the company that makes them vegan or cruelty-free?

I will use the following definitions for vegan and cruelty-free throughout this article.

Vegan: the item does not have any animal derived ingredients in the final product.
Cruelty-free: no ingredient in the item has been tested on animals.

Based on these definitions a food can be vegan but not cruelty-free, and cruelty-free but not vegan. Or a food can be both. This is also the case with every food item you see in a store.

Let’s begin!

P.S. If you want to skip ahead to an answer that will satisfy most vegans, click on Are Jolly Ranchers Hard Candy Vegan in the Table of Contents below.

Why Is a Holistic Nutritionist Talking About Candy?

People like candy, so figure I better help with what candy vegans can eat

I get it. Sugar and candy aren’t healthy. But things come up.

Maybe you’re trying to pick out vegan Halloween candy to pass out or want to know what Halloween candy your kids can eat.

Maybe there’s a small bowl of hard candy at the reception area of your work, and you want to know if you can have a piece from time to time.

Maybe your child’s teacher gives out candy every now and then as a reward, and you want to give the teacher some small alternatives that your little vegan can have.

We don’t live in a bubble and no one eats 100 percent healthy all the time. Indulgences are okay!

My goal at Herbivore Muscle is to give you all the information you need to be healthy and enjoy life.

With that out of the way, let’s talk Joly Ranchers!

What are Jolly Ranchers?

I always thought Jolly Ranchers were a type of hard candy. Turns out, Jolly Randers is a company that makes a bunch of different candies! The Jolly Rancher Company was actually established in the 1950s by Bill and Dorothy Harmsen of Golden, Colorado, initially selling ice cream, sweets, and chocolates.

Their hard candies turned out to be their most popular item. And since ice cream didn’t sell well in the cold Colorado winters, the company eventually dropped the ice cream and focused on selling their popular candies year-round.

Today the company is now owned by candy giant, Hershey. In fact, it was Hershey that added many of the Jolly Rancher candies you know, including lollipops, jelly beans, fruit chewies, sour candy, and gummies.

Because Jolly Ranchers are made by The Hershey Company, we should talk about whether or not Hershey is a vegan company, or at least cruelty-free.

Is The Hershey Company Vegan?

Is the Hershey Company vegan

Whether or not the company is vegan won’t matter to everyone, and may not matter to you. But some strict vegans won’t support a company that isn’t vegan, so it’s important that we discuss it.

While this probably won’t come as a shock to you, neither the Jolly Rancher or Hershy companies are vegan. I don’t know about you, but when I think of Hershey, I think of milk chocolate. Definitely not vegan.

The Jolly Ranchers brand doesn’t promote itself as vegan, which probably means that at least a few of their candies contain animal products.

That may turn you off of Jolly Ranchers. If it does, I can’t argue. I love supporting companies that are vegan, environmentally conscious, and cruelty-free.

If you’re on the fence, I have a question for you to consider. What incentive do non-vegan companies have to evolve their practices if even vegans won’t buy their plant-based products? We speak with our wallets.

Show these companies that they can be profitable without animal-derived ingredients. Because for these companies, it’s all about profit.

With this in mind, let’s take a look at Jolly Rancher ingredients that may concern vegans.

Ingredients of Concern for Vegans

Most vegans decide whether or not they should eat a certain food based on whether or not it contains any animal-derived ingredients.

I’m guessing that’s why you’re here.

Some ingredients are easy. Meat, fish, eggs, and dairy are simple to identify and avoid. Many vegans also easily recognize honey and gelatin as animal-derived.

But then there are tricky ingredients. Things like lecithin, malic acid, and even sugar.

Here are the most common ingredients found in Jolly Ranchers:

Corn syrup, sugar, malic acid, natural flavor, artificial flavor, artificial color, mineral oil, and lecithin.

Let’s dive into these lesser-known ingredients, as well as some that are a point of concern for some vegans.

Is Sugar Vegan?

Is Sugar Vegan

This one is tough. The answer is, maybe?

Sugar is not from an animal. It’s from a plant. So sugar itself is definitely vegan.

