If you are a sweet tooth, even for once in your life, you’ve eaten Nerds. People love these small candies for their fantastic taste and affordable price.

Are Nerds Vegan

Being a vegan, you have to choose suitable products for your diet and well-being.  It is self-evident that sweets are bad for your health. Another problem you can face is the presence of animal byproducts in these candies. Let’s find out are Nerds vegan or not.

What are Nerds Candies?

Angelo Fraggos invented Nerds at the end of the 20th century. Nestle had been selling it under their Willy Wonka brand since 1983 up to 2017. Now the owner is Ferrara Candy Company. Firstly, there were only four flavors cherry and orange, strawberry and grape.

How did the candies get their name? Well, there exist two versions. The first one is connected with the book written by Dr. Seuss, “If I Ran the Zoo.” The narrator collected the creatures for his zoo named “nerds.”. The second version is about the meaning of this word. Some believe that it concerns people obsessed with their homework.

What makes Nerds exclusive? These candies have double-flavored boxes divided into two sides. You can always get the flavor you want to taste. [1]

How are Nerds Made?

The company doesn’t give a lot of information about the manufacturing process. According to the television show Unwrapped, workers start making it with a sugar crystal. The barrels spin these crystals constantly coating them with sugar to form Nerds. Then the candies are sent to other barrels with different colorings.

After it, they are transferred to the boxes according to their flavor.

Nutrition Facts

Nerds nutrition facts for 13g (1 serving size):

  1. Calories – 50
  2. Carbohydrates – 12g

Like any other candies, these one contain only crabs. In other words, there is nothing healthy about them.

Are Nerds Vegan?

Unfortunately, most Nerds are non-vegan. The reason for it is carmine, the coloring derived from bugs. It can never be plant-based.

Nerds Ingredients


These made of sugar candies have no nutritional qualities. Nerds’ ingredients also include artificial colorings and preservatives. Of course, additives differ depending on flavors. However, these candies always contain sugar, dextrose, and malic acid.

These ingredients you can find in your Nerds:

  1. Sugar isn’t good for our well-being. The truth is that Nerds are primary made of it. Consuming a lot of sugar, you increase the risk of diabetes, cancer and heart diseases. It’s also harmful to our teeth and may cause skin problems. The other problem is its manufacture. It can be bleached with bone char that makes the sugar white. At the same time, it is just part of refining. The sugar itself does not contain it. Nevertheless, vegans have to avoid it.
  2. Dextrose is a cheap sugar made from corn. It’s a natural ingredient derived without any animal traces. Almost all candies contain it because it can add sweetness. It’s safe when you don’t consume it a lot. In other cases, it may increase the sugar blood level.
  3. Malic acid works as a preservative. It is important not to confuse it with a natural one. For example, you can find it in fruit with a sour taste. Malic acid used in candies is an artificial additive. It helps to give Nerds a little bit tartness. Remember that this ingredient is acidic and may provoke stomachaches. In conjunction with dextrose, it also causes different oral problems. Malic acid is absolutely vegan.
  4. Corn syrup is a sweetener. In other words, this product made from cornstarch is 100% glucose or dextrose. From first glance, it is vegan. The main problem is that 92% of corn in the USA is GMO. It’s hard to find this ingredient without genetically modified organisms. What is more, it can be harmful to our health. Recent researches show its connection with a large variety of diseases. It is proven that it leads to overweight, diabetes, and tumors.
  5. Carnauba wax is widespread in the food industry. This vegan plant-based ingredient comes from palms leaves. You can find it in your gummy candies and even on apples as a coating. It works as a glazing agent that makes the product shine. It’s absolutely safe and hypoallergenic.
  6. Carmine is a red food coloring derived from bugs. Despite the fact that it’s “natural,” it’s not vegan. People kill about 70 000 insects to produce only one pound of dye. Carmine can present not only in candies but also in cosmetics, like blushes or lipsticks. It may cause allergic reactions, dizziness. and nausea.
  7. Confectioner’s glaze is 100% not vegan. The main source for is shellac derived from bugs called lac beetles. This ingredient gives candies a shiny look. Sometimes, even fruit may be coated with it. The other name for confectioner’s glaze is lac-resin. It is considered to be safe for us. However, vegans have better to avoid it.
  8. Glycerin can be vegetable or animal-based. It works as a sweetener and doesn’t cause any side effects. Unfortunately, brands sometimes do not give any information about its origin. According to the Vegetarian Resource Group report in 2010, most glycerin in food is plant-based. Anyway, there is still a risk that it can be animal-derived. In case it’s not labeled as a vegetable one, look for another item.
  9. Gelatin is an animal product made from bones and can’t be vegan. It has the functions of a thickener in our food. Usually, you can find it in jelly beans or other gummy candies. Although gelatin has significant health benefits, it’s unsuitable for a vegan diet.
  10. Citric acid is the vegan ingredient obtained from the fruit. In other words, it’s a natural preservative and flavoring. FDA recognizes it as safe. But there exist some studies showing that it may cause allergic reactions.
  11. Modified cornstarch is vegan and gluten-free. Pay your attention that this ingredient is not GMO. The word “modified” means that this product has been changed to make it more useful. Usually, it works as a stabilizer or emulsifier. Is modified cornstarch healthy? There is still no information about its effects on our body.
  12. Tapioca dextrin comes from the cassava plant and is suitable for vegans. It’s also a gluten-free alternative to flour. It is used as a thickener agent in candies all around the world. Be aware that sometimes it might be toxic. If the manufacturing process isn’t correct, the plant becomes to produce cyanide. In all other cases, this ingredient is safe.
  13. Red 40 is a food coloring made from coal tar and petroleum. There are no animal derivatives, but it was tested on animals. I would say, it’s still a controversial ingredient. Most people consider it to be vegan. So it up to you to decide whether it is suitable for you or not. What is more, this additive often causes allergy. The same thing is about other artificial colors like blue 1, blue 2, yellow 6 etc.

Popular Nerds Flavors

Despite the fact that most of these candies contain carmine, there are a large variety of flavors. Each of them has different additives.

Below you’ll find a quick review on the most popular flavors and their ingredients. Maybe I’ll be lucky to find a vegan one.

Strawberry and Grape

It’s one of the most widespread flavors. The candies are pink and purple. The full name is Gotta-Have Grape & Seriously Strawberry Tangy Crunchy Candy.

Strawberry and Grape Nerds ingredients list:

  1. Dextrose – vegan
  2. Sugar – may be vegan or not
  3. Corn syrup – vegan
  4. Natural flavors – vegan
  5. Carnauba wax – vegan
  6. Carmine color – not vegan
  7. Blue 1 lake – vegan
  8. Blue 2 lake – vegan
  9. Red 40 lake – vegan
  10. May contain egg – not vegan

Are Grape Nerds vegan? No! The same thing is about the strawberry flavor. Both have carmine and in some cases, traces of eggs.


These Nerds are green, red, purple, yellow and orange. They have gained their popularity for the fresh and sweet taste. You can find five flavors in one box: cherry, lemon, grape, orange, and apple.

Let’s have a look at Rainbow Nerds ingredients:

Nerds Rainbow

  1. Dextrose – vegan
  2. Sugar – may be vegan or not
  3. Malic acid – vegan
  4. Corn syrup – vegan
  5. Artificial flavors – vegan
  6. Carnauba wax – vegan
  7. Carmine color – not vegan
  8. Blue 1 – vegan
  9. Blue 1 lake – vegan
  10. Blue 2 lake – vegan
  11. Red 4 lake – vegan
  12. Yellow 5 – vegan
  13. Yellow 5 lake – vegan
  14. Yellow 6 – vegan
  15. Yellow 6 lake – vegan
  16. May contain egg

Are Rainbow Nerds vegan? No, they aren’t because of carmine and eggs.

Mango Chili

These small yellow candies taste yummy and have the right amount of spiciness.

Nerds Mango Chili ingredients:

  1. Dextrose – vegan
  2. Sugar – may be vegan or not
  3. Malic acid – vegan
  4. Corn syrup – vegan
  5. Natural flavor – vegan
  6. Carnauba wax – vegan
  7. Yellow 5 – vegan
  8. Yellow 5 lake – vegan
  9. Yellow 6 – vegan

Good news, it’s the first product without carmine. Are yellow Nerds vegan? I would say yes, but I can’t. As you know, there is no information about sugar origin. It’d be nice to find out that there is no bone char.

