Starburst Released Its First Vegan Candy In The United States

variety of colored starbursts

Starburst released its first vegan, gelatin-free gummy candy in the US in 2021. The Plant Based Original Gummies come in a mixed package with four iconic flavors: Strawberry, Cherry, Orange, and Lemon. The product is a vegan version of the company’s existing Starburst Gummies range, which contains gelatin and therefore is not vegan.

Starburst has innovated its gummy candies in other ways as well, in addition to the new plant-based range. Starburst introduced its Airs Gummies collection in the summer of 2021, which reimagines gummy candy by aerating it for a fluffier feel. The non-vegan Starburst Airs Gummy line debuted in select grocers in the fall of 2022 in Original and Sour Tropical flavors.

Are Starbursts Vegan-Friendly?

Because animal-derived components such as confectioner’s glaze (produced from lac beetle secretions) and gelatin (an ingredient sourced from collagen found in animal bones) are used in most Starburst candies,  they are not vegan. However, in some countries, like the United Kingdom, Starburst fruit chews are prepared without gelatin.

Vegan Starburst knockoffs are already on the market, despite Mars Wrigley’s recent entry into the plant-based candy business in the United States. Smart Sweets, a woman-owned confectionery company, introduced Starburst-style candy chews in mango, strawberry, and watermelon flavors last year. Smart Sweets’ version, unlike Starburst’s, is created from pectin, a fruit-derived substance that has similar qualities to gelatin but without the animal suffering. Smart Sweets plant-based chews are sweetened with monk fruit to cut down on added sugar. While some of Smart Sweets’ sweets use gelatin, the company also sells plant-based treats like Sweet Fish, Sour Blast Buddies, and Peach Rings.

Candy Goes Vegan

In recent years, some of the largest names in confectionery, including Cadbury, Lindt, and Nestlé, have entered the lucrative vegan candy business. In time for Veganuary 2020, Mars debuted their first vegan milk chocolate Galaxy range in the United Kingdom. The company spent six months perfecting its vegan milk chocolate, which is produced with hazelnut paste and rice syrup rather than dairy milk. Nestlé entered the vegan candy market in the summer of 2021 with the release of KitKat V in the United Kingdom, Europe, Australia, and portions of South America. The KitKat V, which was conceived in KitKat’s birthplace of York, England, has yet to be seen in the United States because the brand is licensed and manufactured by The Hershey Company here.

However, with the limited debut of its Oat Made brand in the United States, Hershey is currently testing its vegan chocolate bars. Classic Dark and Extra Creamy Almond & Sea Salt, two vegan flavors from the new line, were available in a real-time marketing test at shops like Target until June 2022.

Outside of the chocolate category, Starburst’s new plant-based range will compete with Jelly Belly’s comparable gummy line, which debuted last year. While Jelly Belly’s main line of jelly beans is not vegan due to the use of beeswax and confectioner’s glaze, the company’s new vegan gummy line is free of gelatin and comes in packs of five diverse flavors: Apple, Berry, Lemon, Orange, and Very Cherry.




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