Swedish Fish were first introduced to America in the 1950s, as the Swedish candy brand Malaco was expanding into the American market.
At the time, Sweden was one of the largest exporters of fish in the world, and most people associated the country with the fishing industry. This is why the company went for a fish-shaped gummy.
Gummies are highly scrutinized by vegans, as most contain pork-based gelatin. So, are Swedish Fish vegan?
Surprisingly, Swedish Fish ARE dietarily vegan! Unlike most gummies that contain gelatin, Swedish Fish are 100% gelatin and animal-free.
The only questionable ingredient is the refined white sugar used to make the candy. Many vegans avoid this sweetener, as it’s filtered and refined through animal bone char.
Personally, Swedish Fish isn’t my top choice when it comes to candy. I’ll never turn a little red fish away if it’s offered to me, though!
Below, I’ll answer all of your vegan-related questions about Swedish Fish, give you an overview of the ingredients, and explain which ones are questionable. Are you ready to learn more about this unique Swedish gummy?
Are Swedish Fish Made of Gelatin?
Gelatin is one of the most common food additives in the world. It’s primarily added to sauces and candy as an emulsifier. In other words, it helps whatever it’s added to maintain its shape.
This is why it’s one of the main ingredients in gummy bears. Without it, the cute little bears would just be squashed lumps of sugar goo.
Thankfully, Swedish Fish are 100% gelatin-free!
They’re also the “Number-One Fish Candy In The World,” according to this commercial:
At this point, you may be wondering, “What’s wrong with gelatin?”
Well, although gelatin may seem innocent enough, it’s actually an animal product. Most people (including myself) are completely surprised to discover that the gelatin they’re eating in candy is actually made of fat that’s been extracted from pork and cow bones.
This comes straight from the slaughterhouse and directly supports the meat industry, allowing them to make money off of the leftover bones and fatty tissues.
After the choice cuts of meat are sold to grocers, the slaughterhouse is left with a bunch of bones.
They take these bones, boil them down into a thick broth, and then extract the gelatin from within the bones once it softens. This gelatin is then purified and refined before being added to everyday food.
Are Swedish Fish Jelly Beans Vegan?
After the success of the original Swedish Fish, the company decided that it was going to release a line of flavored jelly beans. For the most part, these jelly beans use the same exact ingredients that the original Swedish Fish use:
Unfortunately, Swedish Fish aren’t considered vegan-friendly, since they’re coated with beeswax.
Bees make all of these products for the survival of their colony. When we take their honey or beeswax, we’re endangering the hive and consigning many of their young to die, as they won’t have the resources to live.
That being said, some vegans don’t have an issue with this. I’ll leave it up to you to decide which viewpoint resonates with you.
What Are Swedish Fish Made Of? A Look At The Ingredients
I never expect my readers to “take my word for it” when it comes to any food that I’m writing about. Instead, I make it my goal to show you the exact ingredients contained in every food that I post about.
This will help you better understand your food labels and the chemicals that you’re consuming on a daily basis. While most things are fine in moderation, you still shouldn’t over-consume any candy just because it’s vegan.
So, with that in mind, here’s the list of the ingredients used in Swedish Fish:
As you might expect, sugar is the main ingredient in Swedish Fish (and most other types of gummies, for that matter). Dietary vegans are typically okay with consuming white sugar, as it’s technically a plant-derived sweetener that comes from sugarcane.
Unfortunately, though, that’s not the whole story…
To turn organic vegan-friendly cane sugar into refined white sugar, it must first be filtered through animal bone char. The reason why white sugar is more popular than cane sugar is that it’s more concentrated and has a less natural flavor.
This, in turn, makes it better for baking and candy-making, as it’s easier to mix with other flavors.
Unfortunately, this refining process also makes the white sugar not-so-vegan. Although the final product is free from animal bones, the fact that they’re used to make white sugar is reason enough for most vegans to boycott the sweetener.
2) Invert Sugar
Invert sugar is a lab-made sugar that’s the result of combining glucose with fructose. When mixed with white sugar and corn syrup (see below), this highly concentrated sugar syrup lends itself to a chewy, gelatinous texture.
This is the main reason why Swedish Fish have a gummy-like texture even though they’re gelatin-free!
3) Corn Syrup
Corn syrup is somewhat similar to invert sugar syrup. However, it’s a little milder (less sweet) and has a viscous consistency that helps it blend well with other sweeteners. It kind of serves as the “glue” that holds the Swedish Fish together.
Corn syrup is 100% plant-based, though, and doesn’t involve any animal char filtration. So, don’t worry about it if you ever see it used in other vegan foods.
4) Modified Corn Starch
Corn starch is a common baking additive that’s used in cookies, gummies, and other candy. It’s essentially a fine starchy powder that’s extracted from ground cornmeal.
Its main purpose in baking is to serve as a thickening agent. However, it’s also used in candy to keep the candy dry and moisture-free.
5) Citric Acid
Citric acid is a natural fruit-derived acid that comes from citrus plants. However, most of the citric acid used in food these days is created in a lab. It’s still vegan, though, and doesn’t involve the use of any animal by-products.
Citric acid is mostly used as a natural preservative. The acid creates an environment that’s harder for bacteria to grow in, which increases the shelf life of the Swedish Fish. Additionally, it also lends itself to a more citrusy, fruity flavor.
6) White Mineral Oil
White mineral oil is safe for human consumption in small amounts and is naturally derived from the soil. This oil is used to coat the trays that Swedish Fish are baked on. Additionally, the Swedish Fish are also lightly coated with it to give them a shinier appearance.
7) Natural & Artificial Flavor
Swedish Fish are flavored with both natural and artificial flavors. Their unique flavor comes from a special Scandinavian berry called lingonberry. This berry is known for its sweet yet tart flavor, and its bright red color (which is why Swedish Fish are red).
8) Red 40
Red 40 is the main food coloring used in Swedish Fish. Unlike other animal-derived food dyes, red 40 is synthetically created in a lab, which makes it 100% vegan.
9) Carnauba Wax
Last but not least, the outside of the Swedish Fish is coated with a fine layer of liquid carnauba wax. This wax keeps the Swedish Fish dry and prevents the individual candies from sticking to each other.
This is a naturally-derived oil that comes from palm trees and is generally accepted as a vegan.
The Verdict – Are Swedish Fish Vegan-Friendly?
If you’re a dietary vegan who doesn’t mind consuming a bit of refined white sugar, then Swedish Fish are vegan-friendly. In fact, they’re one of the only mainstream brands of gummies that are vegan!
Another guilty pleasure I indulge in from time to time is Smarties candy. Surprisingly, these tart little candies are 100% vegan. Keep reading to learn more about Smarties and why they’re one of my favorite vegan candies!