Are Gushers Vegan? (8 Problematic Hidden Ingredients)

Lisa Lorraine Taylor, BSc, CPT
Published by Lisa Lorraine Taylor, BSc, CPT | Staff Writer
Last updated: January 26, 2024
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Switching to veganism is rewarding in so many ways, but it also comes with many life-altering responsibilities.

You can't assume that foods are vegan just because they contain fruit extract, which is precisely the case with candies like Fruit Gushers.

Sure, their taste is convincing, but are Gushers vegan?

As a certified personal trainer, I did thorough research and compiled all the details you need to know, so read on to find out more.

Quick Summary

  • Gushers are considered vegan as they are made from fruit juice and sugar without any direct animal products, but some ingredients raise ethical concerns.
  • The article explores the debate over certain ingredients in Gushers, such as glycerine and palm oil, which are contentious among strict vegans.
  • A study from the National Center for Biotechnology Information reveals that plant proteins are less digestible (50–70%) than animal proteins, and processing methods like heating can further reduce their digestibility.
  • While Gushers are technically vegan, their environmental and ethical implications make them a less ideal choice for conscientious vegans.

Are Gushers Vegan?

Close up view of Gusher candies

Yes, Gushers are vegan. They do not contain gelatin or any animal-based ingredients, making them suitable for a plant-based diet.

Gushers contain some ingredients that many strict vegans are against. There’s an ongoing debate over these ingredients, and I’ll fill you in on all the details a bit later.

First, let’s see a quick Fruit Gushers overview.

General Mills’ Fruit Gushers, most commonly known as just Gushers, are a super popular fruit candy snack in the US. They’re made from sugar and fruit juice, but there are other, smaller ingredients, as well.

When you bite into Gushers, juice gushes out, which was the inspiration for the name.

Do They Contain Gelatin?

No, Gushers do not contain gelatin. Their ingredient list confirms the absence of animal-based ingredients, affirming their plant-based nature.

 

Gushers Ingredients

Close up shot of gushers with a white question mark

There are four different Fruit Gushers flavors.

All flavors are made with similar ingredients, but let’s see the detailed ingredient list for one of the most popular flavors - Strawberry.

Strawberry Gushers ingredients include pears from concentrate, sugar, dried corn syrup, corn syrup, modified corn starch, fructose, grape juice from concentrate.

Ingredients making up less than 2% of the product are partially hydrogenated cottonseed oil, maltodextrin, cottonseed oil, carrageenan, citric acid, glycerin, monoglycerides, sodium citrate, malic acid, ascorbic acid, natural flavor, potassium citrate, agar-agar, Red 40, xanthan gum.

As you can see, there are no animal products.

Tropical, Super Sour, and Sweet and Fiery Gushers are made with the same ingredients as the Strawberry flavor, with the addition of palm oil, citric acid, red 40, yellow 5, and blue 1.

Even though General Mills' snack is vegan-friendly, vegans find a couple of ingredients questionable.

Note that citric acid is entirely vegan, despite the widespread opinion.

"While products may technically be free from animal-derived ingredients, the broader environmental and ethical impact of certain ingredients cannot be ignored. Vegans must consider not just the source of the ingredients but also the processes involved in their production, such as the environmental impact of palm oil cultivation and animal testing for artificial colors."

- Tara Gallimore, RD, MSC, vegan sports nutritionist

8 Problematic Ingredients

What makes Gushers non vegan

During my vegan journey, I've become more aware of the complexities of certain ingredients. I've compiled a list of those found in Gushers that, while technically vegan, have manufacturing or processing ties to animal cruelty, something I'm increasingly cautious about.

In my opinion, any ingredient related to animal cruelty isn't vegan, but many vegans don't mind using them. I'll leave the facts so you can decide for yourself.

1. Glycerine

Glycerine can be made from plants or animals. Although today most manufacturers use plant-based glycerine, we can’t exclude the possibility of products containing animal-based glycerine.

General Mills doesn’t state whether the glycerine used for making this candy is vegan or not. When the manufacturer is ambiguous about their product's ingredient, it's better to be cautious and assume it's not vegan.

2. Carnauba Wax

Carnauba wax is obtained from palm plants, so people consider it to be OK. However, to plant palm trees, many forests are cleared. This directly impacts animal habitats and endangers them.