Nerds with lemonade wild cherry flavor have almost the same ingredient list. Instead of coloring yellow 6, these one contain a red 40 lake. Are Lemonade Wild Cherry Nerds vegan? I can’t also give the definitive answer because of the sugar.

You will like: TOP Juicers for Carrots – carrot juice is absolutely vegan, by the way 🙂

Rainbow Rope

In other words, it’s a chewy gummy string loved by children. It includes five flavors like grape, orange, lemon, watermelon, and strawberry.

Here are the Nerds Rope ingredients:

  1. Dextrose – vegan
  2. Sugar – may be vegan or not
  3. Malic acid – vegan
  4. Gelatin – may be vegan or not
  5. Confectioner’s glaze – not vegan
  6. Glycerin – may be vegan or not
  7. Citric acid – vegan
  8. Carnauba wax – vegan
  9. Natural flavors – vegan
  10. Carmine color – not vegan
  11. Blue 1 – vegan
  12. Blue 1 lake – vegan
  13. Blue 2 – vegan
  14. Blue 2 lake – vegan
  15. Red 40 – vegan
  16. Red 40 lake – vegan
  17. Yellow 5 – vegan
  18. Yellow 5 lake – vegan
  19. Yellow 6 – vegan
  20. Yellow 6 lake – vegan.

Are Nerds Rope vegan? Definitely, they are not.

Bumpy Jelly Beans

These jelly beans have the Nerds cover. They are crunchy outside and chewy inside. One package contains flavors like orange, grape, lemon, and strawberry.

Nerds Bumpy Jelly Beans ingredients:

Bumpy Jelly Beans

  1. Dextrose – vegan
  2. Sugar – may be vegan or not
  3. Corn syrup – vegan
  4. Water – vegan
  5. Modified food cornstarch – vegan
  6. Malic acid – vegan
  7. Tapioca dextrin – vegan
  8. Carnauba wax – vegan
  9. Natural and artificial flavors – vegan
  10. Blue 1 – vegan
  11. Blue 2 lake – vegan
  12. Red 40 lake – vegan
  13. Yellow 5 – vegan
  14. Yellow 5 lake – vegan
  15. Yellow 6 – vegan

Because of sugar I don’t know for sure, are Nerds Bumpy Jelly Beans vegan or not. Remember that you can always contact the manufacturer for more information.

The same ingredient list and flavors have Big Chewy Nerds. They just do not contain blue 1. Here comes the reasonable question are Big Chewy Nerds vegan? It may be if the sugar is natural.

TOP-5 Vegan Alternatives to Nerds

So in a sense, Nerds are unique only because of their package. There are a lot of vegan candies, which are also better for your health.

If you want to eat something sweet, choose one of them:

  1. Airheads are chewy candies with a large variety of flavors. They are free from allergens and gluten. All the candies except for Airhead bites are vegan. These one have gelatin and shellac among the ingredients.
  2. Jolly Rancher Hard Candy comes in four flavors like watermelon, grape, apple and raspberry. This product is sugar-free. Instead of it, it contains isomalt.
  3. Pixy Stix is another candy with vegan options. Made primary of dextrose it has a sour and sweet flavor.
  4. Smarties are like Nerds but 100% suitable for vegans. All the ingredients are plant-based and gluten-free.
  5. SWEETarts is a brand producing candies. Be aware that not all of the products are vegan. There only two you can enjoy Classic SWEETarts and Soft Bites.

Of course, it’s not the whole vegan candy list. You can always choose another product. Just don’t forget to check out the ingredients.


Well, which flavor of Nerds is vegan? I’m pretty sure that none of them. As usual, there are a lot of questions about the origin of some ingredients. Until I don’t have this information, I can’t consider it to be veggie-friendly.

It’s better to look for an alternative, which can sometimes be even healthier. I hope the list of vegan candy brands will help you to do it.

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About the Author

Joshua Howard

I'm a healthy living blogger who loves to help people who care about having an eco-friendly home environment and a healthy lifestyle. With proper nutrition I helped my brother to cure gastritis and my father to normalize his blood pressure.

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