Candy is a simple pleasure that all of us indulge in.
Who hasn’t come home after a particularly hard day and wanted to dive head-first into a bag of chocolates? Who hasn’t gone to the movies excited to buy the biggest bag of Twizzlers available?
But as a new vegan, or even someone wanting to go plant-based, you might be asking yourself a scary question: are Twizzlers vegan? Do you have to give up the great licorice-like wonder of the world? And if they are vegan, should you be eating them?
The good news is, I have the answers you’re looking for. Before you get all twisted (no pun intended), let’s get into the Twizzler details.
What are Twizzlers?
For those of you who haven’t heard of Twizzlers before (which seems unlikely), let’s go over what they are.
Named for their twisty shape, the original licorice Twizzler was first made in 1845. The Twizzlers brand was acquired by the Hershey company in 1977, which is one of the largest candy companies in the world.
After being acquired by Hershey, Twizzlers took off. The actual licorice part of Twizzlers is no longer present, which is why I call them licorice-like.
The original strawberry flavor is by far the most popular, but they’ve expanded to make tons of other flavors including strawberry lemonade, cherry, black licorice flavored, sour apple, and even chocolate (it is the Hershey company, after all).
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Are Twizzlers vegan?
So, onto the big question. Are Twizzlers vegan?
The short answer? Yes! All Twizzlers are vegan. There are technically no animal products used to make any Twizzlers products.
So whether you go for the classic strawberry or the caramel apple filled twists, you’re safe knowing that they are a vegan-friendly product.
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Some questionable ingredients
Let’s remember: just because something is vegan doesn’t mean it’s necessarily healthy. And while some things are definitely OK to indulge in once in a while, it best to know exactly what types of things you’re putting into your body.
While you might not want to hear it, there are some questionable components that go into making the famous Twizzler. Let’s look at some of the ingredients that make up Twizzlers that might make you think twice about indulging in this candy:
All types of Twizzlers are made with both corn syrup and sugar. This makes Twizzlers extremely high in sugar content with four small twists amounting to a whopping 19 grams of sugar. (1)
That’s about same amount as 4.5 teaspoons of granulated sugar. In just four small pieces, you’ll be eating almost the equivalent of five spoonfuls of white sugar! That’s a lot of pure sugar in just four little pieces, right? (2)
There’s also the issue of white sugar. Some vegans don’t consider white sugar to be vegan, as it’s sometimes filtered over animal bone char. There’s no actual bone in white sugar, but the use of bone char in the manufacturing process leads some vegans to consider it to be a non-vegan product. (3)
You can read more about the Great Vegan Sugar Debate in our posts Is Sugar Vegan? and Is Ketchup Vegan? to get some more info. If you consider white sugar a non-vegan product, then steer clear of Twizzlers, as all have sugar listed as one of the main ingredients.
Palm oil is another product that is technically vegan if the definition ends at being made from a plant. Palm oil comes from, as you could’ve guess, palm plants.
However, the environmental impact of manufacturing palm oil is devastating and widespread. Palm oil production has been linked to rainforest deforestation, the decline of rainforest animal populations, and even the displacement of native populations of people. (4)
Many ethical vegans reject palm oil as a truly vegan product because of these issues.
Many flavors of Twizzlers contain something called “partially hydrogenated oils” which is a fancier way to say “trans fats.” Monoglycerides and diglycerides (both ingredients found in Twizzlers) also contain trans fats. (5)
Trans fats are made by adding hydrogen (aka hydrogenating) oils in order to make them solidify at lower temperatures.
Trans fats are considered some of the worst fats that you can eat. They somehow manage to lower your good (HDL) cholesterol and raise your bad (LDL) cholesterol all at once, which obviously isn’t desirable. Studies have linked eating trans fats to a greater risk of cardiovascular disease, obesity, and diabetes. (6, 7, 8, 9)
And you have to be careful with Twizzlers, since not all Twizzler nutrition labels will say they contain trans fats. According to the FDA, if there’s less than half a gram of trans fats per serving, it can be rounded down to “0” on the label. So even if a label says 0 grams of trans fats, it could technically have up to 0.49 g per serving!
Doctors warn that even extremely small amounts of trans fats can be harmful. (10)
And while not all Twizzlers have trans fats, some do. Check the ingredients list for anything listed as “partially hydrogenated” or anything listed as “monoglycerides” or “diglycerides” instead of trusting the “0 grams” listed under the nutrition facts.
Some artificial colors are actually derived from animals. Carmine, for example, is a red dye derived from insects (yes… gross).
The red in Twizzlers, however, is not derived from an animal product. In fact, none of the colors in Twizzlers are made from animal products.
