Airheads are tangy, often fruit-flavored candy that is soft, chewy, and taffy-like in texture. When you have a sweettooth then Airheads might come to mind, but are Airheads vegan?
Airheads are not vegan. Airheads bars and Airheads Xtremes contains palm oil and artificial colors. Other Airheads varieties (such as Airheads Bites, Airheads Soft-Filled Bites, Airheads Gummies, Airheads Gum, Airheads Xtremes Bites, Airheads Xtremes Sourfuls) contain ingredients like gelatin, beeswax, carmine, and shellac. The sugar used might also be cane sugar with the possibility of bone char beeing used in the bleeching proccess.
Furthermore we will also discuss the ingredients in detail and answer more questions about Airheads.
Let’s dive into it!
What Are AirHeads?
Airheads are a chewy, toffee-like candy that most often comes in fruit flavors. They are usually presented in a bar form (their original form) which is hand-held in size.
Airheads come in a variety of flavors, such as Cherry, Watermelon, Grape, Blue Raspberry, Orange, Strawberry, Green Apple, Pink Lemonade, White Mystery, Strawberry-Watermelon, Fruit Punch, Citrus Rush, Blue Raspberry-Cherry, and Pink Lemonade-Orange.
Other variants, including Double Mystery, Maple, Special Edition White Mystery, Special Edition Burnt Rubber, and Water Smooth Bubble Gum, and Birthday Cake which are limited durational or regional versions.
Airheads are manufactured by Perfetti Van Melle Group, a Dutch and Italian confectionary company headquartered in Breda, Netherlands, and Lainate, Italy.
The company is the third largest confectioner in the world, and has been producing Airheads out of Erlanger, Kentucky since at least 1985.
Here are the standard ingredients for the different kinds of Airheads candy:
Sugar, Artificial Flavors, Artificial Colors, Citric Acid, Food Starch – Modified (Corn).
Below you will also find additional ingredients to each type of Airheads candy.
Airheads Bars (Corn Syrup, Maltodextrin, Dextrose, Palm Oil, Water).
Airheads Xtremes (Corn Syrup, Wheat Flour, High Fructose Corn, Syrup, Food Starch, Modified (Potato), Malic Acid, Glycerine, Hydrogenated Soybean Oil, Potassium Citrate, Salt).
Airheads Xtremes Bites (Corn Syrup, Corn Starch, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Food Starch, Modified (Potato), Wheat Starch, Malic Acid, Palm Oil, Salt, Hydrogenated Soybean Oil, Potassium Citrate, Carmine).
Airheads Softfilled Bites (Glucose Syrup, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Corn Starch, Food Starch – Modified (Potato), Malic Acid, Dextrose, Coconut Oil, Lactic Acid, Gelatin, Hydrogenated Palm Oil, Sorbitol Syrup, Glycerin, Salt, Fumaric Acid, Trisodium Citrate).
Airheads Xtreme Sourfuls (Corn Syrup, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Corn Starch, Malic Acid, Food Starch – Modified (Potato), Dextrose, Wheat Starch, Coconut Oil, Lactic Acid, Gelatin, Sodium Malates, Hydrogenated Palm Oil, Salt, Glycerol, Fumaric Acid, Sorbitol Syrup, Trisodium Citrate).
Airheads Bites (Glucose Syrup, Maltodextrin, Dextrose, Hydrogenated Coconut Oil, Sorbitol, Glycerine, Rice Starch, Carnauba Wax, Beeswax, Shellac, Gellan Gum, Sucrose Esters Of Fatty Acids).
Airheads Pops (Glucose Syrup, Malic Acid, Beetroot Red Tumeric).
Airheads Gummies (Corn Syrup, Gelatin, Sorbitol, Pectin, Coconut Oil, Sodium Citrate, Beeswax, Carnauba Wax).
The standard ingredients for Airhead Gums:
Xylitol, Sorbitol, Chewing Gum Base, Glycerol, Maltitol Syrup, Malic Acid, Artificial Flavors, Citric Acid, Tartaric Acid, Aspartame, Carrageenan, Coconut Fat, Sucralose, Lecithin (Soy), Acesulfame K, Sucrose Fatty Acid Esters, BHT.
Airheads Gum Blue Raspberry (Blue 1 Lake, Color (Carmine)).
Airheads Gum Cherry (Colors (Paprika Oleoresin, Carmine)).
Airheads Gum Watermelon (Colors (Beta-Carotene, Carmine), Blue 1 Lake).
There are a number of non-vegan ingredients in Airheads.
Below I have listed all of them.
Some are obvious and some might look vegan, but when we take a closer look, they turn out to not be vegan-friendly.
