Are Lemonheads Vegan? (Here’s Everything You Need To Know)

Looking to eat Lemonheads but don’t know if they’re vegan-friendly? 

Lemonheads contain confectioner’s glaze, an ingredient derived from the female lac bug. This, unfortunately, makes it unsuitable for vegans. Additionally, Lemonheads also contain several controversial ingredients. 

In this article, I’ll tell you everything you need to know about Lemonheads. 

What Are Lemonheads?

Lemonheads is an American candy brand that was created in 1962 by the Ferrara Candy Company. 

They’re round, lemon-flavored candies consisting of a sweet coating, soft sour shell, and a hard candy core. Other popular varieties include Grapeheads, Cherryheads, and Appleheads. 

lemonheads

Lemonheads are made using a cold panned process where sugar and flavors are added layer after layer until the candy achieves the desired shape. Lemonheads (and related varieties) come in a standard size— typically 1 centimeter, but they’re also available in a 3-centimeter version. 

Despite the number of years gone by, they’re still quite popular as Ferrara produces around 500 million Lemonheads every single year. 

Lemonheads Ingredients

Lemonheads contain the following ingredients:

  • Sugar
  • Corn Syrup
  • Citric Acid
  • Lemon Juice from Concentrate
  • Confectioner’s Glaze (Shellac)
  • Natural and Artificial Flavor
  • Acacia (Gum Arabic)
  • Modified Food Starch (Corn)
  • Carnauba Wax
  • Yellow 5
  • and White Mineral Oil.

There are a number of ingredients that are plant-based, but unfortunately, there’s one ingredient that vegans ought to avoid— and that ingredient is confectioner’s glaze (or shellac).

Confectioner’s Glaze (Shellac)

Confectioner’s glaze, also known as pharmaceutical glaze, is used by numerous candy companies to add a shiny, smooth finish to their products. 

It is made with shellac, which is essentially a secretion left from the female lac bug. 

After feeding on the tree sap, the female lac bug secretes lac to protect her soon-to-hatch eggs, which later hardens to become shellac. This substance is often found in the forests of India or Thailand. 

Whilst glaze can be used to enhance many things, including the shine of apples, jelly beans, and other hard foods, it can also be used as a spray to coat pills, polish fingernails, and varnish wood.

Because shellac is hardened lac bug secretions, products containing it are not considered vegan. There are worries that shellac processes may lead to bugs incidentally getting dissolved into ethanol, a process that attempts to purify shellac as much as possible to remove potential impurities like bugs, cocoons, etc. 

Controversial Ingredients

While it’s not necessarily important to mention these ingredients given that Lemonheads contain a non-vegan ingredient, I’ll do so nevertheless. 

There are three ingredients that are almost always seen in products but that some vegans (not all) might choose to avoid for different reasons.

Those ingredients are:

  • Refined sugar
  • Artificial flavors and colors.

Let me elaborate on why that is the case.

Sugar

Sugar generally comes from two sources: sugarcane and beets.

They’re both similar in taste and texture, but their processes differ. Beet sugar is extracted using a diffuser and mixed with non-animal additives to crystallize, so it’s vegan 

Cane sugar, on the other hand, is made by crushing sugarcane stalks to separate the pulp from the juice and then filtering the juice with bone char – which is an animal derivative. 

Unfortunately, bone char is essentially charred animal bones, and it’s quite common in the US. 

The sugar industry uses bone char as a decolorizing filter, which is what gives refined sugar its white, pristine color — because it removes a lot of its impurities. 

An alternative is to consume products with organic sugar, as no refining agents are used.

Artificial Flavors & Colors

Artificial colors are known for being tested on animals and therefore are not cruelty-free. The same goes for artificial flavors, which are also lab-made, and require testing. 

This is quite a controversial topic because, on one side of the aisle, you’ll find people arguing that animal testing is a necessary evil to protect us from potential diseases/collateral effects. 

While on the other end, you have people arguing that it’s no longer necessary because it’s a cruel practice, and with the technology we have, using animals for testing should no longer be accepted. 

I’m not an expert on the subject, so I’ve found a video that expands on that subject, but to give you a short answer— while animal testing might be a necessary practice today, it won’t be for much longer thanks to technological innovation. 

If you’re vegan and really want to avoid artificial colors and flavors, the best way to do so is by not consuming products with artificial additives, as there are now many products that opt for natural substitutes. 

Vegan Alternatives To Lemonheads

YumEarth Lemon Hard Candies

yumearth lemon hard candies

Ingredients: Organic Cane Sugar, Organic Brown Rice Syrup, Citric Acid, Natural Flavors (Lemon Oils), and Turmeric (Color).

YumEarth is a brand that creates vegan alternatives to the most popular candies, and that also includes Lemonheads. 

They go an extra step by removing even controversial ingredients and use, for example, organic cane sugar, as well as other natural ingredients to confer the candies with both flavor and color. 

Lovely Organic Hard Candie

lovely hard candies

Ingredients: Organic Cane Sugar, Organic Brown Rice Syrup, Citric Acid, Natural Flavors, Organic Fruit and Vegetable Juice For Color (Radish, Apple, Blackcurrant), and Grape Color Extract.

Lovely Organic is another brand that focuses on having vegan alternatives to popular candies, and while the previous brand offers lemon-flavored hard candies, Lovely mixes different flavors.

Claey’s Lemon Drops

claeys hard candies

Ingredients: Sugar, Corn Syrup, Citric Acid, Natural Lemon Flavor, and Yellow 5.

These lemon drops by Claeys are not exactly like Lemonheads, but they have a very addictive lemon flavor, hence why I’ve included them as an alternative.

If you want a candy that is as similar as possible to Lemonheads, refer to the other two alternatives. 

Summary

Unfortunately, Lemonheads are not suitable for vegans. They contain confectioner’s glaze which is made from shellac, which is essentially a substance secreted by the female lac bug. 

Lemonheads also contain several ingredients that are deemed controversial within the vegan community, as they’re linked (in their own way) to animal cruelty. Not because they’re an actual animal derivative, but because their manufacturing might involve animals throughout the process. 

However, don’t feel discouraged as there are several vegan alternatives available— brands such as YumEarth and Lovely Organic seem to be the closest there is to Lemonheads. 

Alexandre Valente

Hey there! My name is Alex and I've been vegan for more than five years! I've set up this blog because I'm really passionate about veganism and living a more eco-conscious life. Hopefully, I can use this website as a channel to help you out on your own journey!

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