Mike and Ikes are one of the most popular soft candies in America and are one of the best-selling snacks at any movie theater.
When I was little and my grandpa would take me to the movie theater, I would always beg him to buy me a box of Mike and Ikes. Now that I’ve gone vegan and know a little bit more about nutrition, I’ve had to reevaluate a lot of my dietary choices.
So, are Mike and Ikes vegan?
Although Mike and Ikes are fruit-flavored, they are NOT vegan. They contain sugar as well as confectioner’s glaze, both of which are generally regarded as non-vegan by the ethical vegan community.
I apologize if I’m the bearer of bad news. However, I can’t tell you that the little pill-shaped candies are vegan in good conscience, knowing that they contain animal-derived additives. However, I can give you a good explanation as to why they aren’t vegan.
Below, I’ll answer all of the vegan-related questions that you’ve been wondering about Mike and Ikes. Then, I’ll break down all of the ingredients and explain why certain ones are problematic for vegans.
Are you ready to learn more about what’s in your food?
Do Mike and Ikes Have Gelatin?
Other than sugar and corn syrup, gelatin is, by far, one of the most common ingredients used in candy. For instance, it’s the main ingredient in marshmallows. It’s also used in other chewy types of candy, such as AirHeads and Lifesavers Gummies.
Gelatin is a tasteless powder that’s used as a natural emulsifier in food products. In other words, it helps food and candy maintain their natural shape. It also gives whatever food it’s added a slightly chewy, gel-like texture.
There’s just one problem: Gelatin comes from the leftover bones of cows and pigs.
To make gelatin, bones and tendons from the slaughterhouse are boiled down to make a thick, fatty broth. Then, the pure gelatin is extracted from the fat.
If you’ve ever purchased a rotisserie chicken before, then you may have noticed a bunch of fatty balls of gel sitting towards the bottom. This is pure gelatin.
That being said, gelatin is one of the least vegan food additives in the world.
Despite Mike and Ikes chewy texture and consistency, the candy doesn’t contain any gelatin whatsoever.
Don’t get excited just yet, though, because the candy still isn’t vegan. Keep on reading to learn more…
Do Mike and Ikes contain Dairy?
Dairy is a common additive in candies and sweet treats like chocolate chips. Even when milk isn’t used, many candies and snacks still use dairy by-products like whey powder or casein to create a soft, smooth texture in the food.
Mike and Ikes don’t contain any dairy or milk derivatives, though. So they’re safe for lactose-intolerant individuals to consume.
What Are The Ingredients In Mike and Ikes? Listed
Now that I’ve got some of the most common questions out of the way, let’s take a few minutes to go over the ingredients used in Mike and Ikes. Although they’re a relatively simple-looking candy, they contain a lot more ingredients than you might expect.
While some of the ingredients are natural and plant-based, many of them are artificial and synthetically created in a lab. Also, a couple of ingredients are animal-derived (or are touched by animals).
Below, I’ll give you the full story behind each ingredient, so you can see for yourself why this candy isn’t so vegan-friendly.
If you’re a first-time vegan, then it’s also a great opportunity to start learning more about what’s in your food. This will help you decide for yourself which foods are vegan in the future!
To start with, here’s the ingredients label that I sourced from the Mike and Ike’s site:
Now, let’s learn about some food science together!
Like many other candies, sugar is the main ingredient used in Mike and Ikes. If you’re not aware, it’s actually one of the most common food additives in the world. While sugar is technically a plant-based sweetener, it’s not entirely a vegan food.
Let me explain why.
Although all sugar starts off as vegan, it’s processed using animal bone char. This, unfortunately, means that making white sugar involves animal bones. Not so vegan, right?
That being said, raw unrefined sugar is always vegan. This delicious sweetener actually tastes better than white sugar!
The main reason why food companies used white sugar instead of raw sugar is that it’s more concentrated and doesn’t have the malty flavor that raw sugar has. This, in turn, doesn’t interfere with any other flavors in the candy.
If you’re a dietary vegan who isn’t concerned with the ethics behind their food, then sure-sugar can be considered vegan. It’s plant-based and none of the bone char actually ends up in the final product.
However, ethical vegans (like myself) try to avoid white sugar since its production involves animal bones.
