Sour Punch is a brand of sour candy manufactured by the American Licorice Company— one of the first companies to enter the sour candy market in the ’90s.
Sour Punch Straws are just 1 of the 5 candy variants produced by the American Licorice Company. Other variants include the Bites, Twists, Shapes, and Ropes.
Out of the five, the Straws are the most popular and the first variant launched!
They’re also available in a variety of classic fruity flavors such as strawberry, blue raspberry, apple, cherry, and watermelon. Oh, and let’s not forget the exotic pineapple mango chili flavor.
Interestingly, Sour Punch’s brand purpose is to embrace our differences and encourage people to choose kindness… but are Sour Punch Straws (or any others Sour Punch candy) vegan?
Let’s figure it out!
How Are Sour Punch Straws Made?
Sour Punch Candies (including the Straws) start out similarly to many other sour candies— a mix of sugar, flour, corn syrup and water in a giant kettle.
The ingredients are stirred to get the right consistency, and then the color and flavor are added.
Next, the batch is heated up to 170 degrees and pumped into a cooker to expel the excess moisture. Once it gets the right moisture, the candy goes onto an inclined belt and rides through a cooling tunnel that chills out the batch to 70 degrees.
Lastly, the candy is coated with its signature sweet and sour blend before getting cut to length and packaged for delivery.
In other words, there are no animal ingredients in the recipe. In fact, take a look at the ingredient list taken from Amazon:
- Corn Syrup
- Wheat Flour
- Citric Acid
- Malic Acid
- Tartaric Acid
- Glyceryl Monostearate
- Artificial Flavor
- Artificial Color Added (Including Blue 1, Blue 1 Lake, Yellow 5 (Tartrazine), Yellow 5 Lake).
For less restrictive vegans, the Sour Punch Straws are vegan.
However, strict vegans may have a different opinion.
Note on Questionable Ingredients
While the Sour Punch Straws don’t have any flagrant animal ingredients, ingredients such as sugar, glycerine, artificial flavors, and colors are seen as questionable in the vegan community.
Unfortunately, some ingredients are not explicit about their origin, nor are they clear in terms of how they’re handled after being extracted.
Let’s start with the first one.
Sugar is typically extracted from two sources: sugar canes and sugar beets.
Both have a similar taste, and both happened to be used in equal amounts in the United States. However, they’re both processed differently, using different methods and ingredients.
For example, sugar from beets is filtered using a diffuser and mixed with additives to achieve crystallization. On the other hand, to obtain its pure white color, sugar from cane is filtered and bleached using a property called bone char.
Bone char is essentially the result of heating the bones of cattle at high temperatures and reducing them to a black, charcoal-like powder.
This, however, may vary from sugar company to sugar company. In fact, some companies already use a solution called activated charcoal which achieves a similar (if not equal) result. Other companies, by sourcing only sugar from beets, don’t require a decolorizer like bone char.
What I’ve seen, in certain cases, is that B2C companies (business to consumer), source sugar from different suppliers, so they get different types of sugar. For instance, Oreos and Ghirardelli are companies that rely upon different suppliers, so you can’t really trace it back to the product.
Because the use of bone char is quite common in the United States and Sour Punch is an American company— it’s possible Sour Punch products may have sugar filtered with bone char.
Glycerin is a viscous, odorless liquid that gets dissolved in water and is low in toxic levels. Due to its hygroscopic nature (being able to absorb water), it is an important ingredient in a variety of products because it’s able to prevent moistness.
As a result, it is used for different purposes such as making a base for lotions, fruit storage, making cakes and obviously candies like the Sour Punch Straws.
Glycerin can be extracted in two ways — vegetable oils derived from plants and the fat naturally present in animals.
Although, if it comforts you, vegetable-based glycerol is the one that is widely used.
Artificial Flavors and Colors
The issue with artificial flavors and colors does not lie in the origin of the ingredient, but what happens to it before it’s introduced into a product.
Furthermore, any ingredient that is fully or partially synthetic must be regulated, and so it must be tested (over time) to ensure it’s safe for consumption.
Sadly, these tests include experiments on rodents, but may also include guinea pigs, rabbits, and sometimes even dogs or puppies. These tests can simply be feeding the animals with these ingredients or brushing them against their eyes or skin to determine any potential effects.
As a result, many vegans (not only strict vegans), are simply not cool with eating products containing any sort of artificial flavors or colors.
From a technical standpoint, the Sour Punch Straws are considered vegan since they do not contain any type of animal-based ingredient.
At the same time, we cannot deny the fact that they have certain ingredients that may not have a vegan nature due to how they’re processed or tested after extraction or creation.
Therefore, whether you consume the Sour Punch Straws or not really comes down to your own definition of veganism.