26 Oct
Starburst (and Opal Fruits) Sweets Through the Years

When it comes to iconic sweet brands, Wrigley's Starburst is undoubtedly a shining star in the world of confectionery. These little squares of fruity goodness have been delighting taste buds and bringing smiles to faces for decades. 

With their vibrant colours, juicy flavours, and chewy texture, Starburst sweets have become a beloved classic that transcends generations. In this article, we will explore the history of Starburst and uncover what makes them a timeless favourite.



Many people over a certain age will remember when Starburst had a very different name in the UK and Ireland. Opal Fruits launched in the United Kingdom in 1960. The name was invented by Peter Pfeffer, who won a competition to name the new sweet brand - he was awarded just £5 for his efforts! 

Opal Fruits came with the slogan and jingle "Made to make your mouth water", which was invented by Murray Walker, who worked in advertising before become a motor racing commentator. Walker sadly passed away on 13th March 2021. 

The sweets were originally manufactured at Mars' Slough factory in Berkshire, England.

Opal Fruits wrapper from the 1960s. Bright yellow with red text and illustration of fruit. Price 4p

The original Opal Fruits wrapper design from the 1960s

The brand was introduced to the American market under the name M&M's Fruit Chewies in 1967. From the moment they hit the shelves, they quickly gained popularity in the U.S., with Americans loving the unique combination of intense fruit flavours and chewy texture.

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In the U.S., Fruit Chewies became Starburst early on in the 1970s but continued to be named Opal Fruits in the UK during the decade, with several TV advertising campaigns, 

The British TV advert above is from 1974 and features a family in a Ford Cortina estate car, which is stuck in a traffic jam. Their Mum has, thankfully, remembered to bring a bag of Opal Fruits to keep the family smiling.


Opal Fruits continued to be marketed with the "Made to make your mouth water" jingle in TV adverts in the UK. A new Sunshine Flavours was introduced, with eventually became Tropical Fruits. Cherry flavour replaced Blackcurrant in the U.S. in the 1980s.

In 1984, Starburst Strawberry Fruit Chews were launched in the U.S. 

Opal Fruits Ice advert screenshot from TV ad (1993). Left: Two Opal Fruits Ice products with Made To Make Your Mouth Water tagline. Right: Woman in red dress with arms in the air.


A new Opal Fruits Ice was launched in 1993, which came in two flavours; Orange & Lemon, and Strawberry. A TV advert featuring the ice lollies was narrated by Joanna Lumley. The ad featured a woman in a red dress walking past fire hydrants, which burst as she walked past them. 

In 1995, a U.S. TV advert featured the flavours Tropical Fruits (green wrapper) and California Fruits (light blue wrapper) which were available in sticks (tubes). It came with the slogan "The juice is loose". 

Starburst Jellybeans also launched in 1995 in the U.S. 

Opal Fruits wrapper from 1990. Yellow with red logo

Opal Fruits wrapper from 1990

Opal Fruits became Starburst in the UK and Ireland in 1998. 

Inevitably, this name change upset many loyal consumers of the chewy sweets, with many believing that Opal Fruits had a softer texture. The reason for phasing them out was to create one global brand, which is easier for both marketing and production.

Although the flavours initially remained the same, eventually the lemon flavour became lemon & lime combined, and a new blackcurrant flavour was added, although the orange and strawberry remain untouched to this day. The blackcurrant is cherry in the U.S.

The first UK version of Starburst. Stick (tube) from 1998 with loose sweets. Red logo and yellow wrapper.

This is the first incarnation of Starburst (UK) which launched in 1998.

2000 to Present Day

Starburst released their brand new Sour Fruit Chews in 2006.

Opal Fruits were revived for 12 weeks in 2008 (from May to July) and were available to buy from ASDA Supermarkets. Shortly after this, in October 2008, the Wrigley brand was sold to Mars, and their non-chocolate products (including Starburst) were transferred to Wrigley.

In 2014, a new slogan "Unexplainably Juicy" was introduced, and this is still used today.

2016 A Starburst Halloween Mix was launched in the U.S., which included the flavours Bewitched Blueberry, Batty Blackberry, Chilling Cherry and Mysterious Mango. 

In 2021, Mars Wrigley Opal Fruits returned to British shelves for a further 12 weeks, and were sold at B&M stores, with the original four flavours. Many delighted fans of the retro favourite stocked up on them during the revivals so they can continue to enjoy them for many months. 

In April 2021, the entire Starburst range was discontinued in New Zealand. 

In June 2022, Starburst was discontinued in Australia.

Given the number of times that the original brand has been revived, it appears that this retro favourite has a special place in the hearts of the British public.

A pouch of Starburst (yellow) from 2023, with loose sweets unwrapped in front of it.


The original flavours were strawberry, lemon, lime and orange.

The lemon and lime flavours were eventually combined into one sweet, and a blackcurrant flavour was introduced, which became cherry in the U.S.

Currently, the four flavours of Starburst Original in the UK are;

Orange (orange wrapper)

Lemon & Lime (green wrapper)

Strawberry (red wrapper),

Blackcurrant (purple wrapper)

The UK version of Starburst is suitable for vegetarians and contains no artificial flavours or colours. However, the U.S. version contains gelatine derived from animals.


Starburst Original Minis unwrapped, smaller-sized version of the original sweets which come in a pouch.

Starburst Fruit Chews Strawberry includes only strawberry flavour in a pouch.

Starburst FaveReds includes four flavours of red-coloured fruits; Strawberry, Raspberry, Cherry and Red Apple.

Starburst Zero Sugar All Pink Strawberry Drink Mix, which comes in a box containing 6 sachets.

In February 2023, the first non-HFSS Starburst product (not high in saturated Fat, Salt and Sugar) was launched. Starburst Fruit Squares includes Apple, Blackcurrant, Strawberry and Orange flavoured square-shaped sweets in a pink pouch. A Tropical Mix version includes lemon, mango, passion fruit and pineapple flavours and comes in a turquoise pouch.

Starburst Cotton Candy is a delicious 3.1oz bag of Cotton Candy that tastes of Favereds Cherry and Strawberry Starburst sweets. It's an American product but is available for import from some UK online stores such as Amazon.co.uk and Randalls UK.

Bag of Starburst Cotton Candy

Starburst Cotton Candy (which we call candy floss here in the UK)


The packaging of Starburst has seen several transformations. What started as simple yellow wrappers has evolved into colourful, resealable bags, making it easier for fans to enjoy their favourite sweets on the go while keeping them fresh. 

Since their launch in 1960, the sticks (or tubes) of sweets have always come individually wrapped in paper wrappers, which have always been rather fiddly and sticky to unwrap! Nonetheless, they are designed to prevent the sweets from sticking together and sticking to the outer wrapper

Starburst's vibrant and eye-catching design has always been a part of its charm, and it continues to evolve to match the times.


Please note that these are the ingredients of the 2023 limited edition Opal Fruits and are subject to change. This product is suitable for vegetarians. 

Glucose Syrup, Sugar, Palm Fat, Concentrated Fruit Juice 1%* (Apple, Orange, Strawberry, Lemon, Lime), Acid Citric Acid, Modified Starch, Acid Malic Acid, Dextrin, Maltodextrin, Flavourings, Antioxidant Ascorbic Acid, Emulsifier Lecithin, Spirulina Extract, Colours Anthocyanins, Beta-Carotene, Curcumin, *Equivalent to 5.8% Fruit Juice

So go and unwrap a Starburst and savour the timeless delight that has truly stood the test of time.

2 pouches of Starburst Fruit Squares, turquoise and pink.

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