Are Starburst Vegan? (6 Best Alternatives)

Christiana Mikesch, CPT
Published by Christiana Mikesch, CPT | Senior Coach
Last updated: January 26, 2024
FACT CHECKED by Dr. Kristy Dayanan, BS, MD
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As a certified personal trainer, I've learned the importance of understanding what goes into our bodies, especially when it comes to the treats we loved as kids.

Coming in varieties of different colors, Starburst products are bursting with sugary sweet goodness in every piece. You could even say that they “taste like the rainbow” (sorry, Skittles).

But while our childhood memories may never change, our taste buds and dietary habits certainly will.

That’s why today we’re turning to our expertise to answer the question of “are Starburst vegan?” and reveal a tidbit of information that just might result in a change of taste.

Quick Summary

  • Starburst candies are not vegan as they contain gelatin, an animal-derived ingredient, making them unsuitable for a vegan diet.
  • The article provides a detailed list of ingredients in Starburst and explores vegan-friendly alternatives to these popular candies.
  • According to an NCBI study by Inoue et al., a 56-day intake of 10 mg collagen dipeptides significantly improved skin moisture, elasticity, wrinkles, and roughness.
  • Personally, I believe exploring vegan alternatives to popular candies like Starburst is a positive step toward inclusive and ethical food choices.

Are Starburst Minis Vegan?

A starburst candy unwrapped

No, Starburst Minis is not vegan. However, to answer this question more comprehensively and to the point, we turn to the ingredients list:

INGREDIENT LIST: Corn Syrup, Sugar, Hydrogenated Palm Kernel Oil, Fruit Juice from Concentrate (Apple, Lemon, Strawberry, Orange, Cherry), Less than 2% Citric Acid, Tapioca Dextrin, Gelatin, Modified Corn Starch, Natural and Artificial Flavors, Ascorbic Acid (Vitamin C), Coloring (Red 40, Yellow 5, Yellow 6, Blue 1).

From my personal experience as a certified personal trainer, I've learned to scrutinize ingredient lists closely. When looking at Starburst, it's clear they are not vegan, as their ingredients list, which I've examined many times for clients, includes gelatin, a common non-vegan ingredient

Unfortunately, the ingredient is also known as collagen, which is made up of an assortment of animal products like tendons, ligaments, and bone char. This means Starburst candies are not fit as vegan candy.

According to one of the studies from the National Center for Biotechnology Information website, collagen dipeptides that were taken over 56 days in a study by Inoue et al. also resulted in significantly more improvement in skin moisture, elasticity, wrinkles, and roughness for the subjects that received 10 mg per day [1].

According to a report by Future Market Insights, the global vegan confectionery market is projected to grow from US$ 1,377.7 million in 2024 to US$ 3,327.8 million by 2034, at a CAGR of 7.3%. This significant growth reflects the increasing consumer demand for plant-based and ethical food choices [2].

Also Read:

How Is It Made?

Close up view of a factory making starbursts

As someone who enjoys experimenting with homemade alternatives, I've explored making vegan-friendly Starburst-like candies. The process, similar to how other taffy candies are made, involves a few simple steps that I've tried and tested in my own kitchen.

Here’s the simple 3-step breakdown:

  1. The ingredients that make up Starburst are mixed in a large vat until everything is blended correctly together.
  2. From there, the mixture is stretched and pulled. This allows air bubbles to enter the mix and aerate it, making Starburst candy chewy.
  3. Lastly, the fruit chews mixture is allowed to cool, separated into cubes, and wrapped up in plastic to be shipped to your local supermarket.

All this is done in a factory via robots precisely calibrated to handle these procedures. Produced by Wrigley Company, Mars Incorporated, Starburst is a brand of taffy candy fruit chews with an explosion of flavors.

It comes in various flavorings, which you’re probably familiar with. Original Starburst natural flavors include strawberry, lemon, orange, and my personal favorite - cherry. They also come in tropical flavors for those looking for a more fruitful and exotic taste.

According to another study from the National Center for Biotechnology Information website, the characteristic flavor of exotic tropical fruits is one of their most attractive attributes to consumers [3].

