The Untold Truth Of Starburst

We may receive a commission on purchases made from links.

Unexplainably juicy, fruity, chewy, and colorful, Starburst is one of the world's most celebrated candy aisle confections. With devout fans, a compelling history, and heated social media debates about which flavor is best, it is so much more than a sugary sweet treat.

You, like most people, may not be able to resist these little taffies, but have you ever stopped to consider how they came to be? Who came up with the fruity flavors we all know and love? Which one is the most popular? Is it possible that Starburst could actually be good for you? How about all of those crazy commercials? Who is Little Lad, and why is he dancing? And what in the world are Opal Fruits?

These hard to unwrap little candies can even be used as a colorful ingredient to create other tasty desserts, and even cocktails! Now that's something to chew (or sip!) on. So let's take a look at the untold truth of Starburst.

It wasn't originally called Starburst

The candy we know today as Starburst has had quite a colorful history. According to Forward, in 1960, British-based Mars, Inc. introduced a new candy. These sweet little fruit chews (the assortment of original flavors included strawberry, lemon, orange, and lime) were delicious, but they needed a name. Mars decided to hold a contest to see who could describe these sweets best. Peter Pfeffer, a copywriter for a London advertising agency, offered his expert advice and won with the suggestion of "Opal Fruits." 

Though Pfeffer helped changed the course of candy history forever, he was awarded a prize of a mere £5 (the equivalent of £122.70 today when factoring in the inflation rate), a far cry from the hundreds of millions in sales Starburst contributes to Mars, Inc. these days. (Starburst is now produced and supplied by the Wrigley Company, which is a subsidiary of Mars, Inc.

The name has created some drama

According to Old Time Candy, Opal Fruits were brought to the United States in 1967 and the name was simplified to the more catchy "Starburst" for the American Market. Metro reports that the candy remained Opal Fruits in the United Kingdom until 1998, when, in order to keep up with its increasingly global marketplace, they, too, adopted the name of Starburst. This change, however, was not happily accepted by all die-hard Opal Fruits traditionalists in the U.K.

This name swap was hugely upsetting to many of these loyalists, who just couldn't get on board with the rebranding of their favorite sweet treat. While the attention to Starburst was wonderful in the ways of marketing and free advertising, many fans continued to pout over the revision. A similar phenomenon happened in 1990 when the popular U.K. candy bar Marathon was changed to the more globally recognizable name of Snickers

Much to fans' bittersweet delight, Mars, Inc. revived the Opal Fruits branding for a limited time in 2020. The classic treat was restored to both its original packaging and flavors. Needless to say, shoppers ecstatically embraced their inner nostalgia and bags flew off British shelves. Opal Fruits returned again for the "final time" in 2021 with a limited 12-week run. 

What's in a name? A lot, apparently.

The flavor options and combinations are endless

The original Starburst, or rather, Opal Fruits flavors were strawberry, lemon, orange, and lime. While those are still the basic classics found in the original package (subbing lime for cherry), Starburst has given us many more juicy flavors to enjoy over the years. Snack History tells us that over the last few decades that brand has introduced dozens of flavor varieties from an assortment of tropical tastes including guava and kiwi banana to some cleverly named flavors such as Optimus Lime and Disco Berry.  

But why limit yourself to one single flavor per candy? One of our favorite innovations comes in the form of a newer product, Starburst Duos. What we enjoy most about this is that the flavors brought together here are made up of the favorites that we all know and love, just in different blends and combinations. We love the idea of getting all of those fruity flavors in one bite!

We even tested many popular Starburst flavors ourselves and concluded that while pink reigns supreme, others like pina colada and mango melon weren't quite up to par.

Pink is the fan favorite

With all of Starburst's flavor choices, it would be difficult to choose which is the best. However, many people have, and they've made it known. In a Mashed poll, it was revealed that Strawberry, or simply "pink" is the overwhelming favorite with 24% of the vote. Thus, it's no surprise that in 2017, Starburst decided to please the people and release an All Pink package, which joined already picky assortments such as FaveREDs (a mixture of strawberry, fruit punch, cherry, and watermelon flavors) on shelves. 

Starburst has even jumped on board with the popular social media meme, "Never let anyone treat you like a yellow Starburst. You are a pink Starburst," marketing products to match the inspirational quote. Unfortunately for yellow Starburst, there is some truth to this discriminatory meme. According to the Mashed poll, lemon is the least tasty flavor in the standard Starburst package. (The more obscure lemon lime flavor received the fewest votes overall, with a dismal 5% of the tally.) Sorry, yellow, you just can't argue with the facts. 

