Hi-Chews first hit the American market in 1975. Although I never really got into eating them, a lot of people I knew growing up were obsessed with the Japanese-inspired candy.
They hit store shelves around the same time that Japanese autos and Japanese films started to become a hit in American culture.
However, are Hi-Chews vegan?
Sadly, Hi-Chews are NOT vegan. They contain several non-vegan ingredients, including white sugar and gelatin. White sugar is filtered through bone char, while gelatin is a direct extract from the fat of cows and pigs.
I always hate to be the bearer of bad news, but the reality is that most candy in America is not vegan-friendly. Sure, there are some exceptions that you’ll find online or at health food stores, but most of the everyday candy you’ll find in a convenience store simply isn’t vegan.
Below, I’ll answer a few commonly asked questions about Hi-Chew candy and then I’ll give you a complete explanation of all of the ingredients used in them. Let’s learn about this candy together!
Do All Hi-Chews Have Gelatin?
No matter what flavor of Hi-Chew candy you’re looking at, you’ll find non-vegan ingredients.
All of the main flavors and varieties of Hi-Chew contain gelatin. The only Hi-Chews that don’t contain gelatin are the Hi-Chew Bites. However, even the Hi-Chew bites contain non-vegan ingredients, so vegans should stay away from those as well.
I’m not the type of person to tell my readers something that isn’t vegan without first explaining why. So, with that being said, what exactly is gelatin?
If you grew up eating processed foods, chances are that you consumed more than your fair share of gelatin. It’s the main ingredient in Jell-O and is often used in chewy foods like gummy bears.
It gives whatever food it’s added a chewy texture and consistency. This is where the “chew” in Hi-Chew comes from.
Without the added gelatin, Hi-Chews would just fall apart in your mouth.
Gelatin is a tasteless ingredient, so most people never even know when they’re consuming it (that is unless they read the ingredients labels). That being said, gelatin is extracted from the boiled-down remains of cows and pigs.
This makes gelatin a non-vegan food additive that all vegans and vegetarians should avoid.
Is There Dairy In Hi-Chew? A Look At The Ingredients
Many Hi-Chews have a creamy white color that makes it seem like they may contain milk. However, Hi-Chew candy does not contain any milk or dairy derivatives.
That being said, they contain a host of other additives that are worth learning about if you’re going to take your vegan journey seriously. So, without further ado, let’s take a few minutes to go through the ingredients in Hi-Chew and identify what’s good and what’s not-so-good!
1) Glucose Syrup
The main ingredient in Hi-Chew is glucose syrup. This highly-refined syrup can either be derived from corn or potatoes. While it is a vegan-friendly sweetener, it’s not healthy at all.
It’s pretty much pure glucose, which means that it gets absorbed directly into your bloodstream. This, in turn, can mess with your blood sugar levels and cause severe sugar crashes.
Here’s a quick video showing how it’s produced:
Next up we have sugar. Specifically, refined white sugar. Unfortunately, this ingredient isn’t quite as vegan as many people think it is.
That’s because it’s filtered through a charcoal substance called animal bone char. This charcoal comes straight from the fire-burned bones of slaughtered cows.
So, vegans should think twice before they consume any food that contains sugar.
3) Palm Kernel Oil
Palm kernel oil (aka palm oil) is a plant-based cooking oil that’s very controversial in the vegan community.
Despite the fact that it’s extracted from palm tree fruit, the industry driving palm oil production is incredibly destructive to our planet’s natural rainforests and is driving many species to extinction.
As I mentioned above, gelatin is another non-vegan ingredient that’s found in Hi-Chew candy. This emulsifier is directly extracted from a fatty broth made from boiled animal bones.
So, make sure you stay away from any foods with gelatin. Not only is it not healthy, but it’s a direct product of animal cruelty.
5) Malic Acid
Malic acid is a natural fruit-derived acid that’s found in tart fruits like grapes and certain varieties of citrus. It’s the compound that gives the wine a slightly tart taste. It’s added to Hi-Chew candy to compliment the fruit flavors and make them taste more realistic.
If you ever see this ingredient in your food, don’t worry – it’s vegan.
6) Citric Acid
Citric acid is another fruit-derived acid that’s very similar to malic acid. However, citric acid has a more sour flavor, while malic acid has a more tart flavor. Imagine the difference between biting into lime and biting into a grape.
Although most citric acid is lab-made, it’s still a vegan additive. It also serves as a natural preservative that makes the candy more acidic and harder for bacteria to make a home in.
7) Natural & Artificial Flavors
Hi-Chew candy is naturally and artificially flavored by flavor additives. While these artificial flavors aren’t very healthy (due to the fact that they’re heavily processed), they are vegan.
8) Sucrose Fatty Esters
This strange-sounding ingredient is a type of fat that’s derived from sugar. It’s used as a chemical that holds candy together and prevents ingredients from separating. As a man-made chemical, it’s completely vegan.
9) Sorbitan Tristearate
This questionable ingredient is very similar to sucrose fatty esters and is used as an emulsifier to help Hi-Chews keep their form. It can either come from plant-based sources or animals, and it’s nearly impossible to tell which source Hi-Chew uses for their candy.
10) Fruit Juice Concentrate
Finally, we have an all-natural ingredient! Concentrated fruit juices including grape juice and apple juice are added to Hi-Chew to give them a more natural flavor.
However, these aren’t the main ingredients and are almost at the bottom of the list. So, it’s doubtful that Hi-Chews contain enough real juice to be considered “healthy.”
11) Natural Plant-Based Colors
The one thing I do respect about Hi-Chew is that they don’t use any potentially dangerous artificial food coloring. Instead, the company uses natural plant-based colors obtained from spirulina, fruit juice, and vegetable juice.
The Verdict – Are There Vegan Hi-Chews?
Unfortunately, there are NO vegan Hi-Chew candies on the market. Even the Bites, which don’t contain gelatin, still contain the other non-vegan ingredients that I mentioned above.
If you’re looking for a slightly more vegan treat (other than the sugar), then I’d recommend Nutter Butters, as they’re mostly made from plant-based ingredients. To learn more, check out my latest post on Nutter Butters!