Altoids are a brand of breath mints with a distinctly strong flavor that come in metal tins that are handy for holding change or small items in a purse or pocket after the mints are gone. Altoids come in several flavors in regular and sugar-free varieties.
Are Altoids vegan, or should you look elsewhere when you want a refreshing mint? The answer is both no and yes.
Original Altoids are not vegan. These products contain animal-derived ingredients. However, Altoids Arctic sugar-free mints and their Sugar-Free Smalls are vegan. Their sugar-free mints don’t contain animal products and are suitable for vegan diets.
Let’s look at the different Altoids flavors and ingredients to see which ones vegans should avoid.
Which Altoids Contain Animal-Based Ingredients?
Altoids Curiously Strong Mints come in 1.76-ounce metal tins in these flavors:
- Classic Peppermint
Are Altoids vegan if they come in the 1.76-ounce tin? No. You don’t need to read any labels on the original-sized Altoids. All varieties for sale in the standard size are not suitable for vegans.
The main ingredient that will cross Altoids off any vegan’s shopping list is gelatin. Some vegans also avoid products containing sugar because of how it’s processed.
Why Isn’t Gelatin Vegan?
Gelatin is a product made from collagen, which comes from boiling animal hides, connective tissues, and bones. The boiling process extracts the collagen, which manufacturers use to make gelatin. Though Altoids contain only a tiny amount of gelatin, it’s unquestionably an animal product in the mints.
Isn’t Sugar Vegan?
Original Altoids also contain sugar, which some strict vegans avoid. Most major sugar producers in the United States use bone char, a black carbon made from burning animal bones, to whiten sugar.
The sugar doesn’t contain bone char or any animal product in its finished form, but its use during the process is enough for some vegans to avoid it. Other vegans find sugar acceptable because it doesn’t contain animal products and is difficult to avoid.
Are Artificial Colors Vegan?
The last controversial ingredient in regular Altoids is artificial food coloring. The wintergreen flavor contains Blue 1, and the cinnamon flavor contains Red 40.
While these artificial colors are vegan because they don’t contain animal products, they’re not cruelty-free. Some vegans avoid these artificial colors because they’re tested on animals.
All Altoids also list “Natural and Artificial Flavors.” Companies can include animal-derived ingredients in this group, but it’s usually just a way for companies to keep their proprietary recipes safe.
Are Altoids Vegan if They Don’t Contain Gelatin or Sugar?
Sugar-free Altoids don’t contain animal ingredients and are suitable for vegan diets.
Altoids Arctic sugar-free mints come in 1.2-ounce tins in the following flavors:
Altoids Sugar-Free Smalls come in 0.37-ounce tins in these flavors:
None of the sugar-free mints contain sugar or gelatin, but you might wonder, “Are Altoids vegan if they contain magnesium stearate?”
Magnesium stearate can be animal-based but is almost always vegan in food products.
Here’s some good news: The Vegetarian Resource Group (VRG) contacted dozens of mint manufacturers and reports that Mars Wrigley confirmed they use plant-based magnesium stearate. All sugar-free Altoids flavors are suitable for vegan diets.
The strictest ethical vegans probably won’t want to purchase sugar-free Altoids. These mints contain ingredients that were tested on animals, like artificial sweeteners.
Altoids Arctic Peppermint, Arctic Strawberry, Peppermint Sugar-Free Smalls, Wintergreen Sugar-Free Smalls also contain artificial food colorings that have been tested on animals.
What About Genetic Engineering?
Altoids sugar-free mints come with a message on the back of the tin: Produced With Genetic Engineering. This label does not mean the product isn’t vegan or vegetarian, just that at least one ingredient is a GMO or genetically-modified organism.
In this case, the GMO products could be artificial sweeteners. Genetically modified bacteria help create some sweetener brands, for instance.
While some people avoid GMO foods, the ingredients in sugar-free Altoids brands don’t contain any animal GMO ingredients and are safe for vegan diets.
Here are some of the most frequently asked questions about veganism in regards to Altoids.
Aren’t all vegan products cruelty-free?
All vegans aren’t alike, and what’s acceptable to some might be unacceptable to others.
Are Altoids vegan if they contain ingredients that have been tested on animals?
Sugar-free Altoids are a vegan food product, which means they don’t contain animal-derived ingredients. The mints are not, however, a cruelty-free product because they contain ingredients that have been tested on animals.
Strict ethical vegans who refuse to use any product because of animal testing or that comes from a company that makes non-vegan products will want to avoid all varieties of Altoids and anything sold by Mars Wrigley.
What’s the difference between a vegan diet and ethical veganism?
Strict ethical vegans don’t eat anything animal-based and avoid purchasing products that exploit or harm animals. Many products like makeup, cleaning products, or food additives use animal testing that hurts and kills animals.
People who follow a strict vegan lifestyle won’t purchase anything with a history of animal exploitation, even if the end-product doesn’t contain anything derived from animals.
While someone following a vegan diet might also be an ethical vegan, some people focus on eating food that doesn’t contain animal products without considering other exploitation. Others fall somewhere in between those extremes.
Each vegan has to choose how strict to be when consuming food or purchasing products. The strictest vegans only buy from companies that make a point of exclusively producing vegan products.
How can I tell if the natural and artificial flavors in Altoids are vegan?
Artificial flavors are vegan and generally derived from petroleum. Natural flavors can be vegan or vegetarian, or they can be animal-based. The company states that their natural flavors include peppermint oil, but they don’t disclose the other ingredients that fall into that category.
The likelihood is high that the natural flavors are vegan-friendly and only hidden to protect their formula.
Are Altoids Vegan? What’s the Bottom Line?
Original Altoids are not vegan because they contain gelatin, an animal-derived product.
All Altoids sugar-free flavors, including their Arctic flavors and the Sugar-Free Smalls, are vegan because they don’t contain gelatin or any other animal-based products.
The strictest ethical vegans won’t find any Altoids products suitable, even the sugar-free versions, because they contain ingredients that are tested on animals. The mints also come from a company that sells many non-vegan products.
If you’re primarily concerned with following a plant-based or vegan diet, you can enjoy the sugar-free Altoids flavors.