Starburst products go beyond the basic fruit chew

As time has gone on, the creative team over at Starburst continue to outdo themselves. According to Snack History, in 1995 Starburst went well beyond the standard square fruit chew with a pair of seasonal releases that have endured over the years. For Easter, you can pick up a package of Starburst Jellybeans which are available in original and sour packages. During the Holiday season, Starburst offers a box of fruity candy canes which includes three flavors: green apple, lemon, and strawberry. 

If you want to maintain the chewiness of the candy but would prefer it in a straw shape, grab the recently introduced dual-flavored Starburst Swirlers. For gummy fans, opt for Starburst Airs. And if the candy's aroma is the main driver of your Starburst fandom, you're bound to enjoy their line of branded scented candles which are available in pina colada, blueberry, watermelon, and green apple.

Starburst is one of the top selling candies in the United States

Starburst is one of Mars Wrigley's most popular brands, especially during spooky season. According to Forbes, it was the fourth best selling Halloween candy in 2020. That same year, a survey from Zippia revealed that in six states, Starburst trumped every single other brand during Halloween, coming in as the top seller. But the candy's appeal isn't limited to October. Per Statista, in 2017, Starburst third in sales amongst non-chocolate chewy candy brands, bringing in over $160 million.  

People aren't shy about their fruity fandom, either. Just take a look at this Starburst-loving YouTuber's tutorial for Starburst themed nail art! Or all of this colorful merchandise on Red Bubble for the truly devout fan. Starburst COVID mask, anyone? And don't get us started on the debate over which flavor is best. It just goes on and on. 

Fans are as passionate about these opinions as they are about their politics, it seems. Just check out Twitter for some fervent threads of those cheering cherry, singing for strawberry or loving lemon. People are adamant about their Starburst favorites! Just don't say we didn't warn you if you ask someone at your next cocktail party what side of the wrapper they're on.

Their edgy advertising has proven successful

Over the course of the last 60 years or so, Starburst has changed their slogan quite a few times, as reported by Reference. It started with the original Opal Fruits slogan, written by Murray Walker, "Opal Fruits — made to make your mouth water!" and evolved into the current slogan, "Unexplainably Juicy" which has run since 2014. There have been some other great ones over the years. From "Share something juicy" to our personal favorite, "Starburst: a pack of contradictions," the slogans have been consistently catchy.

With its vibrant color scheme, Starburst products have always been eye-catching to consumers. Their brand designer, Straight Forward, has taken great care to preserve the punch of Starburst's aesthetic. While Starburst packaging has gone through a few light revisions over the years, the electrifying, signature colors of bright yellow, orange, and red have always been present, drawing in consumers of every age.

Starburst has also been wildly successful in its approach to marketing and advertising strategies. Creating commercials that are equally edgy and hilarious, Starburst has never had a problem captivating an audience. Perhaps the most popular example is the "Little Lad Dance" advertising campaign which originally aired in 2007, according to Snack History.

The Little Lad Dance is a TikTok sensation

If you aren't familiar with this strangely hilarious ad, it involves a man dressed in childlike Victorian era clothing both teaching and performing a simple and kitschy jig whilst expressing his love for the Berries and Cream flavor of Starburst. If you're confused (but entertained), so were we. But that appears to be the ad's brilliance. 

Thanks to a recent TikTok explosion, "Little Lad Dance" has made a triumphant return to the zeitgeist, drawing in young fans who may have missed the ridiculous ad when it originally aired. TikTokers all over the world are posting videos and memes under an upload of the original commercial's audio. The audio was originally posted to TikTok earlier this year by podcaster and former video games journalist Justin McElroy. He captioned the video, "please make great art with this sound, it's what we all need," and that's exactly what people did. The video is currently associated with over 75,000 TikTok posts to date.

As far as candy goes, it's not just empty calories

In 2016, the consumer demand for natural ingredients was at an all time high, and many food companies started feeling the pressure to deliver. Jumping on the all natural bandwagon, The Mars Company decided to change the ingredients of Starburst by removing artificial colors, as reported by HuffPost. At about the size of a cubic inch each, every piece of Starburst is 5 grams, and each serving size is eight pieces, totaling 40 grams, according to Spangler Candy. There are 160 calories, 3 grams of fat, 34 grams of carbohydrates and 22 grams of sugar per serving. As for trans fat, sodium, and protein, you won't find any in Starburst. As a bonus, Starburst also contains real fruit juice and 50% of the recommended daily amount of Vitamin C.

