AirHeads first hit the market in 1985 after being created by Steve Bruner. He allowed his younger son to name the candy after he asked him to pick a name that kids used to describe people who were acting “silly.” After throwing around a few names, AirHeads stuck!
If you’re reading this post, though, you’re probably wondering, are AirHeads vegan?
The original AirHeads are generally considered vegan! The only questionable ingredients they contain are refined sugar (which some strict vegans try to avoid) and palm oil. Several other varieties, such as AirHeads gum and AirHeads Xtreme are also vegan-friendly as well.
Today’s post is all about AirHeads. Below, I’ll answer all of your vegan-related questions about AirHeads and give you a full breakdown of all of the main ingredients in them. I’ll also address why not all vegans approve of AirHeads.
Lastly, I’ll go through each of the most popular AirHeads varieties and explain which types of AirHeads are vegan-friendly and which ones should be avoided.
It’s time to get your candy fix in!
Are AirHeads Dairy-Free?
As odd as it may seem, a lot of mainstream candy brands contain dairy by-products such as whey or casein.
I’ve even found dairy in fruit-flavored candy before! Whey and casein are often used in candy to improve its texture of it and give it a smoother feel on your tongue.
Thankfully, all varieties of AirHeads are 100% dairy-free! After a close analysis of the ingredients list of all AirHeads varieties, I didn’t see any dairy or dairy by-products listed. So, they’re completely safe for lactose-intolerant individuals to consume.
Do AirHeads Have Gelatin?
Gelatin is one of the most common animal by-products used in food. It’s used in everything from Jell-O to PopTarts and even in savory sauces and salad dressings!
Gelatin is a direct animal by-product that’s produced by boiling down animal remains (usual pork) such as bones, ligaments, tendons, and fat. The resulting broth is then evaporated, leaving behind pure fat, which is then processed into a powdery tasteless substance.
Gelatin often acts as a food stabilizer and helps certain foods remain homogenous. It’s also used in certain gummy-like candies to provide a chewy, gel-like texture and consistency. This is why most gummy bears aren’t vegan-friendly.
Thankfully, the original AirHeads do not contain any gelatin!
However, a few of the other varieties of AirHeads gummies do contain gelatin. Keep on reading to find out which AirHeads varieties have gelatin and should be avoided by vegans…
Are AirHeads Gluten-Free?
The U.S. FDA defines a gluten-free food as any food that contains less than 20 ppm (parts per million) of gluten. Gluten is a grain-derived protein that’s commonly found in wheat, barley, rye, and a few other grain varieties.
Unfortunately, a growing number of people are developing a sensitivity to gluten, which can cause outbreaks and stomach discomfort. In more serious cases (i.e., those with celiac disease), consuming gluten can be life-threatening.
If you look at the ingredients list on AirHeads, you won’t find any glutenous ingredients. Although AirHeads are made in a shared facility that also produces gluten-containing candy, they do not share the same equipment.
Taking this into account along with the FDA’s definition of a gluten-free product, it’s safe to assume that AirHeads are 100% gluten-free!
Original AirHeads Ingredients
When it comes to food and candy reviews like this, I always do my best to try and give you guys a complete breakdown of all of the ingredients in the food. This allows you to make an informed decision and decide whether or not it’s for you or not.
Here’s the exact ingredients list of the original AirHeads variety:
Below, I’ll break down each of these ingredients, and explain which are 100% vegan-friendly and which ones are questionable according to vegan eating standards. Let’s take a look!
Sugar is the main ingredient in AirHeads. It’s also the first questionable ingredient. Let me explain…
Sugar, in its natural form, is a plant-based sweetener that’s derived from sugarcane or beets. The problem is that most of the sugar used by major companies is not in its natural form. Natural sugar is brown-colored (or red-colored if it’s beet sugar) after extraction.
To turn the colored sugar crystals into the pretty little white crystals that most of us regard as “normal sugar,” the natural color of the sugar crystals must be removed through filtration.
The sugar crystals are typically filtered through animal bone char. Bone char is a type of charcoal made from burning animal bones at high temperatures.
Bone char contains high amounts of carbon which help remove the coloring from the sugar. Unfortunately, this means that almost all refined sugar is non-vegan.
Here’s where many vegans draw the line, though.
Those following a very strict vegan code of ethics tend to be firmly against consuming any products that contain refined white sugar. On the other hand, dietary vegans generally don’t have a problem with it, as they’re not directly consuming an animal product.
2) Corn Syrup
Corn syrup is the second ingredient in AirHeads. It’s another naturally-derived sweetener that’s extracted from natural sugars present in corn.
It’s also very vegan-friendly. It may not be the healthiest sweetener available but at least it’s not filtered through animal remains!