"Just because it has the term ‘vegan’ slapped on the label does not necessarily mean it is healthy. There are also many types of mainstream candies that are accidentally vegan but still ultra-processed and full of sugar. Any type of candy—whether vegan or not—will be high in sugar and should be enjoyed in moderation."

- Blair Persyn, MS, RDN, LDN, CNSC, a leading nutritionist

6 Best Vegan Alternatives

Close up image of a jelly beans

In my journey towards a more plant-based diet, I've found that Starburst jelly beans, chews, and minis, which contain animal-based ingredients, are not suitable for vegans. This realization led me to seek out alternative vegan-friendly candies.

However, that doesn’t mean all candies are off the menu - there are other brands of candy that are vegan friendly and safe for vegan consumption.

Let’s take a look at the ingredient lists of alternative vegan candy products to Starbursts.

1. Airheads

A pack of unopened airheads

Ingredients: Sugar, Corn Syrup, Maltodextrin, Dextrose, Modified Food Starch (Corn), Partially Hydrogenated Soybean Oil. Contains less than 2% of: Water, Citric Acid, Artificial Flavors, Blue 1, Red 40, Yellow 5, Yellow 6.

For intellectuals and dunces alike, Airheads offer a taffy-like texture similar to Starburst.

The difference comes down to their ingredients; Airheads do not contain gelatin and, as a result, are fit for vegan consumption.

The same cannot be said for their soft-filled bites, however, which are not vegan.

2. Twizzlers

Ingredients: Corn-based Syrup, Wheat Flour, Sugar, Cornstarch, Palm Oil, Salt, Artificial Flavor, Glycerin, Citric Acid, Potassium Sorbate, Red 40, Soy Lecithin.

What’s twisted, chewy, and has the potential to be made into a makeshift straw?

When you’re not playing around with these bendy strawberry-filled licorice sticks, you'll be glad to know that Twizzlers are vegan as they do not contain gelatin or animal testing byproducts.

Even though they are vegan, individuals with gluten allergies should stay away from Twizzlers, as it does contain wheat.

3. Jolly Ranchers

A jolly rancher packaging

Ingredients: Corn Syrup; Sugar; Contains 2% Or Less Of: Malic Acid; Natural And Artificial Flavors; Artificial Color [Red 40; Yellow 5; Blue 1; Yellow 6]; Mineral Oil; Lecithin (Soy).

Producing hard candies, lollipops, jelly beans, and more comes one of America’s favorite candy brands known as Jolly Rancher.

This Starburst alternative contains no gelatin in their original Jolly Ranchers, lollipops, and jelly beans, giving vegans another option when it comes to satisfying that sweet tooth.

However, other products like their gummies and soft chews are quite the opposite and should be avoided.

Additionally, their Jolly Rancher Sour Bites contain lactic acid, which can be derived from dairy milk. Just one more ingredient for vegan-consciousness individuals to be aware of when looking at the label.

4. Skittles

Ingredients: Sugar, Corn Syrup, Citric Acid, Concentrated Fruit Juice, Hydrogenated Palm Oil; Less than 2% of: Tapioca Dextrin, Modified Corn Starch, Natural and Synthetic Flavors, Colors (Red 40 Lake, Blue 1 Lake, Blue 2 Lake, Yellow 5 Lake, Yellow 6 Lake, Red 40, Blue 1, Yellow 6, Titanium Dioxide), Sodium Citrate, Carnauba Wax.

Feel the rainbow; taste the rainbow.

Unlike the pun earlier that stole this trademarked slogan, Skittles candy does not succumb to the same outcome that Starburst does.

This means vegans can rejoice in tasting the fruitful colors of the sky without worrying about violating their dietary habits.

5. Dots

Dots candy

Ingredients: Corn Syrup, Sugar, Food Starch-modified, Malic Acid, Natural And Artificial Flavors, Sodium Citrate, Artificial Colors.

With more than 4 billion Dots produced each year, these uniquely shaped gumdrops can be found in stores and households worldwide.

There’s no gelatin or gluten trace to be found, making them another great vegan option. Additionally, they’re also a kosher and peanut-free product.

Who knew Dots could appeal to such a broad audience?