2) Corn Syrup
Corn syrup is a plant-based, vegan sweetener that’s often used alongside sugar in candy and other sweet treats. It’s a simple syrup that’s extracted from corn, which happens to be one of the sweetest vegetables in the world.
Corn syrup is more concentrated than white sugar and is known for its rich fruity flavor. It pairs well with the fruit flavors that are used in Mike and Ikes.
3) Modified Corn Starch
Next up, we have modified corn starch. This is basically a heavily-processed starch that’s extracted from corn (so much so that it barely even resembles corn). While it’s not healthy, by any means, it is plant-based, and therefore vegan-friendly.
Corn starch is often used in candy as a thickening agent. When mixed the right way, it can take the place of gelatin. It can help turn an otherwise mushy candy into something that’s chewy and retains its form.
4) Citric Acid
As you might be able to tell from the name, citric acid comes from citrus. It’s the reason why your eyes burn if you’ve ever accidentally squeezed lime or lemon juice into your face. While some citric acid comes straight from plants, it’s usually made synthetically in a lab.
Either way, though, citric acid is always vegan-friendly and no animals are ever involved in the production of the powder.
Citric acid serves two purposes when used in Mike and Ikes. For one, it’s a natural preservative that lowers the pH of the candy, making it impossible for bacteria to feed on the sugar.
Secondly, it provides a tart, citrusy flavor that accentuates the flavor of the lemon and lime-flavored Mike and Ikes.
5) Malic Acid
If you’re a wine drinker, then you probably remember the slightly sour taste of red wine. This comes from malic acid. It’s a natural plant-based acid that’s found in sour-tasting fruits and vegetables, including grapes.
It’s often added to candy to create a tart, fruity flavor and to help balance out the fake-tasting artificial flavors. It’s a vegan acid, though, so don’t be worried about this ingredient.
6) Fumaric Acid
Compared to citric acid and malic acid, fumaric acid is the strongest fruit-derived acid. It’s used to give certain Mike and Ikes flavors a sharp, sour taste. The addition of all of these acids is part of why Mike and Ikes taste like real fruit, even though they don’t contain any real fruit.
7) Sodium Citrate
Sodium citrate is a common ingredient found in food, candy, and drinks. It’s 100% vegan and acts as a preservative, increasing the shelf life of the candy.
8) Natural & Artificial Flavors
Although Mike and Ikes don’t contain any real fruit juice or fruit puree, they do contain some natural flavors. The rest of the flavors are artificial and chemically derived. That being said, they’re all vegan-friendly, so you don’t have to worry about them.
Dextrin is a simple starch that’s often used in baking and candy-making. It helps food ingredients bind together and keeps moisture from getting into the Mike and Ikes and causing them to melt too easily.
10) Confectioner’s Glaze
Confectioner’s glaze is the least vegan ingredient in Mike and Ikes. This sweet, shiny, sugary compound is the same stuff that gives glazed donuts their signature shine.
Unfortunately, this additive is NOT vegan, as it contains a shiny compound called shellac. Shellac is a substance that’s made from the ground exoskeletons of thousands of “lac” beetles, which are known for being shiny.
11) Carnauba Wax
Carnauba wax is a palm-derived wax that’s often added to gummies and other candy. In the case of Mike and Ikes, this wax is used to coat the outside of each candy. This, in turn, prevents the outside air and moisture from getting into the candy and spoiling it.
MCTs (medium-chain triglycerides) are fatty molecules that are found in coconut oil. They’re added to Mike and Ikes to act as a binding agent that keeps the candy held together.
13) Artificial Food Coloring
Last but not least, each Mike and Ike candy is artificially colored to match its corresponding flavor. While artificial food coloring is often a source of debate amongst nutritionists, it is vegan-friendly.
Are Mike and Ikes Cherry Vegan?
Unfortunately, Mike and Ikes Cherry candy is also a non-vegan candy, as it contains the same non-vegan ingredients, such as confectioner’s glaze and refined sugar.
The Verdict – Are Mike and Ikes Vegan-Friendly?
Mike and Ikes are NOT vegan-friendly as they contain a couple of questionable ingredients. In general, most candy contains sugar, which has always been a source of debate among vegans.
However, if you’re having craving for sweets, there are some good vegan-friendly options to choose from. Check out my last article on gummy bears, where I mention some of my favorite vegan-friendly gummies that are made with unrefined sugar and are gelatin-free!