The Complete Guide to Which Jelly Beans Brands Are Vegan

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Going vegan isn’t easy if you’re a jelly bean lover.

Many of the most popular jelly beans are not vegan, although some are depending on your personal definition of being vegan (I’ll explain shortly).

I’ve put together this guide to help you know which popular brands are and aren’t vegan-friendly.

The most common non-vegan ingredients to look out for are:

  • Beeswax
  • Gelatin
  • Confectioners’ glaze – Can be vegan, but isn’t always. It often has dairy products or shellac.
  • Food coloring (Blue No. 1, Blue No. 2, Green No. 3, Red No. 3, Red No. 40, Yellow No. 5, Yellow No. 6) – A controversial ingredient for vegans, particularly in the U.S., as they are often tested on animals.
  • “Sugar” – Plain white sugar, in North America, is often made with bone char, making it not vegan. Unless a company clarifies that they use bone char-free sugar, it’s not safe to assume it’s vegan.

Artificial colors and sugar are the grayest area to me when it comes to whether or not vegans can/should consume. Personally I avoid them, but they’re probably “technically” vegan depending on the definition you use. 

With all that out of the way, let’s look at specific brands of popular jelly beans and whether or not they’re vegan.

We’ll start with the vegan ones and move onto the non-vegan ones.

Surf Sweet Organic Jelly Beans

Verdict: Vegan 

surf sweet jelly beans

This is a brand I hadn’t heard of before I went vegan, but it’s one of the very clearly vegan options there are.

While you may not find it in many local stores, you can find on Amazon, which is convenient enough.

Here’s the full ingredients list:

Organic Cane Sugar, Organic Tapioca Syrup, Organic Grape Juice Concentrate, Pectin, Citric Acid, Ascorbic Acid, Colors Added (Organic Black Carrot Juice Concentrate, Organic Turmeric, Organic Annatto), Natural Flavors, Confectioner’s Glaze, Carnauba Wax, Organic Sunflower Oil

Most of those are ingredients that come from one plant or another, and they use all natural flavors, avoiding the common non-vegan coloring issues.

The one potential issue is the confectioners’ glaze, which isn’t always vegan. While it doesn’t say vegan on the package, it does on their website and it says “vegetarian” on their product page.

surf sweet jelly beans vegan

So while I’m not 100% sure, I’m quite confident that Surf Sweet jelly beans are vegan.

Haribo Jelly Beans

Verdict: Possibly vegan

Haribo is a well-known brand, but not necessarily for their jelly beans, which is why these might be a bit hard to find.

They’re easier to find online if you live in Europe, otherwise try a local specialty candy store.

Here’s the full ingredients:

Sugar, glucose syrup, modified corn starch, citric acid, flavors, glazing agent: carnauba wax, thickening agent: gum arabic, fruit and plants concentrates (apple, sweet potato, safflower, Spirulina), colors: Curcumin, anthocyanins.

All the ingredients are plant-based, and most are obviously vegan-friendly.

However, whenever just “sugar” is listed in the ingredients label, it’s possible for it to be made with bone char (from bones of cows). So at this point, it depends on if you’d like to take that risk (it could be vegan).

I’ve reached out to their support to try and get a clear answer either way, but if this sentence is still here, I haven’t heard back.

Jolly Rancher Jelly Beans

Verdict: Maybe vegan (depending on your views)

Potential non-vegan ingredients: Sugar, Red 40, Yellow 5 & 6, Blue 1

Now we’re getting into the non-vegan jelly beans.

Here’s the full ingredient list:

Sugar, Corn Syrup, Cornstarch, Contains 2% or less of Sodium Lactate, Lactic Acid, Malic Acid, Natural and Artificial Flavors, Gum Arabic, Carnauba Wax, Mineral Oil, Artificial Colors (Red 40, Yellow 6, Blue 1, and Yellow 5).

There are 2 potential non-vegan ingredients, but whether or not you’re okay with them varies from person to person.

The first issue is the plain “sugar.” Again, if you’re North America, there’s a decent chance that this was processed using bone char.

With a company as big as Jolly Rancher, who likely has multiple sugar suppliers, there’s pretty good chance that at least some of their sugar has been processed this way.

It’s up to you if you find that acceptable or not.

