Are Starburst Jelly Beans vegan? Jelly beans are a classic holiday candy (especially for Easter) that many vegans and vegetarians might assume are free of animal products. They clearly don't contain dairy like many chocolate candies do so they appear to be "safe". But are Starburst Jelly Beans vegan? You might be surprised to learn that unfortunately they are not vegan. But it's not the usual offenders - beeswax and gelatin. Confectioner's glaze is the problematic ingredient.
Starburst Jelly Beans Ingredients
Starburst Jelly Beans come in the following flavors: cherry, orange, strawberry, lemon, green apple and grape. They are mainly made of white sugar and corn syrup but do have several other controversial ingredients. At first glance, these jelly beans appear to be made of vegan ingredients. According to Martin's Foods, Starburst Jelly Beans contain the following:
Ingredient List: Sugar, Corn Syrup, Modified Corn Starch: Less Than 2% Of: Citric Acid, Acacia, Apple Juice From Concentrate, Natural And Artificial Flavors, Sodium Citrate, Mineral Oil, Carnauba Wax, Artificial Colors (Yellow 5, Red 40, Yellow 6, Blue 1, Titanium Dioxide), Confectioner's Glaze.
But it's the confectioner's glaze that's keeping these jelly beans from being labeled vegan. Using the name "confectioner's glaze" is extremely misleading as it implies it's related to confectioner's sugar. Unfortunately, it's not.
But what is confectioner's glaze and why isn't it vegan? According to tasteforlife.com, "Confectioner's glaze, also known as pharmaceutical glaze, is used by numerous candy companies to add a shiny, smooth finish on their products. It's made using shellac, but shellac is made of bug secretions" from the lac bug. It's a lot more appetizing for a company to list confectioner's glaze instead of lac bug secretions. Want to learn more about confectioner's glaze? Click HERE to read more about it.
While most jelly bean brands do not contain gelatin, some do. What makes gelatin a non-vegan ingredient? According to What is Gelatin Made Of? from peta.org, "Gelatin is a protein obtained by boiling skin, tendons, ligaments, and/or bones with water. It is usually obtained from cows or pigs. Gelatin is used in shampoos, face masks, and other cosmetics; as a thickener for fruit gelatins and puddings (such as Jell-O); in candies, marshmallows, cakes, ice cream, and yogurts; on photographic film; and in vitamins as a coating and as capsules, and it is sometimes used to assist in “clearing” wines. Gelatin is not vegan."
It is definitely an ingredient that all vegans and vegetarians need to stay away from. Gummy candies like gummy bears frequently contain it. Note: Sour Patch Kids are the rare gummy candy that doesn't contain gelatin and is vegan!
The name "beeswax" gives us a hint that it's an animal product. But what actually is beeswax and how is it made? According to Is it OK to Eat Honey, Royal Jelly and Bee Pollen from peta.org, "When the temperature inside a beehive is just right, worker bees “sweat” out a wax from the crevices between sections of their abdomens. The bees then chew this secretion, mixing it with pollen, tinting the once-clear substance into an opaque substance called beeswax. It’s sometimes used as a coating for pills, in candles, in lip balm, and in scores of other weird applications." If something contains beeswax, it is not a vegan food. A common substitute for beeswax is carnauba wax and it is vegan!
One last note on ingredients. Some vegans stay away from "natural flavorings" which commonly appears on an ingredients list. The reason is that some vegans believe that companies are hiding flavors derived from animal products under that umbrella term. Make sure you choose products labeled "vegan" if you are concerned. Then you can be sure it fits in with your vegan lifestyle.
Is Sugar Vegan?
While sugar comes from sugar cane, which is a natural plant, the production process of some brands of white sugar uses bone char. According to Peta.org, "Bone char—often referred to as natural carbon—is widely used by the sugar industry as a decolorizing filter, which allows the sugar cane to achieve its desirable white color." So cane sugar doesn't technically contain any animal products. Some vegans choose to stay away from it because of how it's processed. But this is completely up to you. Look for organic sugar that's marked vegan if you are concerned about it.
Vegan Jelly Beans
The good news is that there are several other brands of jelly beans in many different flavors that are vegan. According to Are Jelly Belly's Vegan? A Gelatin-Free Jelly Bean Guide by 86 Lemons, there are still easy-to-find brands of jelly beans that can fit in a vegan diet. There's no gelatin and confectioner's glaze in the following:
- Jolly Rancher's Jelly Beans
- Warheads Sour Jelly Beans
- Wonka Nerds Bumpy Jelly Beans
- YumEarth Naturals Sour Jelly Beans- these are a healthier alternative to the traditional candies. They're made with all-natural ingredients and actual fruit juice.
Other Non-Vegan Jelly Bean Brands
Starburst isn't the only brand of jelly beans to contain animal products. According to Veg Knowledge, the following list of brands are also not vegan.
- Jelly Belly Jelly Beans - they contain beeswax and confectioner's glaze.
- Brach's - they contain beeswax and confectioner's glaze.
- Haribo - they contain beeswax.
- Kirkland - they contain beeswax and confectioner's glaze.
- Laffy Taffy - they contain beeswax.
- Life Saver's - they contain beeswax and confectioner's glaze.
- Wholesome Sweets - they contain confectioner's glaze.
What to Make With Jelly Beans?
Sure you can just eat a handful of (vegan) jelly beans. But there are other desserts to add them to that will take jelly beans to a new level. Just make sure that the original recipes you use are vegan.
- Use jelly beans to decorate a cupcake or regular cake. They can be used to make beautiful flowers or patterns.
- Put them in rice krispie treats. Need a vegan recipe? Check out Vegan Rice Krispie Treats.
- Make sugar cookies and put one colorful jelly bean on top of each. These would be perfect for Easter.
What Else Can I Do With Jelly Beans?
Do you have a lot of extra jelly beans handing around but don't want to eat them anymore? There are some great games, experiments and crafts that kids can make using them.
- Jelly Bean STEM Activity by Living Life and Learning
- Jelly Bean Science Experiment by 123 Homeschool 4 Me
- Dissolving Jelly Bean Experiment by Little Bins for Little Hands
- Jelly Bean Mosaic Craft by Preschool Play and Learn
- Use jelly beans to play colorful tic tac toe.
Unfortunately Starburst Jelly Beans aren't vegan and neither are many other brands. But, there are several other jelly bean brands that luckily are vegan that you can choose. So if you are looking to buy some vegan jelly beans for a holiday treat, there are brands out there that can fit in with a vegan lifestyle.
Are you wondering if Starburst fruit chews and other candies are vegan? Check out: