are skittles vegan

Are Skittles Vegan? What You Need to Know!

ANSWER:Although they contained gelatin up until 2009-2010, skittles can now be considered vegan as they don't have any animal products in the ingredients. This includes all of the flavors listed on the Wrigley's website (1). However, there is some controversy about skittles which we will cover in detail below.

What Are the Ingredients in Skittles?

According to the Wrigley website (checked June 2017) the Original Skittles have the following ingredient statement:

Sugar, Corn Syrup, Hydrogenated Palm Kernel Oil, less than 2% of: Citric Acid, Tapioca Dextrin, Modified Corn Starch, Natural and Artificial Flavor, Colors (Red 40 Lake, Titanium Dioxide, Red 40, Yellow 5 Lake, Yellow 5, Yellow 6 Lake, Yellow 6, Blue 2 Lake, Blue 1, Blue 1 Lake), Sodium Citrate, Carnauba Wax.​

There are also several other Skittles flavors, but the ingredient statements don't change all that much and there weren't any other controversial ingredients worth noting.

As you can see, there are no animal products, but several ones that are controversial within the vegan community. However, this does not mean that you should necessarily give up skittles without considering the entire picture. These controversial ingredients are:

  • Sugar
  • Palm Oil & Carnauba Wax (processed from palm)

Why is the Sugar in Skittles Controversial?

The sugar in any candy is controversial because some cane sugar in the supply chain is processed with bone char as a whitening agent. Whether or not this is the case with skittles is unclear. Many big candy  manufacturer's wouldn't even know themselves as they have a variety of sugar suppliers that they source from. Our position is that vegans should be focusing on giving up all labeled animal products first and foremost and encouraging those around them to do the same.

If you want to learn more about sugar or other sweets check out our "Is Sugar Vegan?" article as well as our pieces on vegan hot chocolate, Laffy Taffy, fondant, and caramel.

Why is the Palm Oil in Skittles Controversial?

It's not so much palm oil in itself that is controversial, but rather the practices of the palm oil industries. The ethics surrounding palm oil are not all that clear cut, but in a nutshell, clearing land for palm oil plantations is causing lots of deforestation and destroying the homes of orangutans. But what is the driving cause of deforestation?

According to the Union of Concerned Scientists the absolute biggest driver of deforestation is clearing forests for beef cattle pastures and soy being used for animal feed. If humanity was able to give up its addiction to animal products and abolish the animal agriculture industry, there would be a lot more room on the planet to produce palm oil in an ethical fashion instead of fighting over a shrinking amount of land resources. 

At the end of the day, your most important task as a vegan is to give up all labeled animal products. Taking on extra tasks such as the sourcing of single otherwise vegan products such as palm oil or sugar can actually be counterproductive to the vegan movement for the following reasons:

  • Getting the majority of the planet to give up animal agriculture on its own is a daunting task in itself and more complexity will give people more excuses.
  • Palm oil and sugar aren't directly responsible for the suffering and death of animals. The implications of these ingredients can therefore be rectified with improved practices rather than boycott.

Should Vegans Still Eat Skittles? 

At the end of the day, it's up to the individual person on how far they want to take veganism. All ingredients (including whole plant foods) cause some sort of suffering, but the goal of veganism is to reduce the amount of animal suffering and death as possible.

We think that eliminating your consumption of labeled animal products (meat, eggs, dairy, fish, etc.) is going to have the most drastic impact on the animals and the planet. Ingredients like palm oil and sugar (although important) should be considered secondary, so don't worry about it if it makes veganism too hard to follow.

About the Author Joey Bruno

Cooking healthy, delicious, plant-based meals has been Joey's true passion since he went vegan in 2015. He has a masters in Nutrition and Food Science and is committed to making the internet a place of education and knowledge rather than misinformation and clickbait. He currently lives in Delaware with his wife.

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