Are AirHeads Vegan?

Air Heads, stylized as AirHeads, are just a form of tangy, chewy, taffy, candy.

These are made in Kentucky and sold in the US in over 16 unique flavors.

A lot of vegans have grown up consuming delicious taffy and want to know if they can continue to do so after transitioning to a 100% plant-based diet.

Are they vegan, huh? Yes, the AirHeads are 100% vegan. They are almost always sugar, corn syrup, and hydrogenated oils.

The main ingredient is sugar. They may be far from healthy, although they are vegan-friendly.

What we’re going to do here is get into the various reasons AirHeads are perceived by most to be vegan.

Why AirHeads Are Considered Vegan

The Presence of Sugar Doesn’t Make a Food Product Non-Vegan

At least most of the norms. Many vegans continue to see anything comprising sugar as highly problematic because sugar — at least in the US — is sometimes extracted with bone char.

Note that not all sugar is extracted with bone char, but most anti-organic processed sugar does.

Although some vegans like to avoid buying non-organic sugar (even brown sugar as it is made from white sugar and molasses), most vegans do not avoid eating sugar-based products (i.e., a sugar that is probably made from bone char).

Consider the Oreo — a typical “mistakenly vegan” unhealthy food. You will rarely encounter someone who will tell you that Oreos is out of reach for vegans, despite the fact that it is made from processed / non-organic sugar.

Is Sugar Vegan in their article?PETA says, “Don’t emphasize sugar too much if you don’t know how it was produced.” They go on to illustrate their reasoning, and you can search out the article (in the references below) for more information.

AirHeads Contain Vegan-Friendly Food Colorants

The AirHeads have Red 40. This is a matter of concern for many, because while most food colorants are petroleum-derived (thus ideal for vegans), some may be manufactured from non-vegan sources.

Red 4, not Red 40, is a non-vegan food coloring agent extracted from beetles. Red 4, aka carmine, is similar to Red 40 because it is a red pigment (albeit a bit brighter). Because of the same name and color, the two are sometimes confused.

Carmine (Red 4) is extracted from carminic acid and is carminic acid, which is primarily extracted from beetles.

Not only is it made from insects, but it is often extracted from processes involving other animal products such as fish glue, gelatin, and egg whites.

Red 40 or Allura red, on the other side, is petroleum-derived and may even be produced from strawberries of hybrid species.

Nonetheless, AirHeads are using Red 40, which is fully vegan-friendly.

Blue 1, Yellow 5, and Yellow 6 are often used, but these food colorings often fall under the classification of azo dyes and are therefore petroleum-derived.

AirHeads Don’t Contain Confectioner’s Glaze

Confectioner’s glaze is a very divisive product in the vegan community and is widely thought to be non-vegan.

That’s not to admit that no self-proclaimed vegans eat that stuff.

In any case, it is a very common ingredient in candy making and appears to be found in glossy-looking fruit-flavored candy-like Mike and Ike and Lemonheads, which makes such candy items unfit for many vegans.

Confectioner’s glaze originates from the substance left behind by lake bugs as they navigate tree branches. It is mostly made up of tree sap — the bugs suck up the sap and secrete a substance called sticklac that includes shellac.

The shellac is extracted out to be used in the coating of the confectioner.

Insects secrete the material to build mini-structures that look like coconuts.

But, luckily, we don’t have to think about such a product with AirHeads. This candy product has a shiny appearance of oil, corn syrup, and sugar content.

A Note on Palm Oil

Many, but not all, of the AirHeads, comprise palm oil. It depends on the flavor and how it is produced.

Some sources use hydrogenated soybean oil in the ingredients. The Blue Raspberry variety, for example, contains:

  • Sugar and corn syrup
  • Maltodextrin, dextrose, and modified corn starch
  • Partially hydrogenated soybean oil
  • Water
  • Citric acid
  • Artificial flavors
  • Blue 1, Red 40, Yellows 5 and 6
  • Ingredients on the mixed flavor bag include
  • Sugar and corn syrup
  • Maltodextrin, dextrose, and modified corn starch
  • Partially hydrogenated soybean oil and palm oil.
  • Citric acid
  • Water
  • Artificial flavors
  • Red 40, Blue 1, Yellows 5 and 6


Not all vegans are obsessed about avoiding palm oil, but I’m thinking about it here because some in the group like to avoid it.

Palm oil is a controversial ingredient due to the environmental impact of its cultivation.

Specifically, deforestation is needed, which leads to an increase in greenhouse gas emissions and threatens endangered species.

This is about the vegan status of AirHeads. Thank you so much for reading.

You may also want to read the following related articles:


  1. AirHeads.
  2. Frequently Asked Questions
  3. Is Sugar Vegan?
  4. Bug-Based Food Dye Should Be Exterminated, Says CSPI.
  5. Carminic Acid
  6. Carmine
  7. Potera, C., 2010. Diet and nutrition: artificial food dye blues. Environ Health Perspect. 118 (10), A428–A431.
  8. Airheads Candy Variety Gravity Feed Box, 90 Individually Wrapped Assorted Fruit Bars Jill- Special –
  9. Animal-derived Ingredients Resource: Living
  10. Flinn, Angel. “Shellac and Food Glaze”
  11. Shellac, Shellac as a Woodworking Finish.
  12.  Airheads® Candy – Blue Raspberry
  13. Clay, Jason (2004). World Agriculture and the Environment. p. 219. ISBN 978-1-55963-370-3.
  14.  “Palm oil: Cooking the Climate.” Greenpeace. 8 November 2007. Archived from the original on 10 April 2010.
  15. Foster, Joanna M. (1 May 2012). “A Grim Portrait of Palm Oil Emissions.” The New York Times. Archived from the original on 16 January 2013.
  16. Yui, Sahoko; Yeh, Sonia (1 December 2013). “Land use change emissions from oil palm expansion in Pará, Brazil depend on proper policy enforcement on deforested lands.” Environmental Research Letters. 8 (4): 044031. doi:10.1088/1748-9326/8/4/044031. ISSN 1748-9326.
  17. “Researchers warn against high emissions from oil palm expansion in Brazil.” 13 November 2013.
  18. “Palm oil threatening endangered species” (PDF). Center for Science in the Public Interest. May 2005. Archived (PDF) from the original on 17 September 2012.



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