Are Nerds Vegan? (Some Flavors MIGHT Be)


Strict vegans won’t eat Nerds, but if you’re a little flexible on controversial areas, you might be okay with eating a few flavors still.

We’ll go over the problem ingredients in each flavor, and I’ll summarize the potential issues for you.

Then, you can decide for yourself whether or not you consider Nerds to be vegan-friendly.

Ingredients in Nerds

box of nerds candy

I’ve gathered the ingredients in all flavors of Nerds, straight the Nerds Candy website.

The ingredients in the 4 main flavors are all pretty similar, but there are a few important differences.

Cherry/Melon Nerds

In the cherry/melon boxes (red and green), the ingredients are:

Dextrose, Sugar, Malic acid, Corn syrup, Natural flavors, Carnauba wax, Color added: Blue 1, Red 40 Lake, Yellow 5

This is a potentially vegan-friendly list of ingredients, but it’s not clear just from inspection.

The ingredients that are not bolded above are all plant-based and definitely vegan-friendly.

But there are 3 grey areas:

  • Sugar – Whenever you see “sugar” in the U.S., particularly in foods that are made on a huge scale (e.g. candy like Nerds), there’s a decent chance that the sugar is not vegan because it was filtered using bone char. It’s not the biggest deal, but still not vegan.
  • Artificial colors (“color added”) – Artificial dyes like Blue 1 and Red 40 are very controversial. While they themselves are made in a lab and are completely synthetic, they are often tested on animals. I’ve written a more detailed post on if artificial colors are vegan if you’d like more details.
  • Natural Flavors – This is an umbrella term that covers a lot of ingredients, both plant- and animal-based. In a product like this, I don’t expect it to contain any dairy or meat derived ingredients, but technically it’s possible. In addition, there’s no “contains:milk” warning, which Ferrara states they add to all of their products, so I wouldn’t be worried about the natural flavors here.

You’ll have to decide for yourself based on that information whether or not you consider the Cherry and Melon Nerds to be vegan.

Grape/Strawberry Nerds

There are 2 other main flavors: grape/strawberry (purple and pink).

The ingredients are similar, but there’s a significant difference:

Dextrose, Sugar, Malic acid, Corn syrup, Natural flavors, Carnauba wax, Color added: Carmine color, Blue 1, Blue 2, Red 40 Lake

On top of the sugar and artificial colors like in the other flavors, there’s also carmine color.

Carmine is another food dye, but it’s not artificial. Instead, it’s made from the scales of insects. That alone means these flavors are not vegan.

And since the “Rainbow” pack has all 4 flavors, it isn’t vegan either.

Summary: Are Nerds Vegan?

For very strict vegans, no flavors of Nerds are vegan.

The grape and strawberry flavors are not vegan, as they contain carmine.

But depending on where you fall on artificial colors and sugar, you might be okay with the cherry and melon box.

Finally, Nerd Ropes and Big Chewy Nerds have almost identical ingredients, so again, you’ll have to decide for yourself if you’d like to eat them.

Contacting Nerds for a Direct Answer

There’s still the questions of whether or not the sugar was produced using bone char.

I’ve contacted their support address in late 2023, but the answer I received was essentially “we’re not sure”, since they use multiple sugar suppliers for a large volume of products.

About the author

Dale Cudmore

Your friendly neighborhood vegan from Toronto. I've spent over 6 years as a freelance nutrition writer and researcher. During this time, I've tested over 50 vegan protein powders, and over 100 other types of vegan supplements.


    • A lot of products say that.

      It just means that somewhere along the line, they may have come in contact with egg products because somewhere in the same factory there is a product that contains egg. There are no actual eggs in Nerds.

      It’s basically a disclaimer and warning for those with allergies.