Secondly are the artificial colors. Again, they’re a tricky grey area, surrounded by animal testing (although not by the food manufacturers themselves). So this is your call as well.

Jelly Belly

Verdict: Not vegan

Non-vegan ingredients: Sugar, Red 40, Yellow 5 & 6, Blue 1 & 2, Beeswax

Different Jelly Belly flavors contain different non-vegan colorings.

Here’s an image of the ingredients list for a bulk pack that contains all their flavors:

jelly belly ingredients

Just from the beeswax alone, these aren’t vegan. But I’ve heard of some vegans being okay with it, so I’ll go through the rest of the questionable ingredients.

On top of tricky ingredients like sugar and artificial colors, there’s also confectioner’s glaze.

This is one of those ingredients that can be vegan, but also might not be.

On Jelly Belly’s website, all the product pages of their jelly beans say “vegetarian friendly”, so assuming that’s correct, both the sugar and confectioner’s glaze should be fine.

The only potential issue for you would be the artificial colors, and that’s a personal decision that you’ll have to make.

Lifesavers Jelly Beans

Verdict: Not vegan

Non-vegan ingredients: Red 40, Yellow 5, Blue, Beeswax

While not Lifesaver’s best known product, they do sell jelly beans.

Here’s the full ingredients list:

Sugar, Corn Syrup, Cornstarch, Modified Cornstarch, Modified Corn Starch, Water, Natural and Artificial Flavor, Citric Acid (For Tartness), Confectioner’s Glaze, Artificial Color (Includes Red 40 Lake, Yellow 5, Red 40, Blue 1), Carnauba Wax, Beeswax.

Unfortunately, these are clearly not vegan due to the beeswax, and there are also other controversial ingredients in there as well.

Kirkland Gourmet Jelly Beans

Verdict: Not vegan

Non-vegan ingredients: Red 40, Yellow 5 & 6, Blue 1 & 2, Beeswax

As a Costco member, I’ve found that quite a few Kirkland products are accidentally vegan, but this is not one of them.

Depending on the flavor, they contain at least one of the food coloring dyes that are tested on animals.

Additionally, they contain a small amount of beeswax, which is the main reason these are not vegan.

Brach’s Jelly Beans

Verdict: Not vegan

Non-vegan ingredients: Red 3 & 40, Yellow 5 & 6, Beeswax

Just like a few other non-vegan jelly beans on this list, there are multiple coloring ingredients that we’ve talked about, plus beeswax.

Here’s the ingredients list:

brachs jelly bean ingredients

Moving on to our last brand.

Starburst Jelly Beans

Verdict: Probably not vegan

Non-vegan ingredients: Red 40, Yellow 5 & 6, Blue 1 & 2, and confectionery glaze

Almost the exact same ingredients as most of the other non-vegan jelly beans on this list.

Here’s the list of ingredients for their variety pack:

Sugar, Corn syrup, Food starch, Apple juice from concentrate, Citric acid, Gum acacia, Artificial and natural flavors, coloring (yellow 5, red 40, yellow 6, blue 1), Confectionery glaze

Note the coloring ingredients, but on the plus side, there’s no beeswax.

At least some of the sugar they use in North American products likely was refined with bone char.

And as for the confectionery glaze, it may or may not be vegan. I contacted support, but their reply was no help.

There’s a chance that Starburst jelly beans are vegan, but it’s probably not too likely.

Summary: Which Jelly Beans Are Vegan?

There’s quite a range in ingredients, but I think it’s safe to say that you can’t assume most jelly beans are vegan.

Of the brands we looked at, here’s a quick recap:

Brand Verdict
Surf Sweet Almost certainly vegan
Haribo Could be vegan, but depends on the “sugar”
Jolly Rancher Maybe vegan, but depends on the “sugar” and whether or not you’re okay with artificial colors.
Jelly Belly Not vegan due to beeswax
Lifesavers Not vegan due to beeswax
Kirkland Not vegan due to beeswax
Brach’s Not vegan due to beeswax
Starburst Probably not vegan, but there’s a chance (due to sugar and confectionery glaze). Also depends on your views on artificial colors.

About the author

Dale C.

Your friendly neighborhood vegan from Toronto. Chemical engineer turned semi-professional soccer player and freelance writer. Trying to do my small part in making the world better by writing about the wonderful world of veganism.

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