Ritz Crackers are famous for their delightful buttery taste and incredible crisp texture.
A description that always made me think that Ritz Crackers contained butter, so I didn’t even bother to look at the ingredients.
However, it turns out Ritz Crackers are sold successfully both in the U.S and Europe, and thus I happened to ponder buying a pack because they were on sale.
I was happy to find out the Ritz Crackers didn’t have any animal ingredients, not even the smallest trace of butter, which makes them the most tasteful vegan crackers in my book.
This being said, there’s a caveat.
Ritz Crackers are available in different flavors, one of which is taboo for vegans— bacon. The original flavor is indeed vegan, but we need to look into the actual ingredients.
In addition, we also need to take notice of the questionable ingredients that companies use without specifying their nature. Ingredients such as sugar, artificial colors, natural or artificial flavors usually have more to them than what it seems.
Ritz Crackers, in particular, contain sugar and a natural flavor, which may or not be vegan depending on the variation you choose.
Are All Ritz Crackers Vegan?
Nabisco is the company that introduced the Ritz Crackers in 1934. They were originally created to compete with the Sunshine Biscuits, a now less popular brand of biscuits.
Needless to say, the Ritz brand has been very successful over the years and eventually launched a panoply of different Ritz flavors. The different flavors/variations include Low Sodium Ritz, Reduced-Fat Ritz, Honey Wheat Ritz, Roasted Vegetable Ritz, Bacon Ritz, Garlic Butter Ritz, Honey Butter Ritz, Hint of Salt Ritz, Ritz Fresh Stacks, and Whole Wheat Ritz.
Surprisingly, among the different flavors/variations, there is only one that isn’t vegan. Can you guess which one?
Which Original Ritz Flavor Isn’t Vegan?
You would think that a product with the word “bacon” in it wouldn’t be vegan, but apparently, the Bacon Ritz is technically considered vegan. In fact, here are the ingredients:
Bacon Ritz does not actually contain an animal-derived ingredient (or actual bacon), but it contains an artificial flavor named Natural Smoke Flavor. This flavor is produced through the controlled burning of wood chips or sawdust before being passed through water, which captures and dissolves the smoke-flavored components in a condensed solution. (According to Wikipedia)
On the other hand, the Honey Wheat Ritz contains actual honey.
Therefore, it cannot be considered vegan.
We can’t forget about the other ingredients that may not be vegan, depending on how they’re refined and their origin. For example, every Ritz Cracker contains sugar and at least one natural flavor.
Unfortunately, these ingredients are often scrutinized by the vegan community because animals may actually be involved in the mix.
Sugar. Not vegan? What?
That’s right. In some countries (the United States, included), sugar companies may use bone char to filter and bleach cane sugar. If you’re don’t know what bone char is, it is essentially obtained by heating the bones of cattle at high temperatures until it turns into charcoal.
Fortunately, though, not every company uses bone char. In fact, some companies use granular activated charcoal to achieve the same result, an actual vegan alternative. In addition, some companies may also use sugar extracted from sugar beets.
In other words, beet sugar does not require bone char to crystallize. Instead, beet sugar is filtered using a diffuser and mixed with additives in order to crystallize.
What’s bad about all this is that you won’t know which process the company followed to refine the sugar in their product. To know that information, you actually have to contact the company and hope that they’re transparent about it.
And even then, if they’re like Oreos, for instance, they may be using different sugar suppliers, so you might have scattered types of sugar across different packages.
Most natural flavors are typically extracted from plant-based sources. But we can’t ignore the fact that some may come from animal sources, and might be in some of our favorite products.
Here is the FDA’s definition of natural flavor:
A quite popular natural flavor is castoreum. A liquid extracted from the anal secretions of beavers in the U.S and European territory. This liquid is typically used to formulate natural vanilla flavorings, as well as to enhance (in some cases), strawberry and raspberry flavors.
This being said, I don’t think it’s likely that the type of natural flavor used in the Ritz Crackers is animal-based.
Bottom Line: Ritz Crackers Are Vegan (With The Exception of Honey Wheat Ritz)
Fortunately, most Ritz Crackers in the original line are vegan.
They do not contain animal parts or animal byproducts. Plus, the probability of them containing a natural flavor derived from an animal source is quite dim.
My concern, which is valid for most products, is that a lot of the ingredients that are lab-made may have been tested on animals at some point. But other than that, for most vegans concerned, I do believe that the Ritz Crackers can be technically considered a vegan product.