However, that doesn’t mean that these artificial colors are either cruelty-free or healthy. Some studies have linked artificial colors, like the ones found in Twizzlers, to hyperactivity in children. Others suggest that they could be a carcinogen. (11, 12)
Besides the potential health concerns, there’s also the fact that many food dyes and artificial colors have been, and still are, tested on animals. Red 40 is found in almost all Twizzler products and many experiments have been done on animals to test the safety of this artificial color. (13, 14)
To give you further food for thought, Red 40 is amongst 8 ingredients banned in Europe that are still legal to use in the US. Now, I’m not necessarily saying they’re right and we’re wrong, but still…(15)
So… are Twizzlers still your go-to movie snack?
The bottom line? Twizzlers are technically vegan in that they don’t contain any animal products.
However, there are some ethical questions when it comes to the ingredients in Twizzlers. Not only that, but some of the ingredients are outright unhealthy for you.
If ingredients that are linked to cruel animal testing, bone char, and trans fats put you off a bit, then Twizzlers are probably not for you. Remember: not everything that’s technically vegan is healthy or even cruelty free.
What’s your opinion on Twizzlers? Let me know in the comment section!
About The Author:
Lisa Williams is a committed vegan, passionate animal welfare advocate, and keen follower of too many v-friendly food blogs to mention. She started happyhappyvegan.com back in 2016 because she felt there was a need for more straightforward information on plant-based living.
Back then, too many sites seem to either concentrate solely on recipes or be too intimidating or inaccessible for the v-curious, and she wanted to change that. The landscape is certainly a whole lot different now!
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- CalorieKing | Twizzlers Twists, Strawberry | https://www.calorieking.com/us/en/foods/f/calories-in-candy-twists-strawberry/4l01MfUPR6qcvgiVGBRMLA
- Traditional Oven | Granulated Sugar Conversion | https://www.traditionaloven.com/culinary-arts/sugars/granulated-sugar/convert-gram-g-granulated-white-sugar-to-tea-spoon-tsp-granulated-sugar.html
- Kate Bratskeir | Your Sugar Might Be Made With Animal Bones. Sorry, Vegans | https://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/sugar-vegan-bone-char-yikes_n_6391496
- WWF | Palm Oil | https://www.worldwildlife.org/industries/palm-oil
- Carly Vandergriendt, Medically reviewed by Debra Rose Wilson, Ph.D., MSN, R.N., IBCLC, AHN-BC, CHT | What Are Monoglycerides and Are They Safe to Consume? | https://www.healthline.com/health/food-nutrition/monoglycerides
- American Heart Association editorial staff | Trans Fats | https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-eating/eat-smart/fats/trans-fat#.W236NtgzonU
- Mohammad Perwaiz Iqbal | Mohammad Perwaiz Iqbal | ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3955571/
- Kylie Kavanagh, Kate L Jones, Janet Sawyer, Kathryn Kelley, J Jeffrey Carr, Janice D Wagner, Lawrence L Rudel | Trans fat diet induces abdominal obesity and changes in insulin sensitivity in monkeys | https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17636085/
- Diabetes UK | Fats and Diabetes | https://www.diabetes.org.uk/guide-to-diabetes/enjoy-food/eating-with-diabetes/food-groups/fats-and-diabetes
- Harvard Health Publishing | The truth about fats: the good, the bad, and the in-between | https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/the-truth-about-fats-bad-and-good
- Rebecca Harrington | Does Artificial Food Coloring Contribute to ADHD in Children? | https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/does-artificial-food-coloring-contribute-to-adhd-in-children/
- Daniel Fromson | Colorful Carcinogens: Why We Should Ban Food Dyes | https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2010/07/colorful-carcinogens-why-we-should-ban-food-dyes/59944/
- Sarah Kobylewski, Michael F Jacobson | Toxicology of food dyes | https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23026007/
- Carol Potera | DIET AND NUTRITION: The Artificial Food Dye Blues | https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2957945/
- Barbara Woolsey | 8 Ingredients Banned in Europe That Are Legal in the United States | https://www.thrillist.com/health/nation/8-food-additives-banned-in-europe-that-are-legal-in-the-united-states
Image courtesy of James Lee via Flickr under this Creative Commons License
2 thoughts on “Are Twizzlers Vegan? Or Will They Leave You Feeling Twisted?”
The bag says it has glycerin in the ingredients and glycerin comes from animal fat and vegetable oil. That not very vegan to me but maybe there’s an explanation?
Thanks for commenting. Check out out article Is Glycerin Vegan? for more info.
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