Gelatin is a protein that is derived from animals and it’s not vegan.
Beeswax is a wax produced by bees.
It’s a natural wax that is know for it’s water proofing capabilities.
It’s also not vegan.
Shellac is a resin that comes from a female lac bug.
It’s scraped from the trees where the lac bug lives.
It’s primarly used as a food glaze.
As you can tell this is also not vegan.
Palm oil is derived from the interiors of oil palm fruit.
In order to grow oil palms en masse, tropical rainforest areas must be cleared in places like Malaysia and Indonesia.
This can cause habitat loss among species like the Sumatran Orangutan (among others) and because of this, consumption of palm oils is considered to not be vegan-friendly.
There is something called RSPO and it’s an organisation that works towards Sustainable Palm Oil production.
This way the environment and ecosystems are not harmed in the production.
Perfetti Van Melle is infact a member of RSPO, which makes the palm oil in Airheads vegan-friendly.
Blue 1 is an artificial food coloring also known as “Brilliant Blue”. Because it has been tested on mice, rats, and dogs, some vegans consider this dye (and other artificial colors) to not be vegan.
Yellow 5 is known as tartrazine. Derived from petroleum, it has been tested on lab animals, and to some is considered not vegan.
Yellow 6 is known as “Sunset Yellow”, and has been tested on mice, rabbits, and rats. Some consider it to not be vegan.
Red 40 is also known as “Allura Red” and is derived from petroleum. It has been tested on animals, and it is often considered not vegan.
Carmine (Food color)
Carmine food color is not vegan.
It’s essentionally made from crushing female cochineal insects.
Sucrose Esters Of Fatty Acids
Palm oil and coconut oil and sugar.
The palm oil as stated earlier in this article is vegan-friendly in Airheads.
The coconut oil on the other hand we don’t know. If the coconut oil is not made in a sustainable way, there is a possible that monkeys have been used as labor to pick the actual coconuts.
The sugar could aswell be refined cane sugar.
Sucralose is a sythetic sweetener that is not vegan-friendly, because of animal testing.
Because AirHeads contain a number of ingredients that are not naturally-occurring, they can be considered questionable nutritionally, as well as in terms of their vegan-friendliness.
The most commonly used sugar in the candy industry is cane sugar.
Why would this be a problem?
Well most often than not, the cane sugar uses bone char in the bleeching process.
So this ingredient might not be vegan.
Artificial flavors are listed as an Airheads ingredient, but their sources are not specified. However, since artificial flavors are deemed neither derived from plant or animal sources, their use remains questionable.
Hydrogenated Soybean Oil
This ingredient, being derived from soybeans — may be vegan in itself, but may be from genetically modified organisms, or GMOs.
Dextrose is a questionable ingredient because refined cane sugar could be used, which enables the possible of bone char beeing used in the bleaching process.
Modified Food Starch (Corn)
Used to keep foods a certain consistency (i.e., moist), modified corn starch may be derived from chemically or physically altered corn. Its vegan status is contested.
Are AirHeads Vegetarian?
This depends on interpretation, but in the strictest sense, since original Airheads bars and Airheads Extremes are not vegan, their chances of being a truly vegetarian food lessen.
Are AirHeads Gluten-Free?
Airheads, in their original bar form, are considered gluten-free. This is not the case for Airheads Extremes, which do contain gluten.
Are AirHeads GMO-Free?
Airheads do not state on their label whether or not they are GMO-Free.
However, some food-monitoring organizations have noted that several ingredients may be derived from genetically engineered or modified crops.
These ingredients are modified food starch, sugar, corn syrup, maltodextrin, dextrose, and citric acid.
All of these may be totally or partially derived from GMOs.
Are AirHeads Healthy?
The short answer to this question is no. One serving of an Airheads bar, which weighs about 16 grams, contains 14 grams of carbohydrates (11 grams of them are sugars), 15 milligrams of sodium, and 1 gram of saturated fat.
Airheads contain almost no nutritional value elsewhere (in terms of fiber, potassium, cholesterol, vitamin A, vitamin C, calcium, iron, and protein, they are all zero) and can not be considered a significant source of any of these nutritional values.
A single serving of an Airheads bar contains 60 calories.
Airheads can not be considered vegan, for several reasons.
The use of animal-tested artificial food dyes, as is the use of palm oil, artificial colors, and dextrose.
Health-conscious vegans may not appreciate the use of soybean oils, food starches, sugars, and corn syrups, which may have been derived from GMOs.
Finally, the nutritional value of Airheads seems to be lacking, which may also be a problem for health-conscious vegans, and other vegans in general.