Interestingly, according to Mondelez, Nutter Butter is the best-selling peanut butter sandwich cookie in America, with around one billion cookies being eaten every year!
That isn’t exactly good news, given that Nutter Butters are caloric and somewhat sugary, certainly contributing to the decline in people’s health. But hell, who doesn’t love Nutter Butters when the occasion calls for it? We’re free to get dirty once in a while, right?
Well, as long as it doesn’t affect animal lives, it’s cool. Which brings us to the most important question— are Nutter Butters vegan? Can we say for certain that every ingredient is vegan?
Well, yes and no, as it will also depend on your personal view about certain ingredients.
Let’s take a quick glance at the ingredients in Nutter Butter cookies, as well as other variations.
Nutter Butters: Ingredients
As you may know, there are several variations of Nutter Butters:
- Traditional Nutter Butter
- Nutter Butter Bites
- Fudge Covered Nutter Butter
- Nutter Butter Creme Patties
- And also Nutter Butter Cereals.
Let’s look at each one and see what ingredients they contain, and whether or not they’re vegan.
Traditional Nutter Butter
Traditional Nutter Butters do not contain animal-based ingredients and therefore are vegan.
Yet, they do contain some controversial ingredients such as sugar, palm oil, and artificial flavoring, which may or not be vegan depending on different factors, as well as your own personal view.
Nutter Butter Bites
Nutter Butter Bites also do not contain animal-based ingredients.
Yet, akin to Traditional Nutter Bites, they have “controversial” ingredients such as sugar, palm oil and artificial flavorings that may or not be vegan.
Fudge Covered Nutter Butter
Fudge Covered Nutter Butter is not vegan because it contains nonfat milk, which is what the manufacturer uses to create the fudge that is used to cover the cookies. On top of that, it also contains some ingredients like sugar, palm oil, artificial flavor, and natural flavor.
Nutter Butter Creme Patties
As far as I’m concerned, Nutter Butter Creme Patties are vegan, as they don’t have animal ingredients or derivatives. However, keep in mind that they also have sugar and palm oil, which are badly regarded by stricter vegans.
Nutter Butter Cereals
Nutter Butter Cereals are vegan. They have some controversial ingredients, including artificial colors, an ingredient that isn’t present in other Nutter Butter variations.
Controversial Vegan Ingredients
Controversial ingredients may not originate from an animal source, but they may still be tied to animal cruelty or suffering.
As we’ve briefly mentioned throughout this blog post, those ingredients are:
- Refined sugar
- Palm Oil
- Artificial Flavors & Colors
- And Natural Flavors.
You can usually find a combination of at least two of these ingredients in any Nutter Butter variation, so I felt it was important to mention them.
In fact, allow me to individually explain why each one of them is controversial.
Sugar is typically obtained from two sources: sugarcane and beets.
They are used in similar amounts in the United States, they have an identical taste and texture, but they follow distinct refining processes.
While beets are filtered through a diffuser and mixed with additives to crystallize, cane sugar can be filtered and bleached using bone char.
What is bone char?
Bone char is essentially a decolorizing and deashing agent used by sugar companies to remove inorganic impurities such as sulfites or ions of magnesium and calcium.
Unfortunately, bone char is what you get after heating the bones of cattle at high temperatures. A porous, black material that closely resembles charcoal.
Thankfully, some companies use other alternatives
Yes! Not all companies follow the same processing method.
In fact, some companies may use activated carbon or ion-exchange resins to also filter their sugar. However, there’s no way of knowing that, unless you decide to contact a company via phone or email, or unless you can find that information available via their website.
However, let me say this— Oreos is a brand that sources their sugar from multiple suppliers, including ones that use bone char. And unfortunately, Oreos is also owned by the same company that owns Nutter Butters (Mondelez International).
Even though palm oil is clearly a plant-based ingredient, we cannot ignore the impact it has on animals, the environment, and also local communities.
Creating palm oil plantations destroys vast amounts of forests, which in turn ruins natural habitats where species like Orangutangs, the Sumatran Elephant, the Bornean Pygmy Elephant, the Sumatran Rhino, and the Sumatran Tiger live. By taking destroying their natural environment, we’re contributing to their extinction in a massive way.
Between 1999 and 2015, palm oil exploitation has resulted in the death of 100,000 orangutangs, according to this research by the cell.com.
Frankly, I’m not surprised, especially when I view videos such as the one below:
The impact of palm oil also goes beyond animals, and can as well influence the environment.
To condition the land and establish palm oil plantations, rainforests are drained. As they dry, the peat filled soils release methane, a gas with 23 times the impact of CO2.
In addition to its environmental impact, palm oil production may also have social repercussions on local communities. According to this report by the International Labor Rights Forum, they found several human rights violations after visiting three palm plantation in Indonesia:
- The workers are actually misled to work in these plantations and are tricked in a debt-bondage situation;
- And they’re also forced to bring children to work to meet ludicrous quotas.
Sadly, this report shows case studies of Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) certified plantations, which are typically deemed as “good plantations”.
So, should you consume palm oil? Well, perhaps we should cut back on its consumption.
Artificial Flavors & Colors
The majority of the Nutter Butter variations contain artificial flavors, but only the cereals contain artificial colors (i.e: Yellow 5, Red 40).
While these are totally man-made, it’s true that artificial ingredients are tested on animals before being deemed safe for consumption. And while I don’t know how often, I’ve found two tests from 2017 and 2018, where the color red #40 was being tested on mice.
This tells me two things (though I may not be right):
- Artificial ingredients are periodically tested, meaning it’s not a one and done deal;
- They are associated with dire health risks, which is why they need to be tested more than once;
Yet, this also implies that animals need to be put through painful or stressful situations for own sake.
According to the FDA, natural flavors can be derived from either plants or animals.
However, companies are not required to reveal what these natural flavors are because it’s often a way for them to protect the identity of their product and prevent other companies from creating duplicates. At the same time, when you look at the words “natural flavor” on a label, you may be possibly looking at an animal-based ingredient hidden under the “natural flavor” umbrella.
An example is ginger ale. Even though it may appear to not have any animal ingredient, one of the ingredients that can be used as a natural flavor is honey.
Fortunately, the majority of natural flavors are plant-based, but if you need to be truly convinced that a product is 100% vegan, then you have to reach out to the brands and ask.
If you’re not a strict vegan, then some variations such as the Traditional Nutter Butter, Bites, Cream Patties, and Cereals are considered vegan.
Those products don’t contain animal-based ingredients, which is usually what sets a vegan product apart from a non-vegan one. Naturally, if you’re highly against ingredients such as palm oil, artificial flavorings, or even refined sugar, then you may want to avoid the Nutter Butter cookies, but if not, feel free to indulge in them.
I hope this blog post has answered your question!
Thank you for taking the time to read.