Chips Ahoy! is a cookie brand produced by Nabisco, the same company that also produces Belvita, Fig Newtons, Oreo, Ritz Crackers, and many more. It should also be noted that Nabisco is a subsidiary of Mondelez International, a multinational food and drink conglomerate. Introduced back in 1963, the cookie brand has soared high in popularity as Chips Ahoy! was the second leading cookie brand in the US in 2017 with 232.6 million unit sales (1).
Unfortunately, Chips Ahoy! is not appropriate for individuals with vegan diets since the cookie brand contains milk and dairy products such as whey. From that standpoint alone, Chips Ahoy! cannot be vegan. Furthermore, the cookie brand also contains other ingredients that some vegans would prefer to avoid such as sugar and natural flavors as these ingredients are often considered as gray area ingredients because of the uncertainty of whether they are truly vegan or not.
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Are Chips Ahoy! Vegan?
There are many ingredients that make up the popular cookie snack Chips Ahoy! Unfortunately, even a single ingredient can render the cookie brand inappropriate for vegans. For the case of Chips Ahoy!, the cookie brand contains whey which is a product derived from milk which means Chips Ahoy! is not vegan.
Furthermore, Chips Ahoy! also contains some questionable ingredients such as sugar and natural flavors. These are considered gray area ingredients in the vegan community because due to some factors, some vegans are okay with them while some vegans are not. Thus, they are often avoided by many to be safe.
Firstly, sugar is a gray area ingredient because some sugar companies use bone char, an animal product, in the refinement processes for sugar. This practice is not done by all which means it is difficult to determine which brands of sugar are vegan or not.
Secondly, many vegans avoid products with natural flavors because the ingredient can contain both plant and animal products. Unless the product label states that the product is vegan, there is no way to truly determine if a product that contains natural flavors is vegan or not.
Chips Ahoy! Ingredients List
The ingredients list of the Original Chips Ahoy! includes (2): unbleached enriched flour (wheat flour, niacin, reduced iron, thiamine mononitrate (vitamin B1), riboflavin (vitamin B2), folic acid), semisweet chocolate chips (sugar, chocolate, cocoa butter, dextrose, soy lecithin), sugar, soybean oil, partially hydrogenated cottonseed oil, high fructose corn syrup, leavening (baking soda, ammonium phosphate), salt, whey (from milk), natural and artificial flavor, caramel color.
Aside from the Original variant of Chips Ahoy!, there are also different varieties that could possibly contain different sets of ingredients. The different variants of Chips Ahoy! include (3) Chips Ahoy! Fudge Filled, Chips Ahoy! Chunky, Chips Ahoy! Reduced Fat, Chips Ahoy! Chunky White Fudge, Chips Ahoy! Chewy, Chips Ahoy! Candy Blasts, Chips Ahoy! Brownie Filled, Chips Ahoy! Soft Chunky, Chips Ahoy! Red Velvet, Chips Ahoy! S’mores, Chips Ahoy! Thins, and many more.
While other flavors might have additional ingredients that are inappropriate for vegans, this article will focus on the ingredients listed for the Original Chips Ahoy!
Non-Vegan Chips Ahoy! Ingredients
Dairy refers to milk and other milk-derived products such as cheese, butter, yogurt, and more. With milk as the necessary ingredient, the milk is typically obtained from a mammal such as cows, goats, and such.
Unfortunately, milk and dairy products cannot be considered vegan since they are derived from animals. Particularly, Chips Ahoy! contains whey which is a liquid that is obtained after milk has been curdled and strained. Whey is typically considered a byproduct of various commercial processes such as cheese production.
While all animal products are frowned upon in the vegan community, many members find milk and dairy products to be especially unethical. In the industry, cows are intentionally impregnated to induce lactation and produce milk. Many farms also separate the mothers from the offspring as a way to maximize milk collection.
Gray Area Chips Ahoy! Ingredients
It should come as no surprise that a sweet cookie snack such as Chips Ahoy! would contain sugar. Sugar is a highly common food additive and sweetener used in the food and beverage industry. Also known as sucrose, sugar is conventionally produced from plant sources such as sugarcane and sugar beets. However, this does not mean sugar is automatically vegan. There is a reason why some vegans avoid sugar altogether.
After the sugar has been extracted from a certain plant source, sugar companies often further refine the sugar to make it more appealing to consumers. There are different types of methods used for sugar refinement, but one method is emphasized in particular: filtration. Different companies utilize different filtration methods such as the use of granulated carbon. However, the issue arises with the use of bone char (4).
Bone char is the ground and charred skeletal remains of various animals. Bone char is a common material used for filtration in the US because it is cheap and effective. However, bone char is nonetheless an animal product which means that sugar produced using bone char cannot be considered vegan.
The problem with bone char in the sugar industry is that it is difficult to determine if a sugar company uses bone char. Furthermore, large food companies that use sugar in their products could possibly have multiple sources for sugar which makes it even harder to track. Due to the uncertainty, some vegans just end up considering sugar as a gray area ingredient and avoid it to be safe.
Fortunately, vegans from other parts of the world are less concerned with their sugar because the practice of using bone char in sugar refinement is more prevalent in the US.
Natural flavors are common additives that can be found in many food products and beverages. Specifically, the function of natural flavors is to impart flavor to the product – thus, natural flavors primarily act as a flavoring agent. Furthermore, natural ingredients should be totally composed of natural substances. This distinguishes natural flavors from artificial flavors.
Although natural flavors contain constituents derived from the natural world, the issue with natural flavors is the definition. Specifically, the FDA defines natural flavors as (5):
The essential oil, oleoresin, essence or extractive, protein hydrolysate, distillate, or any product of roasting, heating or enzymolysis, which contains the flavoring constituents derived from a spice, fruit or fruit juice, vegetable or vegetable juice, edible yeast, herb, bark, bud, root, leaf or similar plant material, meat, seafood, poultry, eggs, dairy products, or fermentation products thereof, whose significant function in food is flavoring rather than nutritional.FDA.gov
The definition above specifically states that it is prerequisite that the constituents of natural flavors should be elements obtained from various natural sources. However, the issue is that the umbrella definition given by the FDA means that natural flavors can include both plant- and animal-derived products. Thus, there is no way to determine if a product that contains natural products is truly vegan or not unless it is specifically stated in the label.
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