The question of whether or not Snickers, the famous Mars brand chocolate bar, is vegetarian cannot be answered easily or definitively.
A number of factors mean that the answer is up to individual vegetarians, based on their independent reasons for sustaining a vegetarian diet.
When examining the specific ingredients of Snickers, it appears that the candy is, in fact, vegetarian in the United States of America, even though a tremendous amount of the information available online suggests otherwise. The reason for the confusion is primarily due to a controversy in the UK some years ago.
The Whey Controversy
In May 2007, a decision by Mars changed the manner in which vegetarians viewed Snickers bars everywhere. Whey from a non-vegetarian source was introduced into Snickers recipe in the UK, making vegetarian heads spin the world over (BBC).
This seemingly minor recipe change prompted a loud response from vegetarians, who demanded that Mars either use a vegetarian whey or revert to a previous vegetarian-friendly recipe that was free of whey entirely.
Find out: Why isn’t whey always suitable for vegetarians?
The recipe change in the UK ultimately resulted in a lot of confusion online about the suitability of Snickers for vegetarians. In truth, however, this change was never even relevant to American vegetarians. There are two reasons for this:
1. The Snickers recipe adjustment occurred in the UK, and never affected vegetarians in the United States in the first place.
2. Mars reversed its recipe change within the same month that a successful campaign was launched by UK vegetarians (The Guardian).
Even though the changing ingredients never affected American vegetarians, it prompted many in the United States to question whether or not they could consume Snickers bars here.
The Typical Ingredients
As of May 2011, these are the ingredients in a typical Snickers bar at an American grocery store:
Milk chocolate (sugar, cocoa butter, chocolate, skimmed milk, lactose, milkfat, soy lecithin, artificial flavor); Peanuts; Corn Syrup; Sugar; Skimmed milk; Butter; Partially hydrogenated soybean oil; Lactose (a milk product); Salt; Egg whites; Artificial flavor
All of the above listed ingredients appear to be in accord with the lacto-ovo vegetarian diet (lacto-ovo vegetarians are the most common in the United States, and consume both milk products and egg products). Therefore, based on ingredients alone, it is safe to say that vegetarians in the United States may eat Snickers bars (About.com)
Find out: Why Are People Vegetarian?
Some vegetarians, however, are going to want to take a closer look. Just because the product is technically suitable to eat, it doesn’t necessarily mean that Mars is an ethical company in regards to animal welfare.
PETA gets Testy with Mars
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) has been going after the Mars company for a long time, hosting the website MarsCandyKills.com and encouraging those with a sweet tooth to avoid Mars and buy from Hershey’s instead.
According to PETA, the problem with Mars surrounds the unethical and unnecessary animal experiments they fund. While many other companies, including Hershey’s, have dropped animal testing entirely when targeted by PETA, Mars has refused to back down.
Find Out:Are Skittles Vegetarian?
Regardless of their opinions of PETA, the continued animal testing has led many vegetarians to regard Mars as an unethical company, leading many to view Snickers and other Mars-brand products as unsuitable for vegetarian consumption.
In this sense, then, although the ingredients in Mars’ Snickers bar suggest that Snickers is a vegetarian snack, the practices of the company that produces Snickers potentially make the product inedible for ethical vegetarians.
Technically, vegetarians may be able to eat Snickers, but given Mars’ history with vegetarian products, changing ingredients, and animal testing, it is bound to make many vegetarians extremely uncomfortable. In addition, vegans cannot consume Snickers at all because of the large amounts of egg and dairy products contained in the candy bar.
Fortunately, though, there is a company that produces a vegan Snickers bar, as well as a number of other snacks. Go Max Go sells vegan versions of many people’s favorite candies, including Snickers (which they call Jokerz), Milky Way (called Twilight), and Cleo’s Peanut Butter Cups.
These snacks can be purchased online from GoMaxGo’s website, or in a store near you.
Whether or not Snickers is suitable for a vegetarian diet is up to the individual vegetarian. Looking at the ingredients, one might say that yes, Snickers are vegetarian. For those who don’t regard Snickers as vegetarian-friendly, though, as well as vegans who crave a Snicekrs-like snack, there are other options out there to satisfy that aching sweet tooth.
1. BBC News “Mars starts using animal products.”
2. Lewis, Paul The Guardian “Mars backs down but vegetarians left baffled.”
3. Hackett, Jolinda About.com “Vegetarian (Lacto-ovo Vegetarian)”