Orangutans are one of many animal species driven to the brink of extinction due to deforestation for capitalist gains.

Not to mention that cutting down healthy trees releases CO2 gases into the atmosphere, contributing to global warming and endangering the environment.

Not to mention the horrible working conditions workers on these farms have to endure.

3. Palm Oil

Like carnauba wax, palm oil is also derived from palm trees. Again, people aren’t even aware of how dangerous and unethical the production of palm oil is. Besides the reasons I already mentioned, there are even more issues with this ingredient.

It's a known fact that palm trees release peat into the soils where they're planted. According to one of the studies from the ScienceDirect website, peat is responsible for releasing large amounts of greenhouse gas, methane, from the soil. Palms planted on soils with sandy substratum showed significant 18 -142% higher yields compared to those over marine clay as underlying material [1].

Along with deforestation, peat is massively contributing to the global warming crisis.

You see why this ingredient is unacceptable to many vegans — they hurt the Earth, animals, and people. We need to stop this, take action, and save the planet before it's too late.

“Palm oil is here to stay and we urgently need concerted action to make palm oil production more sustainable, ensuring that governments, producers and the supply chain honour their sustainability commitments.”

-  Inger Andersen, IUCN Director General

4. Modified Corn Starch

Modified corn starch contains enzymes, and the issue with enzymes is that we typically don't know how they're derived.

According to the Vegetarian Resource Group website, some producers use enzymes obtained from bacterial cultures, and they’re considered vegan [2]. However, the bacteria are fed animal products to produce the enzymes. Obtaining the same enzymes from animals is more affordable and feasible, which worries vegans.

5. Monoglycerides

Like glycerine, monoglycerides can be obtained from animals or plants. This may be a tiny ingredient, but it is being used in products is an issue for hard-core vegans.

If you're worried about this ingredient, but you're not sure which source the manufacturers use, you may want to stay away from the product.

6. Natural Flavoring

You would think that natural means vegan, but this isn’t always the case. Most natural flavors are vegan, but not all. Vegans need to know which flavors manufacturers have used for making the food.

More often than not, manufacturers obtain flavors from fish to make a fruity product juicier.

One of the most popular animal-derived flavors is castoreum. This is a liquid extracted from the anal secretions of the US and European beavers. It’s usually used to produce vanilla flavoring.

However, it’s also used to enhance raspberry and strawberry flavor in food. Who would eat something like this?

This doesn’t mean Strawberry Gushers have castoreum, but you may want to look into it.

7. Artificial Colors

Artificial colors are used in food and cosmetics, and this is a massive issue for vegans. Artificial colors are almost always tested on animals and are associated with multiple health issues and risks, so you may want to stay away from artificial colors.

8. Processed Sugar

Like the rest of this list, processed sugar is another topic of many debates. Many sugar factories process cane sugar with animal bone char to get to the final product — white sugar. This is the reason the majority of vegans avoid processed sugar.

Avoiding sugar altogether is somewhat an extreme decision, but you may want to think about it.

The same debate is happening on the protein front.

According to one of the studies from the National Center for Biotechnology Information website, plant proteins are less digestible (50-70%) than animal proteins, and food processing methods like heating may further reduce digestibility [3].

FAQs

What Is the History of Gushers?

The history of Gushers dates back to the early 1990s, marked by their popularity among children and teenagers and their distinctive fruit juice-filled design.

Why Are Ethical and Environmental Concerns Important When Considering Vegan Products like Gushers?

Ethical and environmental concerns are important when considering vegan products like Gushers due to issues like deforestation and habitat destruction associated with ingredients such as palm oil.

How Nutritious Are Gushers, and What Should Consumers Be Aware Of?

Gushers are high in sugar and contain artificial additives, making their nutritional value a concern. Consumers should be aware that despite being vegan-friendly, they are not a healthy snack option.

What Are Some Healthy Alternative Vegan Snacks to Gushers?

Healthy alternative vegan snacks to Gushers include fresh fruit, nuts, and homemade vegan treats. These alternatives are free from artificial additives and high sugar content, offering better nutritional value.

How Can You Make DIY Vegan Gushers at Home?

To make DIY vegan Gushers at home, create a fruit puree filling and use vegan-friendly ingredients for the outer shell. This allows for healthier and more ethical snack options.

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