As someone that has been vegan for over a year, I cannot tell you how many times my Google searches consist of "is (blank) vegan." With so many candies containing gelatin, it is surprising to hear that the extremely popular Skittles, made by Mars Wrigley Confectionary, is gelatin-free since 2009. Gelatin is not considered vegan-friendly since it is derived from animal ingredients, more info here. According to the company, over 200 million Skittles are made each day. However, this does not guarantee that Skittles are free from animal-based products. Here is an in-depth look at each ingredient to answer the question, are skittles vegan?

Ingredients in Skittles

Jordi Almeida

There are a total of 19 ingredients listed in the nutrition facts in the original Skittles package. The ingredients that may be derived from animals or that should be explained further have been highlighted.

Sugar, Corn Syrup, Hydrogenated Palm Kernel Oil, Less Than 2% of: Citric Acid, Tapioca Dextrin, Modified Corn Starch, Natural and Artificial Flavors, 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.

The Problem with Sugar

Since sugar is the first ingredient listed in Skittles, it is important to realize that not all sugar is considered vegan. As I mentioned in my article about coconut palm sugar, it is common for sugar to be processed with bone char. As a result, the sugar may make Skittles not vegan. Here is a list of sugar brands that do not contain bone char.

Wait, Isn't Palm Oil Vegan?

Perhaps even more controversial than sugar, palm oil is another questionable ingredient in Skittles. While it is vegan, some vegans avoid palm oil due to the negative environmental effects of over harvesting palm oil. When I read labels, I tend to focus on ingredients that I know are animal derived, but it is surprising to see the large amount of products that contain palm oil. As a result, vegans that avoid palm oil would not eat Skittles.

Natural and Artificial Flavors, Oh My!

Things get increasingly complicated with the vague ingredient description of natural and artificial flavors. Since this can refer to a wide array of plant and animal sources, it is extremely difficult to know if the flavors used in Skittles are actually vegan. This applies to all accidentally vegan products that do not explicitly state that they are 100% plant-based or vegan.

Artificial Food Coloring and Animals

Another set of questionable ingredients found in Skittles is artificial food coloring. Food coloring is not considered vegan since these colors have been, and continue to be, tested on animals. Although it is not necessarily Mars Wrigley conducting these tests, it is important to realize that artificial colors are harmful to animals before choosing to eat Skittles.

Final Verdict

Jordi Almeida

My answer to the question "are skittles vegan" is the same as many other products–it depends. I can spend a large amount of time researching products to make sure that they are actually vegan and learn that very few things are truly vegan. For example, many fruits and vegetables sold in a grocery store are technically not vegan due to having a wax coating that is derived from animals. Although it is true that this can be avoided by only purchasing produce from a local farmer's market, this is not always accessible or financially feasible. I often find that many vegans criticize other vegans for not being vegan enough, but this only hurts the activism of a vegan lifestyle. My approach to veganism follows the definition by the Vegan Society which states that "veganism is a way of living which seeks to exclude, as far as is possible and practicable, all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose." If someone vegan chooses to eat Skittles and avoids all other animal products to the best of their ability, they are still making a positive impact for the environment.