Are Starburst Candies Vegan? Here’s What I Found Out

Starburst is a candy you serve at parties and see getting devoured instantly. People typically associate Starburst with children, but it’s actually very addicting for people of all ages, including full-grown men like me.

One of the most asked questions on the internet nowadays is “Is XYZ product vegan?“.

Therefore, it’s not unusual to see people who’ve recently gone vegan type this question down on a keyboard to find out whether Starburst candy is suitable for vegans.

Unfortunately, if you live in the United States, I’m sorry for blowing it up for you but the Starburst candy sold there is not vegan. However, if you live in the United Kingdom, you can find vegan Starburst candy available. 

If you wish to know why that’s the case, continue reading this article. 


What is Starburst?

Starburst is the name of a box-shaped, fruit-flavored soft taffy candy manufactured by The Wrigley Company, a subsidiary of Mars, Incorporated. Starburst is available as candy corn, popsicles, gum, candy canes, jelly beans, and even lip gloss.

Classic Starburst candies and Starburst jelly beans are available in many flavors. These flavors include orange, lemon, cherry, strawberry, as well as exotic flavors like pina colada.

The ingredients in both Starburst candies and jelly beans are identical:

  • Fruit juice from concentrate (apple, cherry, orange, etc)
  • Corn syrup
  • Sugar
  • Palm oil
  • Artificial flavors
  • Artificial colors (usually red 40, yellow 5, yellow 6, blue 1)

Depending on the flavor and where the candy is made and sold, you might have slightly different ingredients. If the Starburst recipe only included the ingredients above, technically, it would be vegan.

However, some Starburst candies contain gelatin.

So, Is Starburst Candy Vegan?

Classic Starburst candies made in the United States are not vegan.

In the United States, Starburst candy contains gelatin — a protein obtained from boiling the skin, tendons, ligaments, and/or bones of cows and pigs.

However, Starburst candy manufactured in the United Kingdom does not have gelatin, which, technically, makes it vegan. However, it’s always wise to check the ingredients before you buy it because the UK stores may actually import the US-based Starburst product. So keep an eye on that. 

As far as Starburst Jelly Beans are concerned, they don’t have gelatin. What they have is an ingredient called confectioner’s glaze —  a substance that provides them with a shiny outside layer. The problem is that it’s made from shellac, which is a resin secreted by the female lac bug on trees in the forests of countries like India and Thailand.

Therefore, no, Starburst’s Jelly Beans are not suitable for vegans.

kerria lacca
Lac tubes created by lac insects.

But then again, always be sure to check the ingredient label.

Now, this might seem surprising, but among the ingredients I’ve mentioned, there are a few questionable ones – sugar, palm oil, artificial flavors, and artificial colors may be “technically” considered vegan, but there’s a deeper issue at play with each one. Vegans with a more strict perspective may avoid them.


In some countries (including the United States), bone char is still used within the refinement process. In fact, bone char is what you get after heating the bones of cattle at high temperatures. It is a black powder sugar companies use to filter and bleach sugar, giving it its predominantly white, pristine color.

However, that’s not the case for every single sugar company. Sometimes, granular activated charcoal is used to achieve the same result. And guess what, it doesn’t require the sacrifice of animals.

It’s also important to mention that bone char is only used on sugar extracted from sugarcane.

Another common source of sugar is sugar beets, which do not follow the same process. In fact, sugar from sugar beets goes through a diffuser and is mixed with additives in order to crystalize.

bones and people

Curiously, both types of sugar are used in similar amounts in the United States, which means you never know which type of sugar was used in a product because it’s not labeled, anyway. 

If you’re determined about discovering whether the sugar is vegan, my advice would be for you to contact the company or manufacturer, as they might provide you with a more accurate answer. 

But let me point out that it’s common practice for companies to source their sugar from different sugar suppliers, including ones that use bone char, so you will certainly have products that contain both sugars. 