Processed white sugar, however, causes a sticking point for some vegans.

Sugar is not naturally white. Cane sugar is actually more of a brown color (not to be confused with brown sugar, which is white sugar and molasses). It has to go through some pretty intense processing that sometimes involves the use of bone char. That’s why it’s often called processed sugar.

Bone char is an absorptive carbon retrieved from the leftover ash after burning animal bones (most often the skull) in combustion chambers. Processing sugar with bone char helps remove impurities and gives your sugar that pure-looking white color you’re used to seeing at your favorite coffee shop.

Even if sugar is processed with bone char, there won’t be any left in the final product. The bone char is burned off throughout the process.

Bone char isn’t the only way to achieve pure white sugar, though!

Another common method is known as carbonization. Carbonization uses granular activated carbon, which is made from organic materials like coconut shells or peat. This process doesn’t require animal bones so it’s a vegan way to decolorize sugar!

Currently, More than half of sugar factories in North America use bone char to refine sugar. That means that almost half use a non-animal-ingredient method.

And about 50 percent of the sugar in the United States is actually from sugar beets, not cane. Beet sugar does not need to be processed, so it’s always vegan!

All of this is why the answer to the question “is sugar vegan?” is a maybe.

So, do Hershey or Jolly Rancher use sugar that was purified using bone char or a vegan method?

They don’t know.

Large companies have complicated supply chains that involve many other companies. It’s impossible to record which batch of sugar goes into which product. And for large, non-vegan companies, it’s not worth the effort.

Truth be told, they may not even use white cane sugar! It could be sugar from coconut or beetroot. Or it may be unprocessed brown sugar. You just never know.

Honestly, I don’t recommend worrying about sugar as an additive to food products. It’s impossible to track and source.

And the sugar used in Jolly Ranchers candies may well be processed using entirely vegan methods. In fact, they probably are.

We will move forward in this analysis with that viewpoint in mind.

If you choose to avoid sugar unless you know 100 percent that it is vegan, then all of the products in this analysis should be avoided. I just can’t give you that level of certainty.

Is Gelatin Vegan?

Gelatin is a protein derived from boiling the bones, skin, and tendons of animals, most often pigs. It’s used in a number of gummy sweets to provide texture.

Definitely not vegan. If you’re new to veganism, store this one in your memory. This one will become as easy to identify as ingredients like milk and eggs.

Is Carnauba Wax Vegan

Carnauba wax is a plant-based ingredient. Always vegan.

Is Lecithin Vegan

Lecithin is used in processed foods and supplements as a thickener and stabilizer. PETA regards lecithin as possibly animal-derived because it can be obtained from both plant and animal sources.

The most common sources are meat, egg yolk, sunflower seeds, rapeseeds, corn, and soybeans.

Jolly Ranchers lists lecithin on some of their products and specifies soy lecithin on others. Soy lecithin is vegan-friendly!

Why would a company use both? If you’re already using soy lecithin in one of your candies, I think it’s safe to assume that they use that same additive in all of their products. Soy lecithin is also cheaper for companies to purchase than lecithin from meat or eggs. Another reason it’s safe to assume vegan-friendly lecithin is used, not only in Jolly Ranchers but in most cheap candies.

Is Mineral Oil Vegan?

Mineral oil is vegan. Mineral oil is distilled from petroleum. It provides a protective coating for candies.

This is often used in place of confectioners glaze in vegan candy, which most often comes from crushed beetles.

Is Malic Acid Vegan?

Malic acid is vegan. Malic acid comes from apples. It gives foods a tart flavor.

Are Natural Flavors Vegan?

The FDA allows natural flavors to be obtained from both animal and plant sources.

Hershey has publicly stated that that they can’t guarantee their products are vegan because they get their natural flavors from a third party, who uses a proprietary natural flavor ingredient.

The natural flavors used in most candies, however, is usually plant-based. It’s cheaper and more authentic tasting.

Just like with sugar. If you absolutely need to know beyond a shadow of a doubt that the natural flavors in Jolly Rancher candies are vegan, you may have to avoid these.

