PSA: crunchy vegan M&M’s-style candy exists.
Crispy M&M’s were first introduced in 1999 — slightly larger-than-average M&M’s with a crunchy wafer center covered in milk chocolate with the usual candy coating. Mars discontinued Crispy M&M’s (in the US, but not in Europe) in 2005, only to bring it back in 2015.
In its 77-year history, Mars has never launched a vegan-friendly version of one of many people’s favorite candies. But UnReal, a candy company founded by brothers Kris and Nicky, whose parents prohibited them from snacking on chocolates, has stepped up to the plate. Its Dark Chocolate Crispy Gems feature “quinoa crisp” enveloped in vegan dark chocolate and a candy coating.
According to the website, the company uses fair trade chocolate, sustainable ingredients, and nothing artificial — the candy coating is dyed with beet juice and spirulina extract. FYI, UnReal also makes vegan Dark Chocolate Peanut Gems — dairy-free Peanut M&M’s, essentially — and vegan peanut butter cups, including one with quinoa crisp.
Which Candy Is Vegan?
Most classic candy bars like Hershey’s, Kit-Kats, and Milky Way aren’t vegan. Vegan candy brand Go Max Go Foods makes dairy-free versions of some of the most popular varieties, like Jokerz (Snickers), Twilight (Milky Way), and Thumbs Up (Butterfinger). Brands like Enjoy Life and Milkess make vegan milk chocolate bars a la Hershey.
But in lieu of chocolates, plenty of mainstream candy brands are vegan like Sour Patch Kids, Swedish Fish, Airheads, Smarties Candy Company, Nerds, Jolly Rancher, Twizzlers, and Skittles.
There are also a handful of emerging candy brands crafting “better-for-you” sweets — a growing trend driven primarily by Millennial consumers seeking healthier snack options for their kids.
Boulder, Colorado-based brand Cocomels makes dairy-free caramel. Surf Sweets has some gelatin-free gummies and SmartSweets is free from sugar and mostly gelatin-free. ZolliPops, a sugar-free vegan candy company run by 13-year-old CEO and founder Alina Morse, is stocked at more than 7,500 stores across the US and reportedly rakes in $6 million a year.
UnReal’s vegan Dark Chocolate Crispy Gems are available online, at Whole Foods, and at independent health food stores across the country.