Interestingly, Starburst in the United States is not vegan, as it contains gelatin — a very non-vegan ingredient. However, in the United Kingdom, Starburst is a vegan treat, as the gelatin is left out across the pond. If you're trying to avoid gluten, The GFB assures us that Starburst is a wonderful option, as it is a gluten-free goodie. 

Starburst makes for a creative culinary ingredient

It's clear that Starburst is a tremendously popular candy. And while they are delicious all on their own, Starburst can also be used as a special ingredient in several desserts like an incredibly colorful No-Bake Starburst Cheesecake. It's made with Starburst Gelatin, a product that can be found in the baking aisle of most grocery stores. Starburst Chewy Rice Krispies Treats are such a fun take on the traditional dessert, adding a deliciously fruity and chewy Starburst layer atop the crunch of the Rice Krispie Treat we all know and love. 

Another twist on a classic is a Starburst Stuffed Chocolate Chip Cookie which is highlighted by a gooey, fruity center. And if you're wondering how to bring a little burst of sweetness to the breakfast table, you'll flip over these Starburst pancakes. They certainly will add a pop of much needed color to an otherwise mundane Monday morning.

Starburst is also suited for beverages

If you'd rather drink your dessert (and who wouldn't?), there are plenty of options for you, too. Starburst seems to have the cocktail market covered, with all of its fruity possibilities. Feeling a little bit like channeling your inner Carrie Bradshaw? Try a Starburst Cosmopolitan. Looking for the perfect, celebratory drink to ring in the New Year? This bubbly Starburst Champagne cocktail recipe from Savory Experiments is sure to receive rave reviews from your guests. If shots are more your style, here's a Tipsy Bartender recipe for one that tastes just like a pink Starburst! And if you're feeling like letting loose and going a bit crazy? No judgement from us. There's a Starburst Jell-O Shot for that, too!  How about enjoying a little stay-cation by the pool this summer with a Frozen Strawberry Starburst

And if you care to drink your Starburst with all the buzz, but none of the booze, maybe this Starburst flavored energy drink is for you. With all of this inspiration, the Starburst cocktail (and mocktail) possibilities are absolutely endless. Cheers!

Starburst is inspiring artists everywhere

Starburst is so popular, in fact, that many artists have taken to the candy or its packaging as a colorful artistic medium. In fact, some sources say that this classic candy is rumored to have inspired the pop art movement, according to Leaf TV. That makes a lot of sense. Given the bold, cheerful colors of Starburst, it's hard not to be artistically inspired. Artists from all over are celebrating the bright pops of color Starburst candies are known for. 

You can find everything from a portrait of Conan O'Brien made from the wrapped candy to a mind blowing Starburst Castle, created for one student's art class. Student Ashley painstakingly took the time to melt each piece together using a heat gun to create her completely edible masterpiece. In the end, it weighed about 60 pounds! If you yourself are feeling inspired, or craving a bit of sugary sweetness in your own home, you can purchase your very own Handmade Starburst Candy 3-D Pop Art on Etsy. Happy decorating!

Starburst wrappers are quite fashionable

Perhaps the most incredible Starburst creation, and certainly our favorite, is by artist Emily Seilhamer, of Elizabethtown, Pennsylvania, who made a dress entirely out of more than 10,000 Starburst candy wrappers. ABC News reports that Emily's husband's sweet tooth inspired the project — his favorite candy being Starburst. 

"The first time I met him he offered me a pack of Starburst," she said of her husband, Malachi Seilhamer. "He gave me a pack and once he broke the ice, he kept bringing me packs of Starburst. We were in drama together, and I said, 'Hey, I'd like to make something out of these. Do you mind saving them?' He would eat them and bring me grocery bags full [of the wrappers]. I was like, 'Wow, I can do something pretty big from this.'" The dress holds such sentimental value for the couple that it was even displayed at their wedding reception, so all of Emily and Malachi's friends and family could enjoy her colorful creation as well.

It can even provide hours of DIY entertainment

If you're looking for a fun activity to do with the family, look no further than this tutorial for DIY Edible Starburst Slime. An easy at home project that everyone will enjoy. Or, if you're looking to impress your guests with a beautifully crafted, edible flower for your next dessert, check out these absolutely gorgeous Starburst Roses Meagan Fikes created for her blog, Eat Something Delicious. Fikes notes that Starburst Roses are preferable to standard buttercream roses because they require less equipment, aren't as messy, and are relatively easy to make (even kids can join in on the fun). There is also the added benefit of getting to eat any leftover Starburst candies.  

Starburst is such a versatile candy. From enjoying it on its own, or as the star of an inventive dessert or cocktail, to making silly slime or gorgeous edible flowers, there's always a reason to have a bag in your pantry.