Maltodextrin is pure processed starch. It’s typically derived from potatoes, or rice, making it a 100% vegan product.
It’s a very common food additive, as it helps keep otherwise liquid foods dry. For example, AirHeads should be a syrupy, gooey candy; instead, they’re hardened into a somewhat solid shape that’s easy to bite into.
Because of its high caloric content and ability to rapidly boost your body’s blood sugar levels, maltodextrin is also a common ingredient used in vegan mass-gaining shakes.
Dextrose is an even simpler sugar than maltodextrin and is processed sugar that imitates the same blood sugar molecule in our own bodies. It’s often added to candy to give it intense sweetness. It helps your body absorb the sugar rapidly and makes you crave it more.
Although dextrose is far from healthy, it is vegan.
5) Modified Cornstarch
Cornstarch is typically added to candy and sweets as a thickening agent. It gives the AirHeads a smooth texture and makes them more palatable on the surface of your tongue.
The chemical makeup of cornstarch is very similar to maltodextrin; it’s just derived from corn instead of rice or potatoes. Like maltodextrin, cornstarch is also a vegan-friendly food additive.
6) Palm Oil
Palm oil is the second questionable ingredient in AirHeads. Technically speaking, palm oil is plant-based cooking oil. It’s made by pressing palm fruit and extracting the natural oils.
The problem is the industry behind commercial palm oil. Most of the world’s palm oil comes from either South America or Indonesia, where there are virtually no laws against deforestation.
As a result, money-hungry commercial palm farms cut down vast swaths of natural rainforest, killing animals and destroying the natural ecosystem.
The ever-increasing population and demand for palm oil have resulted in even greater destruction of rainforests to make way for new palm trees.
While some palm oil is responsibly harvested, organic fair trade palm oil is far more expensive and is generally only used in high-end vegan products. The palm oil used in AirHeads is most definitely not responsibly harvested.
7) Citric Acid
Citric acid is a natural preservative that’s derived from citrus fruit. The acid keeps away bad bacteria and also lends itself to a slightly sour flavor, which AirHeads are known for. Since it’s fruit-derived, citric acid is vegan-friendly and safe to consume.
8) Artificial Flavoring
AirHeads are artificially flavored, so you don’t have to worry about any animal-derived “natural flavors.”
9) Artificial Colors & Dye
Last but not least, AirHeads are artificially colored with food dyes. Lucky for candy lovers out there, AirHeads are not made with any animal-derived carmine dye.
Instead, they’re made with artificial colors, such as red 40, blue 1, yellow 5, and yellow 6, all of which are vegan.
Are AirHeads Xtremes Vegan?
AirHeads Xtremes Belts (the original version) are 100% vegan and are made using similar ingredients to regular AirHeads. The main difference is that they feature a more sour flavor.
However, the other two varieties, AirHeads Xtremes Bites, and AirHeads Xtremes Sourfuls, are NOT vegan. The Xtremes Bites contain carmine (bug-derived red food dye) and the Xtreme Sourfuls contain gelatin, making both of them non-vegan.
Are AirHeads Bites Vegan?
Unfortunately, AirHeads Bites are not vegan.
The original AirHeads Bites contain both shellac and beeswax, two animal-derived products that are used to provide shine and texture. The AirHeads Soft-Filled Bites are mostly vegan but contain gelatin, making them non-vegan as well.
Are AirHeads Gummies Vegan?
AirHeads Gummies are not vegan either. They contain gelatin as a main ingredient and beeswax as a “less than 2%” additive.
Vegan & Non-Vegan AirHeads Varieties: Listed
To sum it all up, here’s a simple table outlining all of the vegan and non-vegan varieties of AirHeads. Now you’ll know exactly what to look for the next time you’re shopping for candy!
|Vegan-Friendly AirHeads||Non-Vegan AirHeads|
|Original AirHeads Candy||AirHeads Xtremes Bites (contains carmine)|
|AirHeads Xtremes Belts||AirHeads Xtremes Sourfuls (contains gelatin)|
|AirHeads Gummies (contains gelatin and beeswax)|
|AirHeads Chewing Gum (contains carmine)|
Conclusion – Can Vegans Eat AirHeads?
If you’re a fan of the original AirHeads, then you’re in luck! The original AirHeads as well as the AirHeads Xtremes Belts are mostly vegan-friendly, other than refined sugar and palm oil.
However, all of the other modern flavors and varieties of AirHeads are non-vegan due to animal by-products, such as carmine, beeswax, and gelatin.
If you’re looking for a great-tasting vegan treat, then be sure to check out my next post on the best vegan ice cream brands. They’re all certified vegan, so you’ll never have to double-check ingredients lists or question whether you’re allowed to eat them!