Are Starburst Vegan and Cruelty-Free?

September 25, 2023

Identifying whether Starburst is vegan can be a complex task. 

This difficulty primarily stems from the fact that processed-food ingredients are often vague and complex, with murky or undisclosed production processes. And candy is one of the biggest offenders when it comes to this.

Fear not! This article will uncover the truth and support you in your vegan lifestyle.

Are Starburst Vegan?

After careful scrutiny, we can confirm that traditional Starburst candies, including Starburst Jelly Beans, Starburst Minis, and Starburst Gummies, are not vegan friendly.

The major ingredients in these candies that prevent them from being vegan are gelatin and confectioner’s glaze. Gelatin, often found in Starburst fruit chews, is derived from animal collagen, typically sourced from pigskin.

Similarly, confectioner’s glaze, a shiny coating used on the candies, is derived from insect secretions, specifically the lac insect.

Other contentious ingredients include natural and artificial flavors which could potentially be derived from non-vegan sources.

Is Starburst Candy Cruelty-Free?

Unfortunately, traditional Starburst candies are not cruelty-free. As mentioned earlier, they contain gelatin and confectioner’s glaze, both of which are sourced from animals. Gelatin involves the killing of animals, and the production of confectioner’s glaze can cause harm to the insects involved. Furthermore, while Starburst does not directly involve testing on animals, the sourcing and production of some of its ingredients, such as palm oil, contribute to deforestation and harm towards wildlife.

What Is Starburst Candy Made Of?

Before diving into the specifics of each ingredient, let’s have a look at the overall ingredients of Starburst candies:

  • Corn syrup
  • Sugar
  • Hydrogenated palm kernel oil
  • Fruit juice from concentrate (apple, strawberry, orange, cherry, and lemon)
  • Citric acid
  • Tapioca dextrin
  • Gelatin
  • Modified cornstarch
  • Natural and artificial flavors
  • Ascorbic acid (vitamin C)
  • Coloring (Red 40, Yellow 5, Yellow 6, Blue 1)

Corn Syrup

Corn syrup is a liquid sweetener made of glucose. It is derived from corn, making it vegan. It’s used to give Starburst candies their distinctive sweetness. However, this corn syrup is derived from genetically modified organisms, meaning it has been tested on animals.


Sugar is a sweetener that comes from sugarcane or sugar beets. It is vegan in its purest form, but it’s often filtered through various substances, one of which is animal bone char. We don’t consider sugar processed through bone char to be vegan.

Hydrogenated Palm Kernel Oil

This is a type of fat derived from the kernel of palm fruit. While technically vegan because it comes from a plant, it is often criticized for the negative environmental impacts associated with palm oil production, including deforestation and habitat destruction.

Fruit juice from concentrate (apple, strawberry, orange, cherry, and lemon)

Fruit juice concentrate is vegan because it comes from fruits.

Citric acid

Citric acid in food does not come from oranges, as you were probably thinking. It actually comes from fermented sugars and it’s often GMO, unless it’s organic or from a brand verified by the non-GMO project. However, it is vegan.

Tapioca Dextrin

This is a hydrolyzed starch made from tapioca. It is vegan.


Gelatin is a protein obtained by boiling skin, tendons, ligaments, and/or bones with water. It is usually obtained from cows or pigs, making it non-vegan. Gelatin is what gives Starburst candies their gummy, chewable texture.

Modified Cornstarch

Modified cornstarch is vegan because it comes from corn, but it is GMO.

Natural and Artificial Flavors

Natural flavors are obscure because they sometimes come from animals. The fact that this candy is fruit flavored, however, suggests the natural flavors are vegan. Artificial flavors are vegan, but they’re tested on animals.

Ascorbic Acid (Vitamin C)

Ascorbic acid is vitamin C in its purest form. It is vegan.

Coloring (Red 40, Yellow 5, Yellow 6, Blue 1)

Food coloring is synthetic, so it’s vegan, but it is routinely tested on animals. And Red 40 has links to neurobehavioral effects in children.

Vegan Alternatives to Starburst

Finding vegan candy can be a challenge, but there are many delicious and ethical alternatives to Starburst out there:


While traditional Starburst candies are a favorite for many, they do not align with a vegan or cruelty-free lifestyle due to the inclusion of ingredients like gelatin and food coloring, as well as GMOs.

However, this doesn’t mean you have to give up on fruity, chewy candies altogether.

There are plenty of vegan and cruelty-free alternative brands that you can choose, which not only taste great but also help the well-being of our planet and its inhabitants.