When you’ve embarked on the journey of vegan baking, crafting delicious treats without animal-derived ingredients becomes a creative challenge. You’ve mastered the art of substituting eggs and dairy, but one often overlooked ingredient might catch you by surprise: confectioner’s glaze. Is this seemingly innocuous component truly vegan-friendly? Let’s delve into the details to uncover the truth.
The Enigma of Confectioner’s Glaze
As you peruse the labels of various confectionery products in search of vegan-friendly options, you might notice the term “confectioner’s glaze” lurking among the ingredients. At first glance, it may not raise any red flags, but like some other food additives, confectioner’s glaze hides behind a more appetizing name.
Also known as resinous glaze, this common polishing ingredient finds its way into candy, chewing gum, chocolate, and even medicines. The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recognizes it as “generally recognized as safe” (GRAS) for consumption. Confectioner’s glaze is sometimes referred to by other names such as pharmaceutical glaze, pure food glaze, natural glaze, or confectioner’s resin, but it should not be confused with confectioner’s sugar glaze, an opaque substance made from powdered sugar or milk.
The secret behind this transparent, shiny coating lies in the excretions of the female lac bug. Yes, you read that correctly. Confectioner’s glaze is essentially the food-grade version of shellac resin, derived from the raw form of sticklac, the cocoon-like structure created by lac insects. Consequently, shellac and confectioner’s glaze are unequivocally non-vegan, and they may also fall outside the boundaries of vegetarianism.
Do Vegans Need Confectioner’s Glaze?
In most cases, confectioner’s glaze is used in commercial products that are ready for consumption. However, some home bakers might employ it to preserve and add shine to homemade candies or snack bars. But here’s the good news: there are alternatives for achieving an eye-catching gloss on your creations without resorting to non-vegan ingredients.
One such alternative is Flo Zein, a product from Flo Chemical Corp Company. Flo Zein offers vegan, plant-based coatings made from corn proteins. This zein glaze can be used to provide a shiny finish to your candies, all while adhering to your vegan principles.
The Historical Perspective
To truly understand why confectioner’s glaze isn’t vegan, it helps to delve into its history. Shellac, the precursor to confectioner’s glaze, boasts a history that spans over 3,000 years. Originally crafted in India and later traded throughout Asia, the term “lac” derives from the Sanskrit word “lakh,” which means 100,000. This may allude to the sheer number of lac insects required to produce one pound of shellac.
However, it’s essential to clarify that the insects are not killed explicitly for resin harvesting. Instead, they play a role in producing the resin and eventually perish during the process. Their offspring then continue the cycle by creating new resin nests, ensuring sustainability.
Over the centuries, shellac found its way into various applications, including dyes, adhesives, medicine, and even art. Marco Polo introduced shellac to Europe, where it gained fame for its use in painting and coating wooden furniture. However, its popularity waned with the advent of synthetic coatings like lacquers and polyurethane.
In the modern era, shellac experienced a resurgence as food-grade shellac, particularly in confectionery products. This transformation ultimately led to the creation of confectioner’s glaze.
The Composition and Uses of Confectioner’s Glaze
Confectioner’s glaze is a derivative of shellac resin that undergoes further processing to make it safe for use in food and drugs. It is typically an alcohol-based liquid that can be found in pharmacies, sometimes labeled as pharmaceutical glaze. The substance has an opaque, yellowish appearance reminiscent of honey, both in color and viscosity.
It is applied by dipping a brush into the glaze and smearing it on various materials, especially candies, to provide a clear, shiny finish. Additionally, it is used in non-edible decorations like plastic berries and fruits, acting as a gloss coat and protective layer to prevent spoilage and oxidation in food products.
In factories, candies are either dipped into the glaze or run through a glazing section to achieve their distinctive shine.
Ethical Considerations and Vegan Status
The key reason behind confectioner’s glaze’s non-vegan status lies in its origin. Derived from shellac, which is essentially bug excretion, it does not align with vegan principles. However, it’s essential to clarify that the insects used in shellac production are not intentionally killed for this purpose. They naturally produce the resin, and their life cycle involves perishing during the process.
Farmers typically ensure the next generation of lac insects can continue producing resin by transferring lac-infested branches to new trees. This process, known as lacbrood, involves minimal harm to the insects, as they leave the resin nests before harvesting.
While some vegans might argue that shellac farming isn’t a form of animal exploitation, others maintain that any product derived from animals, regardless of the method, should be avoided. The decision ultimately rests on personal beliefs and values.
Vegan Substitutes for Confectioner’s Glaze
Fortunately, for those seeking vegan alternatives, there are options available. One standout option is Zein, a protein extracted from corn. FloZein, produced by Flo Chemical Corp Company, offers a range of vegan-friendly glazes derived from Zein. These coatings are 100% plant-based, sustainable, digestible, and biodegradable. They come in various formulations designed for specific purposes, such as preserving nutritional bars and candies, all while providing a glossy finish.
The Bottom Line
In the world of veganism, confectioner’s glaze stands firmly in the non-vegan category. While some may argue that the process behind its production is not inherently harmful to insects, it remains a product derived from animals. Given the abundance of vegan-friendly alternatives, it’s advisable for vegans to steer clear of products containing confectioner’s glaze to maintain their commitment to animal-free living.
For those seeking ethical and plant-based solutions, FloZein’s range of vegan coatings offers a compelling and sustainable choice. As the world moves towards more conscious consumer choices, it’s essential to explore and embrace alternatives that align with our values.
To learn more about vegan-friendly options and make informed choices, visit the homepage of Crooked Beverage Co.