Are Airheads Vegan and Cruelty-Free?

August 12, 2023

In our world, deciphering whether a product is vegan can be an arduous task. 

This complexity often arises from manufacturers who cleverly disguise the nature and source of their ingredients. 

Fear not, dear reader, for this article is designed to demystify the matter, assisting you in your honorable vegan lifestyle.

Are Airheads Vegan?

Regrettably, the answer is no, Airheads are not considered vegan. The reasons for this are rooted in the ingredients used to produce these colorful, chewy candies.

Airheads, including the popular Airheads Bars, Airheads Bites, and Airheads Xtremes, contain ingredients like beeswax and shellac, which are not vegan friendly. 

Beeswax, made by bees to build their honeycombs, gives the candy its shiny appearance. Shellac is a resin secreted by the lac bug and is used to enhance the candy coating’s shine.

Another ingredient of concern is the refined sugar used in Airheads. Some refined sugar is processed using bone char, a substance made from the bones of animals. However, it’s hard to determine whether the sugar in Airheads has been processed this way, since the company sources their sugar from multiple places.

If that’s not enough for you, some of the flavors and products are colored with carmine, which is ground-up cochineal bugs. Yum! Not.

Airheads are not vegan.

Are Airheads Cruelty-Free?

Nope. Airheads are not cruelty-free because they contain products that are tested on animals. 

While the company doesn’t test its products on animals itself, it does use artificial colors — Red 40, Yellow 6, Blue 1, and Yellow 5 — that are tested on animals by requirement of the FDA. 

Therefore, we can’t say Airheads are cruelty-free.

What Are Airheads Made Of?

Before we get into the specifics, here’s a rundown of the ingredients you’ll find in Airheads:

  • Sugar
  • Glucose syrup
  • Maltodextrin
  • Dextrose
  • Hydrogenated coconut oil
  • Citric acid
  • Modified cornstarch
  • Modified potato starch
  • Sorbitol
  • Artificial flavors
  • Glycerine
  • Rice starch
  • Carnauba wax
  • Beeswax
  • Shellac
  • Gellan gum
  • Sucrose esters
  • Food coloring

Let’s examine each ingredient in more detail:


A common sweetener used in many foods. It can be derived from various sources like sugar cane or sugar beet. The vegan status of sugar can be controversial due to the potential use of bone char in the refining process.

Glucose Syrup

A sweetening agent often derived from corn. This ingredient is vegan.


A type of sugar usually derived from corn, rice, potato starch, or wheat. This ingredient is typically vegan.


A type of sugar that comes from starchy plants like corn. It is vegan.

Hydrogenated Coconut Oil 

This is coconut oil that has been processed to stay solid at room temperature. It is vegan.

Citric Acid 

This is a natural preservative that can be found in citrus fruits. It is vegan.

Modified Cornstarch & Modified Potato Starch: 

These are thickening agents derived from corn and potatoes, respectively. Both are vegan.


This is a type of sweetener that comes from fruits, corn, and seaweed. It is vegan.

Artificial Flavors 

These are chemically created flavors. Their vegan status can be unclear without information on how they were produced.


A sweetening agent and preservative. It can be derived from animal or vegetable sources, so its vegan status can be ambiguous without further information.

Rice Starch

This is a thickening agent derived from rice. It is vegan.

Carnauba Wax

This is a type of wax derived from the leaves of the carnauba palm. It is vegan.


Beeswax is made by bees and is used in Airheads as a glazing agent to give the candy a shiny appearance. Since it’s an animal-derived product, it is not vegan.


This ingredient, used to make the candy coating shine, is a resin that comes from the lac bug. As it is an animal product, shellac is not vegan.

Gellan Gum

This is a thickening agent used in foods and is produced by bacteria. It is vegan.

Sucrose Esters 

These are emulsifiers derived from sugar and fatty acids. The source of the fatty acids can be either plant or animal, making the vegan status unclear without further information.

Food Coloring

It’s not clear if every single product that bears the Airheads name contains food coloring. Those that have carmine are definitely not vegan because it’s made of cochineal bugs. Synthetic food coloring, on the other hand, is tested on animals.

Vegan Alternatives to Airheads

If your sweet tooth is aching for a vegan-friendly substitute, don’t worry! There are several alternatives to Airheads candy that align with a vegan lifestyle. Here are a few options:


In conclusion, while Airheads are a popular choice for many candy lovers, they are not suitable for those adhering to a vegan lifestyle due to the presence of non-vegan ingredients like beeswax and shellac. 

Furthermore, the use of artificial colors tested on animals prevents the product from being considered cruelty-free. Fortunately, there are several delicious and ethical alternatives to satisfy your sweet cravings. 

Remember, every small step towards a more conscious consumption pattern, including choosing ethically conscious brands, makes a significant difference in protecting our planet and its inhabitants. Stay sweet, stay compassionate, and continue your journey towards a more vegan-friendly world.