Tostitos is a tortilla chip brand from Frito-Lay, the same company the produces Fritos, Cheetos, Doritos, Lay’s, and Ruffles. The snack is often considered along with its brand dip. Coming in different shapes and flavors, Tostitos is a favored snack brand that is experiencing a rise in popularity over the recent years (1).
The ingredients that make up the Original Restaurant Style Tostitos and most other Tostitos flavors are made with all vegan ingredients such as corn, vegetable oil, and salt. While most flavors are made with these simple ingredients, there are a few that contain non-vegan and questionable ingredients. Those Tostitos flavors to look out for include Hint of Lime, Habanero, Hint of Guacamole, Sabritas Salsa Verde, and Hint of Spicy Queso.
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Are Tostitos Vegan?
Similar to some chip brands that are made with very simple ingredients, the Original Tostitos and the bulk of the different Tostitos flavors are actually vegan. Aside from the Original Restaurant Style Tostitos, other vegan flavors would include Scoops, Multigrain Scoops, Baked Scoops, Lightly Salted, Organic Blue Corn, Cantina Thin and Crispy, Cantina Traditional, Strips, Bite Size, and Crispy Rounds.
However, there are some flavors that would probably be best avoided by vegans since these flavors contain dairy products. These flavors include Hint of Lime, Habanero, Hint of Guacamole, Sabritas Salsa Verde, and Hint of Spicy Queso. Aside from containing dairy, these flavors also contain some ingredients that are heavily considered as gray areas because some vegans are okay with them while some are not. These gray area ingredients are sugar, natural flavors, and artificial coloring agents.
Tostitos Ingredients List
The list of ingredients of the Original Restaurant Style Tostitos includes (2): corn, vegetable oil (corn, canola and/or sunflower oil), and salt.
Tostitos tortilla chips also come in various shapes and flavors. Aside from the Original Restaurant Style, other flavors included in the Triangle Tostitos lineup include Lightly Salted, Hint of Lime, Organic Blue Corn, Cantina Thin and Crispy, Cantina Traditional, and Strips (3).
Tostitos also comes in circular shapes called Rounds with flavors such as Habanero, Hint of Guacamole, Bite Size, Crispy Rounds, Sabritas Salsa Verde, and Hint of Spicy Queso. The tortilla chip brand also comes in an undulate concave shape called Scoops with flavors such as Scoops, Multigrain Scoops, and Baked Scoops.
Different flavors would include different ingredients. This article will discuss the ingredients of the flavors listed above.
Non-Vegan Tostitos Ingredients
The term dairy refers to milk and products made from milk such as cream, butter, cheese, yogurt, and so on. Milk and dairy products are staples in the market and contribute significantly to non-vegan diets. However, since conventional milk is obtained from mammalian sources like cows, sheep, and goats, milk and dairy products cannot be considered vegan.
While all animal products are avoided in veganism, many vegans consider milk and dairy products to be especially unethical to animals, particularly cows. Cows in the milk industry are intentionally impregnated to induce lactation and milk production. After the pregnancy is carried out, some milk farms separate the mothers from the offspring to maximize milk collection as well.
Most Tostitos flavors available in the market are perfectly vegan. However, there are some that contain milk and dairy products such as whey, butter, sour cream, and various cheeses. These Tostitos flavors include Hint of Lime, Habanero, Hint of Guacamole, Sabritas Salsa Verde, and Hint of Spicy Queso.
Potential Gray Area Ingredients in Tostitos
While most Tostitos flavors are primarily seasoned with salt, there are some flavors that contain sugar. Sugar is a common sweetener and food additive used in the food and beverage industry. Although sugar is obtained from plant sources such as sugarcane and sugar beets, sugar can still become non-vegan depending on the processes used for sugar production.
Once the sugar has been extracted from certain plant sources, the sugar is considered raw and unrefined. Many sugar companies subject the sugar to further refinement processes to make it more appealing to the consumer market. These processes then make the sugar finer and whiter. While there are different processes involved in sugar refinement, there is one process in particular that vegans look out for: filtration.
While filtration in itself is not against veganism, the issue arises with what the company uses for this process. Different companies use different filtration methods such as the use of granulated carbon. However, some companies use bone char – the charred and skeletal remains of different animals. While bone char serves as a cheap and effective material for filtration, it is nonetheless an animal product. Thus, sugar that has been processed using bone char can no longer be considered vegan.
The problem gets bigger when it becomes difficult to determine if the sugar an individual is consuming is truly vegan or not. Furthermore, large food companies that require vast quantities of sugar can have multiple sources for sugar which makes it even harder to determine if a product that has sugar is using vegan sugar or not.
Fortunately, vegans in other parts of the world are less worried about their sugar since the use of bone char in sugar production is more prevalent in the US than it is elsewhere. The Tostitos flavors that contain sugar include Hint of Lime, Habanero, Sabritas Salsa Verde, and Hint of Spicy Queso.
Natural flavors are a common food additive found in many food products and beverages. While many ingredients in products serve different roles, natural flavors are specifically defined to primarily impart flavor and act as flavoring agents. Although natural flavors are completely composed of substances available in nature, as opposed to artificial flavors, the problem with natural flavors lies in their definition. Specifically, the FDA defines natural flavors as (4):
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
From the definition above, natural flavors have to be made of natural constituents. Unfortunately, the umbrella definition provided by the FDA means that natural flavors nonspecifically encompass both plant- and animal-derived products. This uncertainty is why natural flavors are considered to be a gray area ingredient because unless it is otherwise stated in the label, there is no way to determine if a product that contains natural flavors is truly vegan or not.
The Tostitos flavors that contain natural flavors include Hint of Lime, Habanero, Hint of Guacamole, Sabritas Salsa Verde, and Hint of Spicy Queso.
Food Coloring Agents
While the scent and taste of a food item cannot be denied being important in the consumer experience, the visual impact of the product plays a major role as well. This is why some food and beverage manufacturers have to actively manipulate their products with coloring agents to make their products look more appealing. There are different types of food coloring agents used in the market but the problematic ones for vegans are the artificial coloring agents.
Artificial coloring agents are completely synthesized in the laboratory using very base materials which means these artificial coloring agents are completely devoid of animal products. To a dietary vegan, artificial coloring agents are then perfectly fine for their diets. However, the issue with artificial coloring agents is an ethical one.
Since artificial coloring agents are completely synthesized, they have to pass certain requirements to get the approval of various food safety authorities. These requirements include safety tests that include the use of animal models. The practice of using animal models for safety tests is considered to be highly unethical in today’s standards – especially when the use of animal models can be completely replaced with alternatives that are just as effective such as the use of cell modeling and in silico studies (i.e., the use of computer models and algorithms).
Specifically, two Tostitos flavors include artificial coloring agents: Hint of Guacamole and Sabritas Salsa Verde. Hint of Guacamole contains yellow 5 lake, blue 1 lake, and yellow 6 lake while Sabritas Salsa Verde contains yellow 6 lake, yellow 5 lake, red 40 lake, and blue 1 lake. Collectively, these coloring agents have been tested on various animals such as mice, rats, guinea pigs, hamsters, pigs, rabbits, dogs, and cats (5, 6, 7, 8).