Is Horlicks Suitable For Vegans?

Horlicks markets itself as a wholesome recipe for health.

This malted chocolate has survived two world wars and countless decades, and it has grown into the hearts of our parents and grandparents.

But despite that nostalgic aura and the fourteen different vitamins within it, the Original Horlicks is not suitable for vegans. However, Horlicks has launched a vegan alternative called the Vegan One, which is free from animal ingredients, colors and flavors, sweeteners, and preservatives. 

Unlike the Nesquik Chocolate Powder, where you can’t spot obvious signs of animal ingredients, Horlicks lays out the ingredient pretty clearly. In this article, we’ll look at three major issues that exclude the Original Horlicks from a vegan diet, and let’s look at the alternatives.

Table of Ingredients

If you grew up drinking Horlicks, and now you’re suddenly vegan, this will probably disappoint you but Horlicks contains animal-based ingredients in their recipe.

Let’s look at the table of ingredients for the traditional malted chocolate, Horlicks:

  • Wheat Flour (46%) (contains calcium carbonate, ferric pyrophosphate, niacin, and thiamin)
  • Malted barley (26%)
  • Dried whey (milk)
  • Sugar
  • Calcium carbonate
  • Dried skimmed milk
  • Palm oil
  • Salt
  • Vitamin mix (vitamin C, niacin, vitamin E, pantothenic acid, vitamin B6, Riboflavin, thiamin, folic acid, vitamin A, biotin, vitamin D, vitamin B12)
  • Ferric pyrophosphate
  • Zinc oxide.

There is one animal ingredient in the table of ingredients.

In fact, there are two but both contain milk.

Dried whey is a leftover in cheese production after the milk is used during the coagulation process. It’s what happens when you combine an edible acid and heated milk together.

Jason Riedy, license CC BY 2.0, Flickr

On the other hand, Dried Skimmed Milk is created by evaporating milk into a dry powder as a means to prolong its duration.

milk powder
Lorian, CC BY-SA 3.0, Wikipedia

Is The Refined Sugar In Horlicks Vegan?

If you don’t how sugar is made, then you might find this issue confusing.

Sugar can originate either from sugar cane or sugar beets. The two have the same taste, and the two are used in equal amounts in the United States. The difference between them lies in the refining process. While the sugar from beets is filtered through a diffuser and mixed with additives to grant it a crystalized color, the one from sugarcane is bleached with bone char.

Bone char is produced by heating animal bones at a high temperature, with the final result being a porous, black material that closely resembles charcoal. The cookie I’m munching on right now may not be vegan, despite the lack of indication for animal ingredients.

So far, the only way of knowing whether or not a company uses bone char is if you contact the company.

I like to use Oreos as an example. They’re very transparent about their supply chain and also refer that not all suppliers use bone char, even though they can’t tell which cookies have what sugar. Listen, I’m obviously against carbonizing bones to confer sugar with its pristine color, but I don’t think I can stop eating Oreos, to be honest.

Unfortunately, we don’t know what type of sugar Horlicks uses. But judging from their connection with the dairy industry, I would assume their sugar isn’t bone char-free.

Horlicks Also Contains Palm Oil

Palm oil is technically vegan in its raw form. It is derived from the palm fruit that grows in palm trees. But many vegans argue that the extraction of palm oil exploits animals, causing them pain and anguish. That’s because we clear massive areas of land to create the conditions for palm trees to grow.

In that process, many species of animals lose their natural habitat and end up dying. In fact, several species are facing extinction due to our unsustainable agricultural practices. Orangutans are predicted to face complete extinction if within ten years we don’t do anything to curb the insatiable demand for palm oil.

palm oil deforestation
Aidenvironment, 2006, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

While it’s true that palm oil comes from a tree, vegans seek a way of living that excludes all forms of animal exploitation and cruelty. And unfortunately… palm oil is tied to an awful amount of death.

Unless you have a way of verifying that the palm oil is being extracted sustainably, you shouldn’t consume it.

Companies using sustainably certified palm oil are usually part of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil, or RSPO, an organism that audits companies to ensure they are actually preserving natural resources and biodiversity.

In other words, the only vegan palm oil is sustainable palm oil.

Horlicks Also Belong to Unilever

Horlicks was bought by Unilever in December 2018 for 3.8 billion USD.

Unilever also owns brands such as Heartbrand, Ben & Jerries and Dove which have profited off animal exploitation over the years. This might just be me… but If you support a company that sells non-vegan products, you’re allowing them to reinvest your money in products that still contribute to animal cruelty.

Everything depends on the type of vegan you are. Most people are probably fine with consuming whatever “vegan” or “cruelty-free” product that exists out there. However, if you look at the bigger picture, you’re letting the tycoons grow even bigger, and betting on them to secure a future without animal cruelty.

Are There Vegan Alternatives To Horlicks?

Well, Horlicks has launched a vegan malt chocolate with the same characteristics as the original Horlicks minus the dairy ingredients. It’s available at ASDA.

If you want alternatives that you can order online, then I also know a couple of options that are 100% vegan, and not owned by Nestlé. These are the options:

  1. Ghirardelli Chocolate Powder
  2. Coconut Cloud
  3. Castle Kitchen

Among the former, Ghirardelli is the most popular among the vegan community. It’s made from a shortlist of simple ingredients and tastes very chocolate-like.

That is definitely the option I would go for, especially due to the thousands of positive reviews on Amazon by people that have actually purchased the product.

Related Topics

Here’s a list of other similar posts about vegan products that may not vegan:

I know it’s difficult to accept that products we thought to be vegan are actually not. But alternatives keep popping up, so you shouldn’t feel sad or demotivated about it.

Keep pushing forward! We’re doing this for a bigger cause. 🙂

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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