6. Sour Patch Kids

Ingredients: Sugar, Inverted Sugar, Corn Syrup, Modified Corn Starch, Tartaric Acid, Citric Acid, Natural and Artificial Flavor, Yellow 6, Red 40, Yellow 5, Blue 1.

With no gelatin in these sweet and sour candies, they’re yet another enjoyable vegan option. However, don’t be fooled into thinking any candy that contains gelatin is non-vegan.

Some Sour Patch Kids candies contain gelatin but are still considered vegan friendly!

How is this possible? Instead of using traditional gelatin derived from animals, this type of gelatin is known as agar.

Agar is derived from algae (which is a plant), making Sour Patch Kids a vegan friendly product regardless of whether it contains gelatin or not.

So don’t feel disappointed if your favorite candy brand contains gelatin.

After all, if plant-based meats can be made to look and taste like the real thing, who says you can’t do the same thing when it comes to candy?

FAQs

What Kind of Gelatin Is in Starburst?

The types of gelatin found in Starburst candy are beef and pork.

Is there dairy in Starburst?

No, Starburst does not contain dairy or any gluten. While Starburst may not be vegan friendly, it is safe for those that suffer from these types of allergies.

Also read: Is there dairy in Krispy Kreme Donuts?

Are Starburst Jelly Beans Vegan?

Starburst Jelly Beans are not vegan. The same type of animal-based gelatin is used for Starburst gummies, Starburst minis, and Starburst jelly beans.

How Have Starburst Ingredients Evolved Historically in Terms of Vegan-Friendliness?

Over the years, Starburst ingredients have undergone changes, some of which have impacted their suitability for vegans. Initially, certain animal-derived ingredients were used, but recent shifts towards more plant-based options reflect changing consumer preferences and dietary trends.

Are There Regional Variations in Starburst Ingredients That Affect Their Vegan Status?

Yes, Starburst ingredients vary regionally, affecting their vegan status in different countries. For instance, the U.S. version may contain non-vegan ingredients like gelatin, while versions in other countries might not, making them suitable for vegans.

What Impact Do Non-Vegan Ingredients in Starburst Have on Allergies and Intolerances?

Non-vegan ingredients in Starburst, such as gelatin, can pose risks for individuals with specific allergies or intolerances. Consumers need to be aware of these ingredients, as they can trigger allergic reactions or digestive issues in sensitive individuals.

What Are the Environmental and Ethical Implications of Using Non-Vegan Ingredients in Starburst?

The use of non-vegan ingredients like gelatin and palm oil in Starburst raises environmental and ethical concerns. Gelatin production is linked to the meat industry, while palm oil cultivation can lead to deforestation and habitat loss, highlighting the need for more sustainable practices.

Can You Make Vegan Starburst Alternatives at Home?

Yes, it's possible to create vegan Starburst alternatives at home using natural and plant-based ingredients. These DIY recipes can be a fun and healthier way to enjoy similar flavors without the ethical and dietary concerns associated with the original product.


References:

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6835901/
  2. https://www.futuremarketinsights.com/reports/vegan-confectionery-market
  3. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22591343/
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About The Author

Christiana Mikesch, CPT
Senior Coach
Christiana Mikesch, CPT is a personal trainer and author with contributions to publications like the Chicago Tribune and Yahoo. She emphasizes a holistic approach to weight loss, combining an energy-fueling diet, goal-oriented workouts, and daily habits. Her approach avoids short-term goals and fosters a lifelong commitment to health and well-being.
Learn more about our editorial policy
Dr. Kristy June Dayanan, BS, MD is an author with a BS degree from University of the Philippines and an MD from University of Perpetual Help System. Her ability to simplify medical science complexities and dietary supplement jargon for the average reader makes her a valued medical fact checker and reviewer.
Learn more about our editorial policy
Dr. Harshi Dhingra, MBBS, MD is a published peer-reviewed author and renowned physician from India with over a decade of experience. With her MBBS from Bharati Vidyapeeth and an MD from Rajiv Gandhi University, she actively ensures the accuracy of online dietary supplement and medical information by reviewing and fact-checking health publications.
Learn more about our editorial policy

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