Can Vegans Eat AirHeads?
AirHeads sprang onto the market in 1986 with one red flavor and became a favorite candy brand. The Perfetti Van Melle company makes AirHeads, Mentos, and other candies.
AirHeads now come in several flavors and different candy styles, from the original flat chews to gummies and chewing gum. But are AirHeads vegan?
Some varieties of the candy aren’t vegan or even vegetarian. Others are plant-based because they don’t contain animal products, but strict vegans and many ethical vegans will avoid them because of controversial ingredients.
It’s impossible to answer the question, “Are airheads vegan?” without looking at each type of candy and its ingredients individually. Below, we break down what AirHeads are suitable for vegans craving a sweet treat.
What Are AirHeads Actually?
AirHeads are mostly sugar and binding ingredients that form a taffy-like candy. They’re sweet, tangy, and stretch like semi-hard taffy.
Some varieties like the AirHeads Xtremes and the AirHeads Xtremes Sourfuls are sour candies, while the original AirHeads are mostly sweet.
Are They Vegan?
AirHeads candies currently come in the following varieties:
- AirHeads Bites
- AirHeads Soft Filled Bites
- AirHeads Xtremes
- AirHeads Xtremes Bites
- AirHeads Xtremes Sourfuls
- AirHeads Gummies
- AirHead Gum
So, are AirHeads vegan? Unfortunately, most AirHeads candies aren’t vegan, but many vegans can enjoy the original AirHeads and the White Mystery gum without worry because they don’t contain animal products.
The original AirHeads bars come in a .55-ounce size in the following flavors:
- Blue Raspberry
- Green Apple
- White Mystery
The White Mystery bar can be any of those flavors, but it’s white because they make it without the food coloring. AirHeads also sells a larger 1.5-ounce size in two flavor combinations: blue raspberry/cherry and strawberry/watermelon.
The main ingredient in original AirHeads is sugar. The following three ingredients are corn syrup, maltodextrin, and dextrose, which are more types of sugar. Other ingredients include corn starch, palm oil, artificial flavors, and food coloring.
None of the ingredients in these candies contain animal products, but they both have refined sugar, which some strict vegans avoid. Original AirHeads also include palm oil, a controversial ingredient for many people.
The Problem With Sugar
Sugar doesn’t contain animal products, so it’s vegan in that sense of the word. But many companies that produce sugar use bone char to whiten the product.
Bone char is a black, charcoal-like substance that forms from burning animal bones. No bone char remains in the sugar, but many strict vegans won’t eat it.
Other vegans and animal advocates, even the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), consider AirHeads vegan even though the sugar is probably not.
So, are AirHeads vegan if they contain sugar made with bone char? Technically, yes, though each person has to decide whether to consume them based on their comfort level.
How To Find Vegan Sugar
Depending on the country you live in, the white sugar in your pantry doesn’t contain animal products but has probably touched bone char. Check your sugar for a vegan label or ask the manufacturer about the filtering process.
Alternatively, you can opt for other sugar substitutes, such as:
- Beet sugar
- Raw sugar
- Coconut sugar
Sugar also can’t be Certified Organic if the company uses bone char. So, look out for the organic label when shopping for the sweet ingredient.
The Problem With Palm Oil
The palm oil industry devastatingly contributes to deforestation and animal harm by clearing trees and wildlife. This deforestation, particularly in Indonesia and Malaysia, threatens endangered species like the orangutan.
Many vegans reject products with palm oil because its production hurts animals and the environment. Some products contain Certified Sustainable Palm Oil (CSPO), produced by companies working to stop deforestation and reduce harm.
The palm oil in AirHeads is not CSPO palm oil, so many strict vegans avoid eating the candy.
AirHeads gum comes in four flavors:
- White Mystery
- Blue Raspberry
Only the White Mystery flavor is vegan-friendly. It doesn’t contain animal products and is also free of sugar and palm oil. The other flavors aren’t vegan or even vegetarian.
As of 2022, AirHeads don’t currently produce their lollipops, but they’re still available for sale in some stores. Sugar is the only ingredient that might prevent some vegans from enjoying them. Aside from that ingredient, they are free of animal products.
Other AirHeads candies, besides the original bars and the White Mystery gum, contain one or more animal-based products.
AirHeads Extremes, also called AirHeads Xtremes Belts, come in one variety: Rainbow Berry.
Unfortunately, the ingredients list contains glycerin, which can come from plant-based and animal-based fats. Since it doesn’t say vegetable glycerin, it might come from animal sources and make this candy unsuitable for vegans.
AirHeads Bites come in Original Fruit and White Mystery flavors. Neither flavor is suitable for vegans, though some vegetarians might find the ingredients acceptable.
This candy contains beeswax. AirHeads Bites also include shellac, the secretion of the female Lac bug used in some foods to provide shine.
AirHeads Soft Filled Bites
This candy comes only in the Original Fruit flavor and isn’t vegan because it contains gelatin.
To make gelatin, manufacturers boil the bones, skin, tendons, ligaments, and cartilage of slaughtered animals to remove the collagen. Thus, gelatin isn’t vegan or vegetarian.
AirHeads Xtremes Bites
AirHeads Xtremes Bites look the same as AirHeads Xtremes because they’re bite-sized pieces of the rainbow-colored belts that are the Xtremes.
These bite-sized candies don’t contain the glycerin found in the original AirHeads Xtremes Belts.
Unfortunately, the candy contains carmine, a food coloring produced by boiling and grinding cochineal beetles.
AirHeads Xtremes Sourfuls
AirHeads Xtremes Sourfuls come in the flavor Rainbow Berry. This product contains glycerol, which like glycerin, can be animal-based. It also contains gelatin, so it’s not suitable for vegans or vegetarians.
AirHead Gummies come in bags of mixed flavors. The gummy candy contains beeswax and gelatin.
The White Mystery flavor is the only AirHeads gum suitable for vegans and vegetarians. The other three flavors use carmine as coloring.
Many companies specialize in vegan candies similar to the AirHeads varieties. You can find chewy taffy, gummies, and sour candies that contain all plant-based ingredients.
Just a few of the brands available in grocery stores include:
Some of these companies also make products that aren’t suitable for vegans, but most of the candies these companies produce contain only vegan-friendly ingredients.
We’ve looked at every AirHeads candy available to answer the question, “are AirHeads vegan?”
The good news is that the original AirHeads bars are suitable for vegans who consume non-organic sugar and palm oil. Strict vegans are limited to the White Mystery gum.
To recap, original AirHeads bars in all flavors and the White Mystery flavor of AirHeads Gum don’t contain any animal products.
All other AirHeads varieties include products like carmine, beeswax, shellac, or gelatin. AirHeads Xtremes also contain glycerin, which could come from animal sources.
Fortunately, it’s easy to find vegan gummies, gum, and candies like the AirHeads Bites. Just because you don’t eat palm oil or white sugar doesn’t mean you have to miss out.
Vegan candies are easy to find due to the growing popularity of the movement. All you need to do is look out for the vegan label and enjoy munching on a sweet treat.