Are Artificial Colors Vegan?

Are Artificial Colors Vegan

Artificial colors are a sticky point in the vegan community. The colors are often derived from animal sources. Especially the natural ones! Artificial colors are just that; artificially made.

This is what Jolly Rancher uses! They do not use any animal-derived food coloring agents in their candies.

But just because these colors are vegan (not of animal origin), they aren’t necessarily cruelty-free.

Artificial colors are often tested on animals. Often the testing itself results in the death of the animals. Animals that survive testing are often killed afterward due to complications from the testing.

Here are the colors Jolly Rancher uses, where they are sourced from, and whether or not they are tested on animals:

Red 40: derived from either petroleum or strawberries. Don’t confuse this with Red 4 (carminic acid), which comes from crushed insects and is processed with egg whites. Routinely tested on animals.

Blue 1. This color is produced artificially in the laboratory. Tested on mice, rats, and dogs.

Yellow 5 and 6: both derived from either petroleum or strawberries. Confirmed tests on mice, rats, and rabbits.

If your definition of vegan is a food that doesn’t have animal-derived ingredients then Jolly Ranchers are okay.

If you won’t support a company that uses products that are tested on animals, Jolly Ranchers are out.

Recently, however, The Hershey Company has started moving away from artificial colors and toward natural, plant-based colors. This is great news! And fits with my personal belief that if we show companies that they can continue to be profitable without animal ingredients they will make changes.

If you’re still with me, let’s look at each product Jolly Ranchers offers, and whether or not it is vegan, based on the definition of no animal-derived ingredients.

Are Jolly Ranchers Hard Candy Vegan?

✅ All of the Jolly Rancher hard candies are vegan, in all flavors. While they may come in different shapes and sizes, they are made of basically the same ingredients. And none of those ingredients are animal-derived.

This means that Jolly Rancher Lollipops and Jolly Rancher Hard Sweets are both vegan.

Are Jolly Rancher Soft Candies Vegan

Some of Jolly Rancher’s soft candies are vegan, and some aren’t. Those that aren’t vegan-friendly have gelatin.

Here are both the vegan and non-vegan variations.

Vegan-Friendly Jolly Rancher Soft Candies

✅ Here are the Jolly Rancher soft candies that are vegan-friendly:

  • Awesome Twosome Chews
  • Misfits Gummies, 2 Flavors in 1
  • Sour Bites
  • Gummies, both Original and Sour Flavors
  • Jelly Beans

Non-Vegan Jolly Rancher Soft Candies

🚫 The following soft candies are not vegan because they have gelatin.

  • Crunch ‘n Chew
  • Original Chews
  • Jolly Rancher Bites

If you’re bummed that these aren’t vegan due to gelatin, don’t stress! Watch this video and learn how to turn Jolly Rancher Hard Candy into taffy. Kind of silly, but could be fun to do with your kids, or maybe just spark some creativity.

What Are Some Vegan And Cruelty-Free Alternatives to Jolly Ranchers?

Jolly Rancher Alternatives

I get if you don’t want to support a non-vegan company or foods that use additives that may have been tested on animals. Jolly Ranchers have quite a few controversial ingredients, so these may not be the treat for you.

In that case, here are some similar candies to hit your sweet tooth. All of these are vegan, cruelty-free, and any controversial ingredients have been verified vegan. These companies use plant-based dyes and multiple forms of sugars that don’t involve processing with bone char.

To compile this list I headed over to PETA and did a bit of research. I also checked out, but they list Jolly Ranchers Hard Candy as vegan.

The following Alternative Recommendations are PETA approved for being both vegan and cruelty-free.

Jolly Rancher Hard Candy Alternatives

Lemon Drops Are a Great Alternative

Atomic Fireballs! Man, I loved these as a kid. They were good, but the challenge of keeping them in your mouth until the fire died down was always a blast.

Brach’s Lemon Drops. This is one of those candies that I never remember liking, but they am always pleasantly surprised. They’re not sour, which I hate, just lemony sweet.

