Are Altoids vegan?
If you’re wondering about Altoids that come in the classic 1.76 oz tin pictured above, none of the flavors are vegan. They’re not even vegetarian. In this post, I’ll explain why classic Altoids are not vegan, mention the other types of Altoids, and talk about the parent company Mars. (Click here for our list of the best vegan mints in 2019).
As of 2019, the flavors available in the classic size tin are peppermint, cinnamon, spearmint, and wintergreen. These Altoids contain only a few ingredients: sugar, gum arabic, flavoring, gelatin, and food coloring depending on the flavor.
Gelatin is made from the cartilage, bones, hooves, or skin of slaughtered pigs, and sometimes other animals. It’s the bane of many vegan candy lovers since it is so often hidden in vegan gummy candies. So, right off the bat, classic Altoids are not vegan.
Besides gelatin, classic Altoids and many others Mars products contain sugar. A lot of sugar in the United States is filtered through bone char. Bone char is charcoal made from burning the bones of slaughtered animals. Organizations that certify products as vegan won’t put their name on something that uses this kind of sugar.
Altoids has not responded to e-mails requesting to know whether their sugar is filtered through bone charcoal. I have reached out to numerous companies about this and this is the first time that a company has not responded one way or the other. The size of Mars along with the lack of transparency leads me to believe their sugar is not vegan.
What about other Altoids products?
Altoids also makes sugar-free Smalls, and sugar-free Arctic Cool Mints and I’ve noticed some other websites claiming these to be vegan. But, after you read the rest of this post, you might want to check out our list of vegan mints to find an alternative. The list includes mints with vegan sugar, as well as sugar-free options.
Neither of these Altoids products contains gelatin or sugar. But, both products contain two “maybe vegan” ingredients: magnesium stearate, and “natural and artificial flavors.” In this case, one of the “maybe vegan” ingredients has been confirmed as not vegan.
Magnesium stearate can either be sourced from slaughtered animals or plant sources. A Mars customer service represented responded that their magnesium stearate is not vegan.
Natural and artificial flavors can mean a variety of things and large companies rarely divulge what is in these.
Altoids is owned by animal testers Mars
Altoids is owned by candy mega-corporation Mars. According to the Mars website as of October 2019, Mars still engages in animal testing in order to bring new products to market.
Mars mentions their pretty standard guidelines for animal testing, as if they deserve a pat on the back for the following: they use animals only as necessary, they always meet or exceed legal requirements for humane treatment, they use the minimum number of animals needed, and constantly review their methods.
BUT, the website goes on to say that when necessary, “the Mars Animal Research Review Board may approve exceptions to this policy.”
Mars’s policy is already so broad, that allowing for exceptions is basically granting a free-for-all. It’s like they’re saying, “we have some principles,” “P.S. actually we don’t.”
Does that automatically make all Mars products not vegan?
It’s hard to say. If we hold that all Mars products are not vegan, then we also have to say the Impossible Burger is not vegan because it was initially tested on animals. And many vegans do say this. At the same time, The Impossible Burger has introduced countless carnists to plant-based meat, including my father-in-law.
Let’s avoid putting too much emphasis on the vegan label and look at the bigger picture. Whether you want to give them your money or not, Impossible Foods’s mission is to reduce meat consumption by providing an alternative. When carnists order an Impossible Burger instead of a Whopper, it’s a good thing.
Mars and Altoids do not have such lofty goals. In fact, in 2019 Mars admitted that they cannot guarantee that their chocolate does not come from child slave labor. This admission comes years after Mars promised it would eradicate slave labor from its supply chain.
In 2017, a significant portion of cocoa used in Mars chocolate was found to come from farms illegally planted in African parks. This illegal deforestation has led to declines in elephant populations and chimpanzee habitat.
Mars is so big that its many products are widely accessible and it may be hard for people to give up all Mars products. But, since breath mints are usually not needed for survival, it may be easier to give up Altoids than other things.
Alternatives to Altoids
Fortunately, there are some great alternatives to Altoids. Check out our list of vegan mints.