Vegan candy: Big and small companies are cashing in on plant-based sweets

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Fruit Pastilles are going plant-based, but they’re just the latest in a host of vegan candy products by companies big and small.

With the recent announcement that Rowntree’s legendary Fruit Pastilles will be vegan starting this October, there has been a lot of chatter about vegan candy. Generally, vegans can’t enjoy the same amount of candy as others because many products contain animal products like gelatine. Fortunately, with increasing consumer demand and a huge increase in vegan candy startups, it is easier than ever for vegans to get their sugary fix.

Bugs in your sweets?

Yes, you read that right. There are most likely traces of bugs in the candy you see in shops these days. While this may sound peculiar, the reason for this is quite simple (and also tragic). Bugs are killed to extract shellac flakes, a resin that is a primary ingredient in confectioners glaze. Nearly 100,000 bugs are killed to produce just 1 pound of shellac flakes, which are then combined with alcohol to create that shiny finish we are all familiar with.

Even PETA has condemned this ongoing mini-beast genocide, launching a campaign to fight against the practice. Unfortunately, this is not a new practice. Bugs have been exploited for years to be used in the production of goods. For example, South American Aztecs used bugs to dye clothing red. This ancient technique has continued to this very day. Believe or not, up until 2012, the dye used in Starbucks drinks contained traces of bugs.

As crazy as it sounds, bugs were (and still are, in some cases) an important ingredient in food and drink, including candy. However, statistics show that our eating habits in Britain are changing. A 2018 Vegan Society study showed that 52% of British grocer shoppers are either interested in or follow a plant-based diet. This is great news for vegan confectionery brands, as there are obvious gaps in the market they can fill.

Rising demand

There is no question that vegan consumers are hungry for gelatine-free alternative candies. In fact, venture-capital firms such as Blue Horizon Ventures are interested in working with small companies such as LoveRaw, who secured a multi-million-pound investment from the firm.

The Manchester-based company’s flagship product is its range of ‘vegan butter cups’, which come in a variety of flavours, such as peanut butter, salted caramel and hazelnut. Michael Kleindl, founder of Blue Horizon Developments, has fully endorsed LoveRaw and supports them in “disrupting the confectionery industry”.


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With the huge amounts of money being invested in their company, LoveRaw says it wants to provide “clean label” products that are delicious and eco-friendly. 

Even the big players in the confectionery world are being forced to make adjustments to meet the demand of consumers. Retail giant Selfridges now has an extensive range of vegan hampers and dairy-free confectionary. On the run-up to Christmas 2019, sales of vegan candy and chocolate soared by 96% compared to the year before.

With obvious consumer interest, it’s easy to see why there are many vegan candy startups appearing all over the world.

Small companies making a big impact

Laura Scott is the founder of Conscious Candy Company. Having been vegan for over 15 years, she was struggling to find new and exciting vegan sweets, so she decided to produce some herself. Today, the her makes delicious vegan treats for everyone, from its fizzy cola bottles to candy bricks.

Laura and the team have been defying stereotypes that vegan candy doesn’t taste as nice, as their loyal customers keep coming back for more. “The only thing vegan candy is missing is animal-derived e-numbers and tasteless gelatine,” she continued. “So, you’re really not missing out on much. Vegan candy can have amazing taste and flavour. A large percentage of our customer base isn’t vegan, and they say our sweets are a million times better than the large brands.”


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Non-vegan sweets tend to have some questionable ingredients, including human hair, according to a 2009 BBC investigation. Even America’s beloved Dunkin Doughnuts use an enzyme called L Cysteine, a substance found in duck feathers. However, the Conscious Candy Company utilises creative thinking and chooses some unique ingredients to achieve the desired texture. “These include potatoes, wheat starch, cornstarch, rice starch and pectin (fruit-based). It might sound odd, but this doesn’t affect the flavour, just the texture.”

Overall, whether vegan candy sounds appealing to you or not, it is important that you check what goes into your food. Jimmy Pierson of The Vegan Society points this out: “Other animal products appear when you might not expect them, so always read the label. Keep an eye out for honey in cereal, for example, and gelatine in sweets.”

Next time you’re deciding what candy to enjoy, you should look out for the guilt-free options. You won’t be disappointed.

Matt Donaghy
Matt Donaghy
Matthew is a journalism student from Ireland, living in London. He is an avid musician, a keen reader and always looking to delve into new things. Motivated by his vegan friends, Matthew is open to exploring the world of vegan subcultures and how they link with the world around us. You’ll probably find him in a hip London music venue listening to new bands and finding new things things to write about.