Smarties. I love Smarties! They’re kind of in between a hard and soft candy. I always liked letting them melt in my mouth instead of just tossing them in and chewing on them. But you do you.

Dum Dums! Remember these? The barbershop I went to growing up always gave Dum Dums to us after getting our hair cut. It was the best part of the experience. Dum Dums are still around, they’re super cheap, and they’re completely vegan and cruelty-free.

Charm’s Blowpops are also vegan and cruelty-free! These are a great option if you want both hard and soft. A nice hard lollipop, followed by that sweet, sugary bubblegum.

Jolly Rancher Chewy Candy Alternatives

Swedish Fish Are a Great Alternative

Airheads Taffy. They’re delicious and long-lasting, but won’t destroy your jaw or rip your teeth out!

Sweedish Fish. I never quite understood the draw of Sweedish Fish. They’re okay. But man, people who like them, LOVE THEM! These are a great alternative if you want soft candy, but some of the flavors do have beeswax. Just watch for that on the label.

Tips for Finding Vegan and Cruetly-Free Candy

The options I just listed may not be your favorites, and eating the same candy over and over again would be super boring. Luckily, this list is definitely not exhaustive. Try these tips for finding other candies.

Check out local specialty stores that make their own products. They’ll likely be able to tell exactly where they get all of their ingredients.

Check the Health Foods Section of your favorite store. Here you’ll likely find treats that you’ve never heard of before. Look for the Vegan AND Cruelty-Free Symbol on the package. Vegan may not be cruelty-free, and cruelty-free may not be vegan.

Are Jolly Ranchers Vegan Frequently Asked Questions

Are Jolly Rancher Hard Candies vegan?

Jolly Rancher Hard Candy and Lollipops are considered vegan because they don’t have any animal-derived ingredients in the final product. Some strict vegans may avoid them, however, because they are made with sugar and food colorings that may have been processed using bone char or tested on animals.

Are Jolly Rancher Soft Candies vegan?

Some Jolly Rancher soft candies contain gelatin, which is not vegan. Vegans should avoid eating Jolly Rancher Crunch ‘n Chew, Original Chews, and Bites.

What’s the difference between vegan and cruelty-free?

Vegan typically refers to a food that does not have any anmaml-derived ingredients in the final product. Cruelty-free describes a food product that does not have any ingredients that were ever tested on animals. A food can be vegan and not cruelty-free, cruelty-free and not vegan, neither vegan or cruelty-free, or both.

Are Jolly Ranchers Vegan Conclusion

Honestly, the answer depends on your personal brand of veganism.

Jolly Ranchers Crunch ‘n Chew, Original Chews, and Filled Gummies Bites are not vegan at the time of this article because they use gelatin in their formula.

All other Jolly Ranchers are vegan if you are only concerned about animal-derived ingredients in the final product. Even lists them as vegan-friendly.

No Jolly Rancher candies are cruelty-free. They all have dyes that are commonly tested on animals.

All Jolly Ranchers have controversial ingredients, including sugar that may have been processed using bone char. Unlikely, but possible.

Jolly Ranchers are made by Hershey, which is not a vegan company. If you choose to only support verified vegan companies, you will want to avoid these.

Hopefully, this gives you all the information you need to make the choice that is right for you.

What are your favorite vegan candy treats? Let us know in the comments!

Until next time,

Plant-Based, Plant Built

*Author's Note: The content on this website is meant to be informative in nature, but it should not be taken as medical advice. The content of our articles is not intended for use as diagnosis, prevention, and/or treatment of health problems. It's always best to speak with your doctor or a certified medical professional before making any changes to your lifestyle, diet, or exercise routine, or trying a new supplement.

Photo of author
Matt Walter, CHN, M.A.T
I studied Food Science and Human Nutrition at Washington State University and interned as a Strength and Conditioning Coach for the WSU football team. I am a Certified Holistic Nutritionist and former personal trainer and competitive CrossFit athlete. My mission is to make embracing and adopting a healthy vegan lifestyle simple and fun!

Leave a Comment