Starburst: the square-shaped, fruit-flavored, chewy candy of your childhood. Owned by Mars, Incorporated, Starbursts have been a candy-lover favorite for decades. If you're plant-based or can't have dairy, fruity candy is usually a safe bet, but many check-out aisle candies have long ingredient lists. Most chocolate sold in this section contains milk or milk products, and even some dairy- and egg-free candies contain animal products. There are many animal product-derived colors, preservatives, and texture agents, making many products that seem vegan-friendly upon first glance not vegan friendly. This begs the question: are Starburst vegan? I asked Mars to find out.

Starburst Ingredients

candy, sweet, chocolate, Starburst
Caroline Ingalls

If you flip over a package of Starburst, you'll find an ingredient list. After corn syrup, sugar, hydrogenated palm kernel oil, fruit juice from concentrate (apple, lemon, strawberry, orange, cherry), citric acid, and dextrin, you find GELATIN printed on the list.

Gelatin is a mixture of proteins and peptides derived from the bones, connective tissues, and skin of animal products, most often beef, pigs, chicken, and fish. Since gelatin is an animal-derived product, Sarburst cannot be considered strictly vegan. In fact, some might not even consider them vegetarian.

So, are Starbust Vegan?

cake, candy, rose, sweet
Carmina Valdez

To triple check myself for accuracy, I contacted Wringley Consumer Affairs (the makers of Starburst), inquiring if Starburst are vegan. The candy company politely responded with all ample information, informing me that gelatin produced from beef was used in all Starburst Fruit Chew varieties. 

The representative informed me that while their team is continuously looking for alternatives to animal-derived ingredients, they have not yet found one sufficient that meets the same quality standards. The agent also noted that gelatin was removed from all Skittles products in 2009, indicating an animal-free alternative.

The Moral of the Starburst Story

Although Starburst are not vegan, there are many vegan candies on the market, including many gelatin-free fruity chewy candy alternatives (check out Trader Joe's Scandinavian Swimmers and thank me later). Perhaps one day Wrigley will remove gelatin from more of their candies, but until that happens I'll stick to dark chocolate.