In Europe they do not process the sugar with bone char, so if you live in the UK but are on the fence about eating products with refined sugar, you can eat them without a problem. 

Palm Oil

As we all know, the palm oil industry has revealed to have incited some serious damage to both the eco-systems and respective wildlife.

In order to meet the monstrous demand, conventional palm oil farming methods are applied on a large scale, which destroys rainforests and animal lives.

Several animal species lose their lives because they’re unable to adapt to an environment that is no longer their own, and they’re also by poachers as a result. 

One popular victim of that habitat destruction is the orangutang. 

Technically, the palm fruit is vegan, but its consumption is leading to an incredible amount of carnage. So, should we really endorse it or keep consuming it?

I don’t have answer to this question because it comes down to each one’s personal responsibility, but I feel like we should at least attempt to reduce its consumption. 

Artificial Colors

Artificial colors can be found in many foods, including sodas and sweets. Sadly, although artificial colors are synthetic (and technically suitable for vegans), they have an extensive background of animal testing, where animals often go through excruciating pain before perishing.

This is a rather tricky subject because some argue that animal testing is a necessary evil because it exists to guarantee the safety of man-made ingredients. 

I found some sources suggesting that these tests only happen rarely, but they’re actually more frequent than what I initially believed – in fact, you can see tests conducted in 2017 and 2018. 

Artificial colors are substances that are linked to controversial health effects, which is perhaps why health authorities insist on regularly conducting testing. Unfortunately, this occurs at the expense of us having to torture and kill animals. 

Should You Support Mars, Incorporated?

As I’ve mentioned earlier, the Wrigley Company is a subsidiary of the Mars company. As we know, both are companies that make a profit by selling dairy products. This means they’re active contributors to a polluting and destructive industry that is cruel to animals.

That’s why it’s not unusual for some vegans to boycott these companies and also completely cease the consumption of their “accidentally” vegan products.

I mean, it makes sense. Why would you buy from a company that will reinvest that profit into creating non-vegan products?

Well, there are diverging opinions, but a person who believes we should keep consuming vegan products from non-vegan companies is Gary Yourofsky — which is actually the first person I saw giving a pro-vegan speech.

Perhaps Gary is right, given how the Mars company is launching a vegan galaxy bar.

Alternatives to Starburst

We’re aware that Starburst candies have a few questionable ingredients, besides the fact Starburst manufactured in the US contains gelatin, an animal-based ingredient.

Therefore, if you’re not too keen about consuming shady ingredients, or you’re in the US where the Starburst candies have gelatin — I believe it’s only appropriate to give you some alternatives to chew on.

Here are some options I’ve found:

Despite the use of organic ingredients in the recipe, these were actually the most affordable, and most sustainable Starburst alternatives I’ve found.

Both with a respectful number of positive reviews.

If You Don’t Like Them, You Can Always Make Your Own!

While it may not give you the same nostalgic feeling as reaching for a pack of Starburst candies does, you can indeed make your version at home. In fact, the author of the recipe I’m about to share assures you that making the candies is easier than it looks.

Plus, it only takes 10 minutes to prepare.

If you’re interested in the recipe, visit for a 100% vegan and homemade Starburst recipe!


Starburst candies made and sold in the United States contain gelatin, which is not vegan, but Starburst candies manufactured in the UK do not have gelatin, so they are vegan.

However, keep in mind that Starburst candies have a few other ingredients that some vegans might be against.

If you’re against the sugar that is filtered with bone char, the carnage caused by palm oil farming, or the collateral damage caused by testing artificial colors, then I’m afraid that the Starburst candies are not for you. 

*I have not yet confirmed whether they use sugar filtered with bone char.

This post contains affiliate links, which means I may receive a small commission, at no additional cost to you, if you purchase through these links. See my full disclosure here.

Alexandre Valente

Hey there! My name is Alex and I've been vegan for more than five years! I've set up this blog because I'm really passionate about veganism and living a more eco-conscious life. Hopefully, I can use this website as a channel to help you out on your own journey!

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