The Vegetarian Resource Group Blog

Stearic Acid in Life Savers® Mints Derived from Tallow, Lard

Posted on November 18, 2015 by The VRG Blog Editor

By Jeanne Yacoubou, MS


Throughout The Vegetarian Resource Group’s recent investigations on calcium and magnesium stearate and stearic acid from May until November 2015, information emerged that was very different from what was known to be true many years ago. Many ingredient manufacturers and suppliers as well as many different types of food companies told us that their food grade stearates and stearic acid were vegetable-derived, mostly coming from palm or coconut oils or corn rather than tallow or lard, which was more common twenty or more years ago.

Although a few food grade tallow-derived stearates and stearic acid were located on the market as raw ingredients, they weren’t appearing on ingredient labels of foods that we had been researching. A few ingredient company employees who would not divulge their clients’ identities told us that customers may purchase food grade products (of plant or animal origin) but use them in non-food items such as personal care products.

In fact, one ingredient supplier told us that the only difference between food grade and non-food grade ingredients has to do with where the ingredients are measured out and bagged. Food grade ingredients are handled in cleaner “white rooms” under more rigorous standards and quality controls while non-food grade ingredients are measured out in warehouses.

Google® Images of ingredient labels turned up very few foods listing stearic acid as an ingredient; in fact it took manipulating the search term wording a few times to reveal a handful of stearic acid-containing mints among thousands of labels that we reviewed. One of them was Wrigley’s® Life Savers®.

A Wrigley customer service representative told The VRG by email and phone in August 2015 that the Pep O Mint®, Spear O Mint® and Wint O Mint® Life Savers varieties contain stearic acid which “…is an animal-based ingredient.”
Wrigley’s corporate affairs office confirmed to us by email that their “stearic acid is sourced from both beef and pork.”

Taste or Texture Factor?

The VRG contacted Wrigley’s corporate affairs office by phone for more information. We received a return phone call and several follow up email responses:

I am following up on your inquiry to Wrigley regarding stearic acid in Life Savers mints…

While most Wrigley products sold in the U.S. do not contain animal-derived ingredients, we do use [animal-derived] stearic acid in Life Savers Spear O Mint, Pep-O-Mint and Wint-O-Green sugar mints, which is included in the ingredient line label. The ingredients in our products are necessary to achieve the right taste and texture. We are continually looking at alternatives to animal-derived ingredients that can deliver the same quality that our consumers love. – On behalf of Wrigley Corporate Affairs

Price Factor?

Possibly price could be the reason why a company would choose tallow or lard as a stearic acid source rather than palm, coconut or corn oil.

So we asked stearic acid suppliers if there was a large difference in price. For example, Acme-Hardesty® provided a price quote on one ton of food grade tallow-derived and one ton of food grade plant oil-derived stearic acid (70% or higher) in flake form:

The pricing on triple-pressed stearic acid tallow- vs. vegetable-based is 0.82 vs 0.89/lb. respectively…
An employee of Silver Fern Chemical® added that the price of animal- and plant-derived stearic acid fluctuates depending on supply and demand; animal-based could be slightly lower in price than plant-based at one time but more expensive at another time. Speaking of powdered stearic acid she said that

…plant-derived is generally higher, but sometimes it’s tallow; plant is usually 10 cents per lb. higher.

Wondering if a 7-10 cents/lb. difference for one ingredient could make a significant difference to the profit margin of a large company and if the taste difference would be noticeable, The VRG asked for the opinion of a certified food scientist with over ten years of experience in the food industry who stated:

I don’t think there would be a significant difference in taste/texture from a plant-based vs. a tallow-based version. But believe it or not, 7 cents extra per pound can be an issue, especially for a major company that mass produces in volume such as Wrigley’s.

The other thing to consider is supply chain. There may not be enough available, maybe not enough to sustain growth, maybe minimum production runs are larger, maybe they require a clean-out stage making the ordering lead-time longer. There are a lot of factors involved in supply chain that may be the biggest hurdle.

Bottom line is there is most likely a good substitution available, and if they had consumer interest to make it work – they could probably make it happen I think.

NOTE: By comparison, Wrigley’s Altoids Smalls® and Altoids Arctic® contain magnesium stearate. The “stearate” part of this magnesium stearate used in these products is (from a company email to us), sourced from “stearic acid derived from palm oil.”


Apart from three Wrigley’s Lifesavers flavors it is possible that other products contain animal-derived stearic acid although we find it unlikely based on our research. Look for an upcoming article by VRG on approximately 40 mint brands.

If you discover any other products containing stearic acid derived from animal fat (tallow or lard) please email us at Your information will be an important contribution to The VRG’s database on food ingredient source trends.

The contents of this posting, our website and our other publications, including Vegetarian Journal, are not intended to provide personal medical advice. Medical advice should be obtained from a qualified health professional. We often depend on product and ingredient information from company statements. It is impossible to be 100% sure about a statement, info can change, people have different views, and mistakes can be made. Please use your best judgment about whether a product is suitable for you. To be sure, do further research or confirmation on your own.

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