Who doesn’t love Nutella? It’s delicious, creamy, and filling. Well, everybody loves it until they start asking questions: “Is it vegan? Are the ingredients bad for the environment?” It always begins with well-meaning questions that lead you down an endless spiral of articles and public statements promising change.
If you want to know whether Nutella meets your animal-loving and ethical values, continue reading.
The Short Answer
Nutella isn’t vegan because it contains an animal-based product, cow milk. It’s listed as “skimmed milk powder”. However, it’s vegetarian-friendly since it doesn’t have any meat.
Why Is Nutella Not Vegan?
Many new vegans wonder why their favourite chocolate hazelnut spread isn’t animal-friendly and why it has problematic ingredients. It contains sugar, palm oil, skimmed milk powder, fat-reduced cocoa, hazelnuts, lecithins, and vanillin. Here’s what you need to know as a vegan.
Unless you’re a novice, you can guess the answer by now. Nutella isn’t vegan because it contains cow milk. However, it’s vegetarian-friendly.
You may not have noticed that it has actual milk because it’s listed as “skimmed milk powder”, but that only means that it’s cow milk that’s been pasteurised and turned into powder.
Sugar is mostly a vegan ingredient, and we’ll explain our choice of word “mostly”. In the case of Nutella, the manufacturer confirms that its sugar is derived from sugar canes in Brazil, India, Mexico and Australia.
That being said, sugar isn’t always animal-friendly. It turns out that sugar refining includes bone char, a porous, black, granular ingredient made by charring cattle and pig bones. According to Peta, manufacturers use bone char to decolour and filter white sugar, brown sugar, and icing sugar.
The problem is that it’s virtually impossible to track down the use of bone char of every company in the industry. So, consider contacting the manufacturer to know more about how vegan-friendly its sugar is. An even better decision would be to find beet sugar or sugar that’s explicitly vegan.
Everybody likes a little bit of sugar in their desserts, especially when eating their favourite spread. Despite being a chocolate-hazelnut spread, Nutella’s largest component is sugar, accounting for more than half of its weight.
When you add such a high sugar concentration to palm oil, which we’ll get into, Nutella sounds less healthy than most people expect.
Palm oil is a plant-based edible oil, so the problem isn’t with the ingredient itself. However, the problem is that the expansion of palm oil plantations to meet the demand for the millions of products that rely on it follows and necessitates the destruction of rainforests.
Deforestation and Climate Change
In 2018 alone, the world lost 120000 km² of tropical forests, a third of which were pristine rainforests. To illustrate, 2% of this loss was in Malaysia, one of the world’s largest palm oil producers and exporters. In addition, Indonesia, another giant in the palm oil industry, lost 3400 km² that year.
These tragic numbers warn us of the resulting climate change. Forest trees store a lot of carbon dioxide. So, when we cut them, we set all of that carbon dioxide free into the air, causing a rise in global temperatures.
The destruction of these biodiverse rainforests is catastrophic from a vegan point of view.
That’s because they’re the habitats of many critically endangered, endangered, and vulnerable species, including but not limited to the Sumatran tiger, Sumatran rhino, Bornean orangutan, Bornean Pygmy elephant, Sunda clouded leopard, Sunda pangolin, hornbills, and turacos.
It turns out that palm oil isn’t just harmful to animals but also humans. Adult workers on the field often get their children to work with them because they find it very difficult to meet the targets on their own.
Many children have dropped out of school to help their families. And there are tens of thousands of children harvesting loose kernels in Malaysia and Indonesia.
The hazardous environment that these children have to work in raises many concerns, as they’re often exposed to heat and toxic chemicals without protection. Also, they earn little to no pay for working almost 12 hours a day.
The adults don’t have it easy either. Many of them face abuse, wage cuts, and forced unpaid labour. Therefore, despite not being animal-based, palm oil is problematic, to say the least.
Different Brands of Nutella
Needless to say, we mean Nutella in the loose sense of the word. Since the original Nutella isn’t safe for vegans, it’s only natural that you may wonder if other similar brands aren’t.
We’re talking Cadbury, Grenade, JimJams and the other brands that produce chocolate spreads. Unfortunately, these aren’t vegan brands either for the same reasons that Nutella isn’t.
Vegan Alternatives to Nutella
While Nutella’s officially not vegan-friendly, there are plenty of options for vegans out there. Here are our favourites:
1. Fabalous Chocolate Spread (U.K. Only)
Fabalous Chocolate Spread isn’t just dairy-free; it’s completely guilt-free. The ingredients are organic hazelnuts, cacao, chickpeas, and essential orange oil. It has 57% less sugar and 81% more protein than non-vegan brands.
So, say goodbye to problematic and unhealthy ingredients, such as palm oil, gluten, or soy. And welcome the fresh sweetness of orange chocolate flavour into your life.
2. Rigoni Hazelnut Dairy-Free Spread
If you love Italian chocolate, Rigoni Hazelnut Dairy-Free Spread is for you. It’s free of dairy, gluten, preservatives, additives, colours, and GMOs.
Moreover, its sweetness comes from organic raw cane sugar, which is great news for vegans with a big sweet tooth. The simple recipe of cocoa, cocoa butter, natural vanilla extract, and raw cane sugar puts all unhealthy spreads to shame.
3. Nutiva Organic Vegan Hazelnut Spread
Nutiva Organic Vegan Hazelnut Spread isn’t only vegan-friendly but also certified organic. It’s living proof that you don’t need cow milk, palm oil, or an unhealthy amount of sugar to eat something delicious, sweet, and nutty.
To sum up, Nutella isn’t vegan because it contains cow milk, which is an animal product. In addition, it contains problematic and harmful ingredients, such as refined sugar and palm oil. They aren’t good for your health, especially in such high concentrations, and they aren’t good for animals or the workers that provide them for your morning spread.
However, there are alternatives on the market that are made with vegan diets in mind, such as the Fabalous Chocolate Spread and Rigoni Hazelnut Dairy-Free Spread. They’re 100% vegan and free of harmful ingredients and preservatives.