Answer: It depends.
Ice Breakers mint candies are the product of Hershey’s, the globally-renowned milk chocolate brand that offers more than just chocolates and baking ingredients. You can look up and buy Ice Breakers through Hersheyland, Hersheys’ shopping website.
Ice Breakers were released in the 1990s by Nabisco Holdings. Their LiveSaver division came up with the mints to compete against other, well-endorsed mint candy brands. In the year 2000, Hershey’s purchased the brand from Nabisco, and in 2006, they had the third-largest share in the chewing-gum market, even further expanding after their acquisition of Ice Breakers, Bubble Yum, Breath Savers, Carefree, and Stickfree.
Meanwhile, Hershey’s now produces and sells over 27 Ice Breakers flavors, including their mint gums called Ice Cubes. Apparently, Hershey’s also claim that all their Ice Breakers are sugar-free, so we can pretty much confirm that they’re using substitute sweeteners that may or may not be artificial, such as aspartame.
Aspartame, which is made up of two amino acids, phenylalanine, and aspartic acid, is an artificial sweetener 200 times sweeter than sugar but has equal calories in equal amounts. Due to this, aspartame is used sparingly in most sugar-free candies. Aspartame is vegan because even though its two main components are naturally occurring in both meat and plant-based foods, the ingredients used to produce aspartame can be synthesized via bacterial activity.
So here’s the case – not all Ice Breakers mints are vegan. I’d classify their products into three categories: vegan, non-vegan, and disputable.
You might be surprised at just how much of Hershey’s Ice Breaker mints are vegan, but as one who’s already reviewed a few products from the milk chocolate brand, I’m not taken aback by the slightest bit.
Disputable Ice Breakers
How do I classify Ice Breakers under this category? Very simply. Veganism isn’t just a diet, it’s a lifestyle and a stand. A lifestyle that promotes healthier living, and a stand against every and any sort of animal and environmental abuse.
Livestock, cattle farming, dairy industry, skin industry, animal testing, and all other uses of animal-based products including those derived from bugs, are such things that we, vegans, strongly oppose and seek alternatives for. However, another sort of animal and environmental abuse that we should be aware of is habitat loss or the loss of a designated and abundant biodome of plants and animals due to mankind’s exploits.
All products that relate, support, and/or depend on any of those aforementioned abuses are problematic for vegans. However, the consumption of products that do not use animal-derived ingredients, but do test on animals and apply environment-negative materials are subject to the individual. Meaning that it’s your choice to either go vegan all the way or only for the sake of a diet shift.
So, which Ice Breakers mints fit under this category?
- ICE BREAKERS Cherry Limeade Sugar Free Mints
- ICE BREAKERS DUO Grape Sugar Free Mints
- ICE BREAKERS DUO Raspberry Sugar Free Mints
- ICE BREAKERS DUO Strawberry Sugar Free Mints
- ICE BREAKERS DUO WATERMELON Sugar Free Mints
- ICE BREAKERS Golden Apple Sugar Free Mints
- ICE BREAKERS Snow Cone Sugar Free Mints
- ICE BREAKERS Sours Mixed Berry Sugar Free Mints
- ICE BREAKERS Sours Sour Fruits Sugar Free Mints
All these Ice Breakers mints contain either palm oil or hydrogenated palm oil. Naturally, the fruits of palm trees and palm oil itself are vegan. The predicament is that recently, the pursuit of palm oil led to adverse deforestation and habitat loss in major tropical areas of South Asia, and Central and South America.
A recent study on palm oil development portrayed that more than 50% of deforestation on the island of Borneo is accounted for the production of palm oil. The rest were attributed to ranch development and agriculture. Also, it’s been theorized that palm oil demand may continue to grow by 1.7% each year up to 2050. That’s an additional 4,142,857 tonnes of palm oil processed per year, and approximately 1,062,271 hectares of new land acquired each year to sustain the increasing demand!
This negative act of severe deforestation due to palm oil production would lead to the habitat loss of prime forest dwellers such as the orange orangutan and predatory tiger. Therefore, palm oil production significantly decreases the biodiversity of tropical areas, but replacing or reducing palm oil farms wouldn’t necessarily benefit the local environment either.
According to a 2019 study on the impacts of palm oil culture on biodiversity, palm oil contributes 35% of the world’s vegetable oils on less than 10% of the total land cultivated for oil crops. It’s the third-largest vegetable oil producer, behind soy and rapeseed respectively.
What makes palm oil very preferable is its high yield per hectare which is significantly greater than all other vegetable oils. This means replacing them with other oil crops would more likely lead to harsher environmental effects.
However, due to the monoculture and land type necessity and limitation of palm oil production, it creates greater negative impacts on singular tropical areas compared to other crops that are proportionally spread in other countries. 85% of the world’s palm oil production comes from Malaysia and Indonesia, both of which are tropical countries and highly biodiverse despite their relatively small land areas.
