Last Updated on July 11, 2023 by Practical Cooks
Most commercially produced foods contain animal products even when the label says “natural” or “wholesome.” You can spend hours reading labels looking for animal-based ingredients when you’re trying to find a vegan snack.
Finding a vegan cookie is especially challenging since milk and eggs are common ingredients in almost all commercial baked goods. What about Back to Nature cookies? These cookies say “plant-based snack” on the label. Are Back to Nature cookies vegan?
Back to Nature cookies are generally considered vegan because they don’t contain animal products, except for one flavor that contains honey. These cookies do contain sugar and palm oil, however. Strict vegans might want to look for another plant-based snack.
The good news is that none of the cookies contain dairy products or eggs. One product contains honey, making it unsuitable for vegans, but the rest don’t include any animal products.
Let’s look at the cookies and which ingredients make them unacceptable for some strict ethical vegans.
Which Back to Nature Cookies Are Vegan?
Back to Nature Plant-Based Snacks offer several different cookie types and flavors, including:
- Chocolate Chunk
- Mini Chocolate Chunk
- Fudge Mint
- Classic Creme
- Mini Classic Creme
- Double Creme
- Peanut Butter Creme
- Fudge Striped
- Lemon Wafer
- Mini Vanilla Wafer
- Mini Golden Creme
- Homestyle Soft-Baked Chocolate Chunk
- Homestyle Soft-Baked Peanut Butter Chocolate Chunk
- Honey Graham Sticks
All the cookies in this list are generally considered vegan except the Honey Graham Sticks, which use real honey. Honey exploits bees, and many are harmed and killed during its collection, so it’s unsuitable for a vegan diet.
What Else Is in Back to Nature Cookies?
All Back to Nature Cookies, except the Honey Graham Sticks, are free of animal products but contain a couple of ingredients that the strictest ethical vegans avoid. The base ingredients in their cookies are things like:
- Unbleached enriched wheat flour
- Cane sugar
- Palm oil (or palm oil shortening in their soft-baked cookies)
- Safflower oil
- Brown rice syrup
- Leavening ingredients like baking powder and baking soda
- Sea salt
- Soy lecithin
- Natural flavors
Which Back to Nature Cookie Ingredients Are Controversial?
All Back to Nature cookies contain cane sugar and palm oil, two controversial ingredients that some vegans avoid.
Isn’t Sugar Vegan?
Sugar is not an animal product, but most large sugar manufacturers in the United States make their sugar whiter through a refining process that uses bone char. Bone char is a black, charcoal-like substance made from burning the bones of slaughtered animals.
No bone material remains in the sugar, but since it’s refined with an animal product, some vegans avoid sugar unless they can confirm the manufacturer doesn’t use bone char.
Without the label telling us, we can’t know whether the sugar manufacturer uses bone char, but there are a few clues.
These cookies are not certified vegan. When manufacturers want to market their food as vegan-friendly, they go through the certification process to use the logo on their labels.
Since Back to Nature Foods markets their products as “plant-based snacks,” going through the vegan certification process seems like a good step, but companies must prove that their sugar suppliers don’t use bone char for certification.
The other clue is that the sugar is listed simply as cane sugar and not USDA-certified organic cane sugar. Sugar that uses bone char in its production cannot be certified organic.
The final clue is that B&G Foods owns the Back to Nature brand. This company owns over 50 food brands like Green Giant and Ortega. The sugar in these cookies probably comes from the same companies as the sugar they buy for their brands that include animal products.
Is Palm Oil Vegan?
Palm oil is vegan. The oil isn’t an animal product, and manufacturers don’t use animal ingredients to create it. However, palm oil plantations contribute to the deforestation of Southeast Asia’s rainforests and displace endangered species like the orangutan. Based on this, some vegans won’t consume it.
Certified sustainable palm oil producers must follow strict guidelines designed to reduce the damage to the rainforest and its wildlife, among other things. Unfortunately, Back to Nature cookies don’t use certified sustainable palm oil.
Should I Eat Back to Nature Cookies if I’m Vegan?
All of us must decide whether we’ll buy and eat products that contain ingredients like sugar or palm oil. Some vegans find avoiding them nearly impossible and unnecessary, while others prefer to purchase products without them.
Strict vegans may avoid Back to Nature products because the parent company uses and sells animal products. The labels also state that they manufacture some of the cookies on the same equipment as products that contain milk or eggs.
People concerned with the possibility of a trace amount of these things in their food might want to find a different snack.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
While asking, “Are Back to Nature cookies vegan?” you probably had more questions about labels and ingredients. Let’s answer a couple of the common ones.
Are plant-based and vegan the same thing?
Not exactly, but if a food is plant-based, it’s probably suitable for a vegan diet, though it may contain controversial ingredients like sugar. Plant-based foods shouldn’t include animal products, but always read the label or look online to ensure the food is vegan no matter what the package claims.
Can food be certified vegan if it contains palm oil?
Yes. Palm oil is vegan because it isn’t an animal product, and it doesn’t use animal products during the production process.
Avoiding palm oil is a personal decision some vegans have made, but it’s almost impossible to find any plant food from apples to zucchini that doesn’t cause some animal harm.
The Bottom Line: Are Back to Nature Cookies Vegan?
Some strict ethical vegans might avoid them because they contain sugar, while others might object to the palm oil and palm oil shortening. However, many vegans will be able to enjoy almost all of the Back to Nature cookies and their other snack foods, too.
The bottom line is that Back to Nature Cookies, except the Honey Graham Sticks, are generally considered vegan and safe to include in a vegan diet.