There are many snacks and beverages produced by large companies throughout the world that may seem inherently vegan but aren’t because of the wrong sugar choice or hidden animal byproduct ingredient. Soft drinks are one past-time that has many vegans wondering and wishing for the answer, “yes, it is vegan.” There is more to the answer than a simple “yes” or “no,” but for the most part, yes, soda is vegan. It may not be the healthiest choice, but it is considered vegan (most of the time).
Living a vegan lifestyle can be daunting at times, with all the grey areas surrounding food and beverage labels. It is likely you won’t get a legitimate answer just by reading a label, and depending on the company, calling and asking for yourself may not even do the trick. Not all companies are like this, though. Before you assume a company is going to be dishonest with you, and give up trying to find the answer you are looking for, give them a call and take note of how you are treated. An honest company is likely to have a genuine conversation with you about the subject at hand, no matter their size.
With the knowledge you gain from this article, the hopes are that you won’t even need to take the time to call a company to double-check the logistics. The bottom line is this; if you know what ingredients to look for, you will be able to answer for yourself if a particular soft drink is vegan or not. However, it does get tricky when the labels state “natural flavors,” as this could insinuate an animal byproduct was used in the flavoring process. Still, I will get more into that later.
For starters, I’ll talk about all popular brands of sodas that are and aren’t vegan.
Coke Vs. Pepsi
This isn’t an article about Coke vs. Pepsi and which is better, but in the vegan debate, Coke is traditionally more upfront with its responses to the public. Coca-Cola even has a section on its Product Page dedicated to what drinks are vegan and what constitutes as a vegan soft drink. Not to mention, they also briefly define veganism to their customers as well. It is notable that all of Cola-Cola’s sodas, including the acquired Fanta line of drinks, are all made with vegan sugar and vegan ingredients. However, some of their juices aren’t vegan.
Some of the classic Coca-Cola sodas that are classified as vegan include:
On the other hand, Pepsi hasn’t always been as upfront about why some of their products aren’t considered vegan. They have simply stated which of their products aren’t vegan but will not go any further into detail.
There have only been two Pepsi products confirmed by the company to be vegan. These products are:
Yet another win for vegans, A&W Root Beer, is also considered vegan. The company uses raw sugars and zero ingredients derived from animal products or animal testing.
All of the above-stated products are considered vegan, but don’t just take my word for it. It is essential as a vegan to know what to look out for when you are reading the labels before purchase. Some ingredients may seem vegan-friendly when, in fact, they aren’t. These ingredients can be seen as substandard to the lifestyle for one reason or another. Maybe the ingredient contains trace amounts of animal byproduct, or maybe the product is tested on animals. Either way, this is where your ideals come into play. If you see these specific ingredients on your labels, it is up to you whether or not you still want to buy the product.
Ingredients to Keep in Mind
There are a lot of things in the world that are left with grey areas, and your soft drink labels should not be one of them. If you are vegan, chances are you care a lot about what goes into your body, especially if the product has even a hint of animal cruelty involved in its manufacturing. Chances are, you also learned relatively quickly that you must read what’s on the label no matter what the product is because there are many products in today’s market that you would assume are vegan when they aren’t; i.e., soda.
There are six main ingredients that could be in your soda that aren’t considered vegan:
- Ester Gum– Is a stabilizer that is made from glycerol. Glycerol is what you need to keep in mind here because most companies will use a type of glycerol that is derived from animals. It is a sweetener that can be made in a lab, but most companies don’t use lab-made glycerol. Ester gum and anything related to glycerol is not considered vegan
- Cochineal– Is a red food dye that is obtained from bugs. In the vegan world, some believe bugs and insects to be vegan, while others do not. That said, if you see Cochineal on an ingredients label, it is still important to note it comes from bugs.
- Vitamin D3– This one is most common in sports and energy drinks. Vitamin D3 is derived from the oil in sheep’s wool. Granted, sheep aren’t harmed when they are shaved for their wool, but many vegans still would not consider this vegan, as most vegans don’t use, consume or wear anything that is derived from an animal.
- Honey- There are a few specialty sodas that contain honey in them. Honey (hyperlink honey article) is also a debated topic in the vegan community. Some will eat locally sourced honey from bee farmers they know and trust, but others will not.
- Yellow 5– This is a flavoring included in Mountain Dew and is likely not considered vegan because it is known to be tested on animals.
- Artificial Flavoring- Artificial orange, cherry, vanilla, and blue raspberry flavoring are all considered not vegan because they are derived from animals.
Aside from these six main ingredients, it is also important to note that sometimes companies don’t use organic or raw sugar. Only organic or raw sugar is considered to be vegan, as pure refined sugar is filtered using bone char from cows. You would not be able to tell from the label if the company used organic or raw sugar while manufacturing the soda. This is something you will have to contact the company directly to get the answer you need. That said, all the products listed above are used with organic or raw sugar.
Just for added peace of mind, here is a list of ingredients you will see on the labels of soft drinks that are vegan:
- Carbonated water
- High fructose corn syrup
- Caramel color
- Phosphoric acid
- Sodium benzoate
Sometimes natural and artificial flavors are also considered vegan, but this can only be trusted if it has been confirmed by the company beforehand. Coca-Cola products contain natural and artificial flavorings, but the above-stated products are still approved to be vegan.
Where Pepsi products are concerned, their diet soda products aren’t vegan because they contain gelatin, which is derived from animals and isn’t even considered vegetarian, let alone vegan. Another thing to look out for is cream soda drinks. Most of the time, cream soda will not be vegan because it will have traces of milk or other animal byproducts in the ingredients.
Naturally, flavored drinks may come as a surprise, but these cannot be classified as vegan unless otherwise stated on the labeling. This one seems peculiar because when we think of naturally flavored things, most of the time, we don’t think of animals. That is not the case, though, because natural flavoring can range from anything from plants, fruits, and spices to meat, seafood, poultry, eggs, and dairy products. Not many soft drinks are made with natural flavors, but if they are, it is important to keep this in mind.
Although traditional soft drinks aren’t the healthiest option in the world, for the most part, the famous brands we have grown to know and love are considered to be a vegan drink. Hopefully, Pepsi products will come around and publicly announce their products to be vegan sooner rather than later, but for now, we have a fair amount of products we can choose from that are vegan. Not only this, but we now know what ingredients to look for if we are ever in doubt and need to check a label.