Are Conversation Hearts Vegan and Cruelty-Free?

September 28, 2023

It’s Valentine’s Day. Your crush has given you a valentine and you don’t want to be rude, but you just need to know. Are these little candy hearts with adorable puns on them vegan?! Well, unearthing whether a product like Conversation Hearts is vegan can actually be a tricky task.

This complexity is often due to ingredients with vague origins and complicated sources.

Fear not, dear reader. This article is designed to sift through the confusion, reveal the truth, and support your compassionate, vegan lifestyle.

Are Brach’s Conversation Hearts Vegan?

Unfortunately, Conversation Hearts, produced by the Ferrara Candy Company, are not vegan. This is primarily due to some of their ingredients being derived from animal products. Gelatin is a substance made from boiling pieces of animals. And sugar is often processed with bone char, the ground-up bones of animals.

Many sugar companies have moved away from bone char, but since Brach’s and Ferrara don’t share the source of the sugar used in Conversation Hearts, it’s impossible to say for sure that bone char hasn’t been used in the manufacturing of the sugar in Conversation Hearts.

Are Conversation Hearts Cruelty-Free?

Regrettably, Conversation Hearts are not cruelty-free. Several of the ingredients are tested on animals, including artificial colors and ingredients that come from GMO crops, including the sugar, corn syrup, and citric acid.

What Are Conversation Hearts Made Of?

Conversation Hearts, also known as Sweethearts, are small heart-shaped candies popular during Valentine’s Day. Each candy heart carries a brief and sweet message, making them a staple gift for loved ones. But what exactly are these little tokens of affection made of?

Here are the primary ingredients in those tiny Conversation Hearts:

  • Sugar
  • Corn syrup
  • Gelatin
  • Glycerin
  • Citric acid
  • Tragacanth gum
  • Natural and artificial flavors
  • Food coloring


Sugar is a sweet substance that is used in many foods and drinks to enhance their taste. It is primarily derived from sugarcane or sugar beets. In Conversation Hearts, sugar provides the primary sweetness that makes the candy enjoyable.

Sugar is vegan, since it does not come from an animal source, but there are some controversies around bone char usage in its processing.

Corn Syrup

Corn syrup is a liquid sweetener made from cornstarch. It is used in many foods and drinks, often as a cheaper alternative to sugar. In Conversation Hearts, corn syrup provides additional sweetness and helps to create a smooth texture. Corn syrup is vegan because it is derived from corn, but that also makes it GMO.


Gelatin is a protein obtained by boiling animal skin, tendons, ligaments, or bones in water. It is often used in food products to give them a gel-like texture. In Conversation Hearts, gelatin helps to bind the ingredients together and create a firm yet chewable texture. Gelatin is not vegan or vegetarian; it is directly derived from animals.


Glycerin, also known as glycerol, is a simple polyol compound. It is a colorless, odorless, viscous liquid that is sweet-tasting and non-toxic. Glycerin can be derived from both plant and animal sources, so its vegan status depends on the specific source used.

In Conversation Hearts, it serves as a humectant, meaning it helps to retain moisture, ensuring the candies don’t dry out.

Citric acid

Citric acid does not come from oranges, like it sounds. It mostly comes from corn plants, which means it’s often GMO. It is, however, vegan.

Tragacanth Gum

Tragacanth gum comes from the Middle Eastern Astragalus gummifer shrub. It’s used as an emulsifier in food, and it’s vegan.

Natural and Artificial Flavors

Natural and artificial flavors are used to enhance or create specific flavors in food products. Natural flavors are derived from plants or animals, while artificial flavors are synthesized from non-food sources. Artificial flavors are often tested on animals.

In Conversation Hearts, these flavors create different tastes for each color of heart. Whether these flavors are vegan or not can be hard to determine without specific information from the manufacturer, as both types can come from a variety of sources.

Food Coloring

Coloring agents are substances used to give color to food products. They can be natural (derived from fruits, vegetables, or minerals) or artificial (created in a lab).

In Conversation Hearts, coloring agents give each heart its distinctive color. Most coloring agents are vegan, but some, like carmine, which is derived from insects, are not. Artificial colors are routinely tested on animals, so they are not cruelty-free.

However, without specific information from the manufacturer, it’s difficult to determine if the colors used in Conversation Hearts are vegan.

Vegan Alternatives to Conversation Hearts

If you’re disheartened to discover that Conversation Hearts aren’t vegan friendly, don’t worry. There are lots of ways to keep candy vegan. And there are delightful vegan alternative brands to Brach’s Conversation Hearts for you to explore:

  • Love Hearts: From Swizzels, Love Hearts candy rolls closely resemble Conversation Hearts and are entirely vegan.
  • YumEarth Chewy Candy: Every candy flavor from YumEarth is organic, non-GMO, and vegan.
  • Surf Sweets Gummy Bears: Surf Sweets offers a wellspring of organic gummy snacks, including the iconic gummy bears.

Either of these options make a great vegan alternative to Brach’s Conversation Hearts.


While Conversation Hearts are a beloved part of Valentine’s Day tradition, their non-vegan ingredients mean they do not align with a vegan lifestyle. The use of gelatin and possibly bone char-processed sugar, as well as GMO food ingredients, prevent them from being both vegan and cruelty-free.

Thankfully, there are plenty of sweet vegan alternatives, including vegan candy hearts, available to ensure you can enjoy Valentine’s Day without compromising your ethical choices.

Continue your compassionate journey, and together, we can make a difference for the planet and its inhabitants.