Are Jolly Ranchers Vegan? How to Choose Plant-Based Jolly Ranchers

Jolly Ranchers come in a variety of juicy flavors. Can vegans enjoy any of them?

Two handfuls of Jolly Rancher hard candies

Phil Faraone/MTV1415 / Contributor / Getty Images

Jolly Rancher’s iconic sweets have remained a stalwart in candy aisles for over 70 years. Since joining the Hershey family in 1996, the company expanded its line of traditional hard candies to include jelly beans, lollipops, and gummies – most of which are vegan-friendly.

While a few Jolly Rancher chewy candies do have gelatin (a by-product of the beef and pork industries), most contain no animal products. Learn which sneaky ingredients to look out for in our guide to vegan Jolly Ranchers.

Why Most Jolly Rancher Candies Are Vegan 

While hard candy varieties of Jolly Ranchers don’t contain any animal ingredients, the candy’s website distinctly notes that Jolly Ranchers are not vegan. 

The Hershey Company informed Treehugger that while Jolly Ranchers ingredients are not directly sourced from animals, the candy does not have an official vegan certification. As a result, the company cannot guarantee the candy's processing meets certified-vegan standards.

But because Jolly Ranchers hard candies, lollipops, candy stix, and candy canes are not animal-based, we consider them all vegan-friendly.

Still, some people question the vegan status of the remaining ingredients, and they are worth examining.

Sugar

More than 50% of U.S. sugar comes from beets, which transform from root vegetables into table sugar in a single process. The rest comes from sugar cane, which is secondarily refined with animal bone char to help whiten the sugar crystals. (Jolly Rancher’s parent company Hershey sources from foreign and domestic sugar cane and sugar beet farms.)

Some particularly strict vegans opt to avoid sugar altogether to prevent eating sugar cane, but most vegans still see sugar as an acceptable plant-based food. 

Lethicin

Lethicin is a common additive used as an emulsifier in processed foods. Although this hydrophilic fat can come from animal and non-animal sources, the lecithin in most processed foods comes from soy. (Soy is listed as an allergy on the Jolly Rancher nutrition label.)

Mineral Oil

Unlike other edible vegetable oils, mineral oil is distilled from non-renewable petrochemicals. Mineral oil commonly appears as part of food processing. Although mineral oil comes from fossil fuels, recent research indicates that ingesting it in small amounts does not affect humans adversely. 

Lactic Acid

Contrary to its name, lactic acid is a naturally occurring bacteria that does not contain lactose or dairy of any kind (although it can be grown on lactose). Most lactic acid is cultivated on vegan-friendly beets or corn.

Sodium Lactate

When lactic acid is neutralized with sodium hydroxide, the resulting salt is sodium lactate. 

Why Some Jolly Rancher Candies Are Not Vegan 

Many chewy candies contain animal-derived gelatin, and sadly that holds true for some varieties of Jolly Ranchers. But lucky for plant-based eaters, quite a few Jolly Rancher chewy varieties are also vegan. 

Beyond gelatin, some varieties also contain more pernicious non-vegan ingredients. 

Gelatin

Gelatin consists of the collagen extracted from various animal parts (primarily from cows and pigs). It provides many foods with a proper mouthfeel and commonly appears in gummy candies, marshmallows, and desserts.

Beeswax

An incredibly versatile substance, beeswax is excreted from the glands of female worker bees and harvested alongside honey. Beeswax serves as the home for the bees, storage for their food, and protection for their young.

Many vegans abstain from both beeswax and honey because they view these indisputable animal products as the result of forced animal labor. Other vegans are more flexible, citing that 15-30% of the world’s food supply would disappear without bee pollination

Confectioner’s Glaze

Another product of small animals, confectioner’s glaze comes from the resin excreted by the lac insect. The resin is then scraped off the trees where the insects reside and combined with alcohol to create an edible version of shellac. This natural waxy substance gives foods a glossy top coat.

Lac insects are intentionally and unintentionally killed in harvesting the resin. Some research estimates that it takes around 50,000 lac bugs to produce 1 kg. of shellac.

Did You Know?

Many Jolly Ranchers contain carnauba wax, a common food additive derived from palm trees that grow across northeastern Brazil. Like other palm crops, carnauba farming causes deforestation, upsets the area's natural biodiversity, and creates challenging conditions for the workers extracting the wax.

Vegan Jolly Ranchers

With a variety of mouth textures at their disposal, vegans can binge on these plant-based Jolly Rancher treats.

  • Hard Candy (all flavors, including Zero Sugar)
  • Lollipops (all flavors)
  • Stix Candy (all flavors)
  • Candy Canes (all flavors)
  • Bites (Awesome Twosome)
  • Gummies (all flavors)
  • Jelly Beans

Non-Vegan Jolly Ranchers 

Only three varieties of Jolly Ranchers contain animal products, and these candies contain visible non-vegan ingredients. Be sure to check the label to confirm that your next bite is entirely cruelty-free.

  • Jelly Hearts
  • Chews
  • Bites (Watermelon, Green Apple, and Cherry)
Frequently Asked Questions
  • Do gummy Jolly Rancher Gummies have gelatin?

    Surprisingly, no. Jolly Rancher Gummies do not contain gelatin and are vegan-friendly. However, other chewy varieties of Jolly Ranchers do contain gelatin, so be sure to read the label.

  • Are Jolly Ranchers dairy-free?

    Yes, Jolly Rancher candies are entirely dairy-free.

  • Are Jolly Rancher Misfits vegan?

    Yes! Along with the other Gummies, these Jolly Rancher Misfits are indeed vegan.

  • Why are Jolly Ranchers not vegan?

    For most vegans, the majority of Jolly Rancher candies meet vegan standards because they do not contain any animal products. However, Jolly Ranchers also have an undisclosed natural flavor that the company can’t guarantee isn’t animal-derived. Additionally, some varieties include non-vegan ingredients, including gelatin.