Also, since about 94% of the world’s palm oil production is owned by smallholders, they tend to be more environmentally irresponsible compared to large palm oil companies who are committed to the sustainable development of palm oil, aiming to minimize the adverse effects of production to tropical biodiversity by issuing a “no deforestation” policy.
Until palm oil is recognized as a sustainable resource that doesn’t affect natural, tropical biodiversity, it’s an ingredient that vegans should be wary of if they’re to take a stand against deforestation and continual habitat loss for animals.
You can use other vegetable oils instead and perhaps opt for products that don’t contain palm oil. However, there are companies recommended by PETA that responsibly source palm oil, and so buying products from them may take a bit of your guilt away.
The only way to counter the epidemic of deforestation due to palm oil production is to relocate farms away from prime forests and on areas that are less or none biodiverse, which at this point, is a mere fantasy.
Non-Vegan Ice Breakers
Notably, all Ice Breakers Ice Cubes gums are non-vegan, and it’s because they all contain the infamous gelatin. Gelatin is a soft, elastic substance obtained from the cartilage and bones of livestock. It’s basically a collagen-producing substance from whatever remains are found and dismissed inside the worst and most cruel place for animals – the slaughterhouse.
Grimy as it is, gelatin is an absolute no for vegans, and all gummy food products that root from gelatin should be avoided. Foods labeled with a gum base should also be watched out for as some of them contain lanolin, a waxy substance taken from sheep’s skin.
Fortunately, not all chewing gum candies use gelatin, there are those that use carrageenan, locust bean gum, xylitol, acacia gum, and vegan gum bases. A list from PETA gives us a wonderful overview of vegan and non-vegan gums, of which Ice Breakers Ice Cubes are rightfully determined non-vegan.
Vegan Ice Breakers
At the very least, some Ice Breakers are vegan and guilt-free.
- ICE BREAKERS Candy Cane Sugar Free Mints
- ICE BREAKERS Cinnamon Sugar Free Mints
- ICE BREAKERS Coolmint Sugar Free Mints
- ICE BREAKERS Spearmint Sugar Free Mints
- ICE BREAKERS Wintergreen Sugar Free Mints
Vegan Chewing Gums
- 5 Gum – purely vegetable-based, we have a full explanation on that too
- B-Fresh Gum – xylitol gum base, commonly found in fruits and vegetables
- Big League Chew – vegan gum base
- Extra – some flavors are vegan, others may contain glycerol which can be sourced from either meat or plant-based ingredients; contacting the manufacture about their glycerol may help
- Juicy Fruit
- Mentos Gum: Tropical flavor only.
- NeuroGum Nootropic Energy Gum
- PUR Gum
- Simply Gum
- Spry Gum
- Tree Hugger Gum
Are Sugar-Free Chewing Gums Healthy?
Sugar-free chewing gums are considerably healthier than average sugar-based gums since the gums used in sugar-free candies usually help prevent tooth decay and cavities. Sugar-free gums that contain xylitol, a plant-based gum, are noted to be the best when it comes to dental health.
According to one study, xylitol gum reduced the population of bad bacteria in the mouth by a whopping 75%. The growth of bad bacteria in the mouth causes cavities and bad breath. Though gums don’t have many nutrients to offer, sugar-free gums are a better option for protecting your teeth compared to regular gums.
However, always remember that rubbery gums aren’t meant to be swallowed, they’re just for chewing to keep you mentally alert and active. Sugar-free gums still do have preservatives and artificial ingredients, though they are generally considered safe, consuming too much within a short amount of time may lead to discomforts such as diarrhea, painful chewing, or headaches.
As a vegan, you also should be aware that most substances incorporated in gums and manufactured goods are tested on animals. So if you want to go the extra mile, buy products from companies that responsibly source their ingredients like the ones mentioned above.
Aspartame And Phenylketonuria
Aspartame, as we’ve mentioned earlier, contains an amino acid known as phenylalanine through bacterial synthesis. Phenylalanine is also present in protein-rich foods, mainly meat and dairy, but also soybeans, lentils, and nuts.
A rare hereditary disease known as phenylketonuria (PKU) increases phenylalanine in the blood to dangerous levels. Phenylalanine isn’t naturally produced in our bodies, so we can only take it from protein-rich foods. Phenylketonuria is a rare mutation in the phenylalanine hydroxylase (PAH) gene which is the enzyme that processes phenylalanine into useful compounds for the body.
The disorder prevents PAH to process phenylalanine and so the amino acid builds up in the blood, causing damages to nerve tissues. If individuals with PKU consume too much phenylalanine, especially infants, they would end up suffering from intellectual disability and mental impairment.
Although sugar-free gums consist of less than 2% of aspartame, when it comes to people with PKU, this is a major health concern.
Sugar-free gums and confectionaries are the best choices for health and safety reasons. They don’t contain regular sugar which would feed the bad bacteria in our mouths, and they also consist of lesser calories, making them optimal for dental wellness and healthy weight maintenance.
Hershey’s Ice Breakers mints are a good option for vegans, but only those that don’t contain gelatin or palm oil. While gelatin is an absolute no for vegans, palm oil is optional, depending on your level of veganism.