Thursday, March 3, 2011

A Vegan Assessment of the Conventional Vending Machine

I decided to work on this post because I was tracking some late nights at the office for a few months and regrettably was staring at this very picture below more than I would like to admit. If you have additional product information or resources that would be useful for the vegan community I encourage you to contribute. Also note that this information pertains to food products manufactured and distributed within North America.  Thanks, Danie.
A Vending Machine.


INTRO
“Vegan vending machine” is the most commonly searched term that directs readers to My Vegan Corporate Life. Why is it so confusing to understand which products are and are not vegan? Potato chips are a safe vegan choice, right? What about ChexMix? And the ingredients, although hard to pronounce and unidentifiable – are those vegan?

Vegan vending machine options are generally an enigma for anyone trying to adopt a vegan diet and for those of us that do not frequent the break room to supply our daily meals (only on late nights when leaving is not an option and lunch seemed like forever ago). 

While I do not recommend eating anything out of the vending machine on a daily basis, I understand that late nights, working weekends, business trips, school trips, odd vacation adventures and cravings happen. So here’s some info to help you decide, when quarters in hand, which coordinates to push to get vegan-friendly food.

* * * 

OBJECTIVE
The purpose of the post is to present information in a way that helps you make healthier vegan-friendly decisions. I am not here to solicit companies. I am only here to present information that I have found or that has been presented to me.

* * * 

METHOD
If you want to know something the best approach is to go straight to the source. I took a picture of the vending machine on my floor and started researching the products. As I was trying to decipher which products had ingredients derived from animals and which were vegan-friendly, I hypothesized that the companies that manufacture the products would have the most finite and complete nutritional information.


STEP 1: IDENTIFY 
  1. Act II (ConAgra)
  2. Cape Cod Chips
  3. Frito-Lay
  4. General Mills
  5. The Hershey Company
  6. Kellogg’s
  7. Kraft Foods
  8. Mars
  9. Mr. Nature
  10. Nestle
  11. Snyder’s of Hanover

STEP 2: CONTACT THE COMPANIES
I distinguished which companies I needed to contact. Act II and Mr. Nature I did not contact due to the products represented in the vending machine. Products in the vending machine from these companies were identifiable as to whether they are or are not vegan. 

I did contact Cape Cod Chips, Frito-Lay, General Mills, The Hershey Company, Kellogg’s, Kraft Foods, Mars, Nestle and Snyder’s of Hanover.

Although the companies are not shown in the photo above, I did reach out to The Coca-Cola Company and PepsiCo for further clarification on their vegan products. 

All of my communications were friendly and to the point. I requested a vegan food product list. My intention was to reach out to the parent company for an extensive list that included all of their brands. Corporate websites are fairly transparent regarding nutrition information, ingredients and contact information. If you get to a brand site and you’re looking for the parent company, it will most likely be listed at the bottom of the page by the disclaimer.


STEP 3: DATA ANALYSIS
Once I received the information I mined through the product lists that were very specific and determined which products needed further clarification. I had to check ingredient lists online for multiple products.


When I did contact a specific product division I was redirected to the parent company’s customer service department. For example, I reached out to ChexMix and an immediate correspondence was sent stating that my inquiry would be transferred to General Mills. This may be different for every company.

Detailed responses varied per company, as noted in the appendix at the bottom of this post. Kellogg presented a product list that included items from four of their brands: Gardenburger, Kashi, Morning Farms and Worthington. Cape Cod Chips and The Coca-Cola Company distinguished which brands and/or products contained animal-derivatives and went into further clarification on ingredients. Other companies, like Frito-Lay directed me to their website where the information is categorized by brand. A portion of the companies sent me a note back asking me to call their customer service line.

Please note: I did not call a customer service line for a second data-gathering phase for two reasons:
1. It was easier for me to look up the ingredients and determine whether or not the product in question was vegan.
2. My Vegan Corporate Life has the word “corporate” because I work full-time and thought #1 was more time efficient than calling a customer service line in between meetings.

* * *
FINDINGS


Out of the 38 products that are offered (minus mints and gum)

  • 25 are not vegan
  • 10 are vegan
  • 3 needed more information/questionable


CLICK ON product below to be directed to nutritional information or product website.
VEGAN
NOT-VEGAN
NOT-VEGAN
NOT-VEGAN
NOT-VEGAN
NOT-VEGAN
VEGAN
VEGAN
TBD: Reading through the description there are a lot of ingredients that could potentially be  animal derived. However Snyder's did not give me this product as something to question. Read the label. 
NOT-VEGAN
NOT-VEGAN
VEGAN
Listed on PETA's
NOT-VEGAN


TBD: Skittles lists ingredients on their website which includes gelatin. However, I've read multiple websites where people claim that the ingredients are vegan. Check the label. 



NOT-VEGAN


NOT-VEGAN

NOT-VEGAN

NOT-VEGAN
TBD: Package check! I bought a package one year ago and it contained whey ingredients. The website information says that it does  not contain whey. However, Kellogg's did not give me this product on their vegan list - so I'm listing it as questionable. Read the label.

    



NOT-VEGAN

* * * 

CONCLUSION
The conventional vending machine does offer limited options for vegans. The major re-occurring theme that I found to be most useful is to check every label, regardless if you think the product is 100% vegan. Companies change formulas and ingredients. If you're not sure about the product in question, contact the company for more information. 

* * * 


APPENDIX
1. Other Links and Resources:

PETA: Accidentally Vegan List

Hannaford Supermarket: Search products for ingredients

The Vegetarian Resource Group: Questions about food ingredients



2. Responses by Company
Cape Cod 

Kellogg Company

The Coca-Cola Company
Hershey

General Mills

Frito-Lay

Mars


Kraft Foods

Snyders of Hanover

5 comments:

  1. What in Chex Mix is NOT vegan? I always thought they were, and the label doesn't have anything I can discern...

    ReplyDelete
  2. The ingredients that made me flag it "Not vegan" was the Distilled Monoglycerides and the "Natural Flavor". Since General Mills did not give me a clear definition on what products were and were not vegan, I pegged it as a food I would avoid.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Wow, what an eye opener. I don't eat just about everything listed but if I needed something in a pinch I would not have realized how many things were not vegan. Great info. Loved how you put this together!

    ReplyDelete
  4. THANK YOU for compiling this list. I'm always curious about those ingredients I can't pronounce (which I'm trying to reduce, anyway), and this post is so detailed!

    Also, homemade Chex Mix is made with Worcestershire sauce, which contains anchovies. Maybe something like it is in the pre-made version.

    ReplyDelete

  5. Thanks for the good posting this information. I have read your article briefly.

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    ReplyDelete