Is Hershey’s Chocolate Vegan and Cruelty-Free?

September 28, 2023

Navigating the vast world of Hershey’s Chocolate and identifying whether or not this renowned brand is vegan is no small feat.

This complexity is fueled by vague and confusing ingredients that the layperson can barely spell, let alone identify.

Fear not, dear reader. This article is here to unravel the truth and support you in your compassionate, vegan lifestyle.

Is Hershey’s Chocolate Vegan?

When it comes to the Hershey Company, they do offer a blend of vegan and non-vegan products (decidedly few vegan options, if I’m honest). However, its most familiar chocolate bar is made from milk chocolate, which is not vegan.

Is Hershey’s Chocolate Cruelty-Free?

No, Hershey’s chocolate is not cruelty-free. The milk chocolate variety contains sugar and soy lecithin that are produced with genetically modified ingredients, which are tested on animals and cannot be considered cruelty-free.

Furthermore, it’s almost impossible to consider anything from the dairy industry cruelty-free. The cycle of impregnation cows go through in the dairy industry is cruelty by itself, to say nothing of the way the cows are treated on a day-to-day basis.

What is Hershey’s Chocolate made of?

Hershey’s Chocolate, known worldwide for its unique taste and texture, is composed of a mixture of carefully selected ingredients. These come together to create the iconic candy that many enjoy. The ingredients of a classic Hershey’s Milk Chocolate Bar are:

  • Sugar
  • Milk
  • Chocolate
  • Cocoa butter
  • Milk fat
  • Soy lecithin
  • PGPR
  • Natural flavor


Sugar, a common ingredient in most confections, is derived from sugarcane or sugar beet plants. It adds sweetness to Hershey’s Chocolate, enhancing its overall flavor. Though it is plant derived, sugar can sometimes be processed with bone char (from animals), which could make it non-vegan.

However, it’s important to note that not all sugar is processed this way, and the practice is slowly phasing out in favor of vegan filters, such as activated charcoal.


Milk is a dairy product obtained from cows. It adds a creamy texture and a hint of sweetness to the chocolate. It is not vegan.


In this context, the ingredient “chocolate” refers to a mix of cocoa solids, cocoa butter, and sugar. The solids provide the characteristic bitter chocolate flavor, while the cocoa butter gives a smooth mouthfeel. It’s generally vegan, but the overall product may not be due to the presence of other non-vegan ingredients.

Cocoa Butter

Cocoa butter is a type of fat derived from cocoa beans. It contributes to the smooth, melt-in-your-mouth texture of Hershey’s Chocolate. It is vegan since it comes directly from the cocoa plant.

Milk Fat

Milk fat is the fatty portion of milk. It is used to enhance the creamy texture and rich flavor of the chocolate. It is not vegan because it comes from a dairy source.

Soy Lecithin

Soy lecithin is a fat derived from soybeans used as an emulsifier. It helps keep the cocoa and cocoa butter from separating, leading to a smoother, more homogenous chocolate. Soy lecithin is vegan friendly but it’s also overwhelmingly GMO.


Polyglycerol polyricinoleate is an emulsifier usually made from the fatty acids of castor beans or soybean oil. It’s a common ingredient in chocolate because when mixed with soy lecithin it reduces the viscosity of solid particles. It is vegan, but it may be GMO.

Natural Flavor

The natural flavor in Hershey bars is a proprietary blend of ingredients used to enhance or complement the chocolate’s existing flavors. As the specifics of this blend are a trade secret, it’s difficult to definitively say whether it is vegan or not. However, Hershey’s has stated that their milk chocolate bars are suitable for vegetarians.

Hershey’s Chocolate Varieties

There are a few chocolate products Hershey claims on its vegan menu, but they are not certified vegan, so proceed with caution.

Is Hershey’s Plant-Based Oat Chocolate Confection Almond & Sea Salt Candy Bar Vegan?

Well, it’s dairy-free. We can’t guarantee the sugar isn’t processed with bone char or that there’s no GMO ingredients, but there are no direct animal products or by-products in the chocolate itself.

Are Reese’s Plant-Based Oat Chocolate Confection & Peanut Butter Cups Vegan?

Well, Reese’s plant-based peanut butter cups are dairy-free. We can’t guarantee the sugar isn’t processed with bone char or that there’s no GMO ingredients, but there are no direct animal products or by-products in the peanut butter cups themselves.

Keep in mind this is the oat flour version of Reese’s peanut butter cups. The original is not dairy-free.

Is Hershey’s Chocolate Syrup Vegan?

No, Hershey’s chocolate syrup contains dairy products. It is not vegan.

Vegan Alternatives to Hershey’s Chocolate

Fortunately, vegan chocolate lovers are not left out in the cold. Numerous vegan chocolates sold nationally provide delectable plant-based alternatives. Here are some alternative brands you might consider:

These alternatives have developed plant-based versions of popular confections, offering vegan chocolate bars, oat-based chocolate bars, and even plant-based peanut butter cups to rival Hershey’s products. They show that mainstream plant-based chocolates are more than just possible — they’re delicious!


While Hershey’s does offer some products that could potentially fit into a vegan diet, not all Hershey’s chocolates can be considered entirely vegan or cruelty-free.

However, the burgeoning market of vegan alternatives ensures that chocolate lovers can enjoy a wide range of vegan chocolate bars and other delights, all while adhering to their ethical food commitments.

Keep advocating for a better world, one vegan chocolate bar at a time!