Are Mike & Ike’s Vegan?

It’s a common misconception that most of our favorite sweet treats are vegan. They’re just sugar, right? Unfortunately, that’s not the case.

And bad news for Mike & Ike lovers looking to explore the possibility of a plant-based/cruelty-free diet or way of life, as this classic, much-loved American candy is not technically vegan.

Like many other candies on the market, Mike and Ike’s are not fully vegan-friendly because they contain a product called Confectioner’s Glaze, which contains shellac – a non-vegan ingredient that’s made from beetles.

So, next time you grab a packet of Mike & Ike’s at the gas station to feed that sugar craving, be mindful of the fact that you’ll also be consuming bugs… lovely.

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The History of Mike & Ike’s

Mike & Ike’s are a popular American candy that was first available back in the 1940’s. Like most modern candies, they come in many flavours, such as Root Beer, ‘Berry Blast’, Cherry Cola, ‘Italian Ice’ ‘Jolly Joes’, ‘Sweet Paradise’, ‘Sour Fruits’, and ‘Tropical Typhoon’. 

It is alleged that their name does not derive from the creators of the candy but from a comic strip of the same name.

What is Shellac?

Shellac is the shiny coating used in a lot of candies. It contains shellac resin, which is derived from the female lac beetle, which secretes the resin as she moves along her terrain.

What Else Goes into Mike & Ike’s ‘Original’ Candy?

The current ingredients are as follows:

  • Sugar 
  • Corn syrup 
  • Modified food starch 
  • Fruit juice from concentrate, and also contains less than 2% of Citric Acid 
  • Malic Acid 
  • Fumaric Acid 
  • Sodium Citrate 
  • Natural and Artificial Flavors 
  • Dextrin 
  • Confectioners Glaze 
  • Carnauba Wax 
  • Medium Chain Triglycerides 
  • Red #40, Yellow #5, Yellow #6, and Blue #1

What About Other M&I Flavors?

At present, research would indicate that all Mike & Ike’s candy isn’t vegan-friendly, as they all contain confectioner’s glaze/shellac.

There is also the question of refined sugar – which isn’t ethical, as it often contains bone char (the porous, black, granular material produced by charring animal bones).

Blurred Lines within the Vegan Community Regarding Shellac

There are mixed opinions in the vegan community regarding the use of shellac, as the resin is left behind on tree branches, and isn’t sourced directly from the beetle in a cruel manner, ergo they aren’t harmed for the production of the candy.

Other vegans naturally reject the use of shellac within products because it’s still classed as an animal product and the harvesting of the resin is not sustainable, as the collation of the product is similar to how beeswax is extracted. 

The Controversy Behind Refined Sugar & Sweeteners 

Another common misconception is that sugar (derived from sugar cane) is vegan because it is a plant-based product. Again – not the case.

Refined cane sugar is heavily processed, and part of that process includes the use of bone char (which has usually been left over from the meat industry and included animal bones that have been heated on high temperatures), which is naturally something avoided by many vegans.

The other issue is the use of artificial sweetening agents in many candies, which, although contain no animal compounds, are often tested on animals. Large food corporations, such as Mars (which is the ‘parent’ company on many of our beloved sugary treats) are known for their non-ethical practices, which includes testing food chemicals on animals.

Other ingredients, such as modified corn starch, is frowned upon, as it contains GMO corn, which isn’t eco-friendly.

Food Dyes

Again, another big no-no in the vegan community is a lot of the food dyes used within candies to give them their vibrant colouring, particularly the ‘fruity’ flavoured ones, such as Skittles.

Artificial dyes, such as Red #40 (sometimes known as ‘Allura Red’) and Yellow #6 (‘Sunset Yellow’) are classic examples, as they are tested in labs that use live animals, such as mice, rats, and certain insects.

Carnauba Wax

While carnauba wax itself is fully vegan, the process of collating the product, much like with palm oil, contributes to mass deforestation, which naturally compromises the natural habitats and well-being of many creatures, as well as contributes heavily to climate change by emitting carbon emissions via burning the forests.

Therefore, any products which contain carnauba wax (which, unfortunately, is almost all candies) are not considered vegan by those in it for ethical purposes.

Recent studies into other ethical aspects of carnauba wax unearthed revelations of unfair practice on carnauba wax plantations, which were likened to ‘modern slavery’ conditions. A way to ensure what you’re purchasing is fully ethical in terms of labour is to check for a Fairtrade label.

Are Mikes & Ike’s gluten-free? 

Yes, all flavors do not contain any wheat additives, therefore they are Coeliac- and Celiac-friendly.

Are they vegetarian?

Considering they include traces of beetle and animal bones, we’d say no. 

Are they sustainably made?

Considering the practices behind many of the ingredients as mentioned above, including cane sugar, dyes, and the wax coating, the answer is a firm ‘no’.

Are they Kosher?

Yes, Mike & Ike’s holds an OU Kosher certification. 


The unfortunate reality is that many of our beloved nostalgic candies are not ethically produced, and contain numerous ingredients that aren’t sourced ethically or created in a cruelty-free practice, and Mike & Ike’s is sadly no exception.

Those with a sweet tooth need not despair though. There are plenty of sweet treats on the market that are fully ethical, sustainable, and cruelty-free.

Most health food stores stock vegan chocolate and vegan candy – you just have to do your research and not assume that candied treats are fully vegan!

Living a fully vegan lifestyle – even in this day and age – can still be a challenge; particularly if you have an incurable sweet tooth! However, to keep up to date with candies that do come under the umbrella as 100% vegan, you can visit the annual list of best vegan candies to feed those cravings in a cruelty-free way! 

Please note, as discussed in our ‘Is Sugar Vegan?’ article, not all types of sugar can be considered vegan. It is therefore the responsibility of the reader to make their own inquiries with the manufacturers of these suggested vegan friendly products to determine whether the sugar used in these products are suitable for vegan consumption.

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