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Is soda vegan? At first glance, when you’re reading the label on a can of that carbonated meal companion, it sure seems to be. After all, it’s not like there are pork chops in your Pepsi! But this question isn’t as silly as it might seem.
Animal products sure can be sneaky, and a lot of the ingredients on the back of those labels can be hard enough to pronounce, much less decipher.
So, is soda vegan? What about diet soda? What kinds of vegan beverages, vegan soft drinks, and vegan sodas are out there? We’ll dive into all of those questions in this article, and I’m sure you’ll emerge with the confidence to choose your can of carbonation.
What is soda exactly?
Soda generally refers to carbonated water that has been mixed with a sweetener as well as some sort of flavoring. Preservatives are also often used, in order to maintain freshness and extend shelf life. Caffeine is another common additive to soda.
Fun fact: Coca-Cola used to actually be cocaine based. That’s right, cocaine was the main stimulant used in the popular soft drink.
The “coca” in the name actually stands for the coca plant, the source of cocaine. The company changed the recipe in 1903, after pressure from the FDA, and switched to caffeine as the main stimulant in their soft drink.
If you’re interested in seeing how Coca-Cola is made, check out this video:
Is soda vegan?
Let’s dive into the big question right away. Is soda vegan, or isn’t it?
A look at the Coca-Cola website itself tells us that some sodas are definitely not. The page states:
“All of our Coca‑Cola and Schweppes brands are the same in that they contain no milk, no eggs, nor any products derived from mammals.
“If you’re a vegan or a vegetarian, you should know that a few of our drinks do contain small traces of fish gelatine (which is used as a stabiliser for the beta-carotene colour). These drinks are Lilt, Lilt Zero, Kia-Ora Orange Squash No Added Sugar and Schweppes Orange Squash.”
Joshua Cuellar emailed Coke to ask for a definitive list of which sodas are and are not vegan. You can find his original post here, but essentially the answer is that most of them are. However some of the juices produced by Coca-Cola such as the Ruby Red Grapefruit Drink contain cochineal, a red dye made from crushed beetle shell, and some other juices contain dairy. If a juice contains cochineal or dairy it will be listed on the label.
One more thing to note, however, is that some juice products from the company contain vitamin D3 that is derived from lanolin, which is in turn often derived from sheep’s wool. Another noteworthy point is that it is in fact common practice in the juice supplier industry to clarify grape juice in a process that utilizes gelatin derived from bovine skin (see is jello vegan friendly for more on this disgusting ingredient). Then there’s the whole bone char and sugar issue, too.
All this is to say that, depending on how strict you would like your veganism to be, there is a little bit more to the question than just whether soda is vegan or not. Also, you’ve gotta keep an eye on your juices! (Although fresh squeezed is always the best option for juice drinking anyway, or powdered wheatgrass if you’re feeling brave!)
It’s important to note that I don’t advocate drinking soda at all, regardless of whether it’s vegan or not. There are tales on the internet of Coca-Cola being an effective drain cleaner, or very adept at cleaning the gunk off of an old, nasty penny. Do you really want drain cleaner in your body?
What about diet soda? Is that vegan?
Let’s look at one example of a diet soda (and arguably the most popular example) – Diet Coke. The ingredients listed on the Coca-Cola website are carbonated water, sweeteners such as acesulfame K and aspartame, caramel color e150d, caffeine, and citric and phosphoric acids. Taken individually, all of these ingredients are, in fact, vegan.
One thing to watch out for is the use of ester gum in sodas. This additive is often used as a food stabilizer, and it contains glycerol which can be derived from animal sources.
Another thing to take into consideration is that just because a company produces products that are technically vegan, that doesn’t mean that they are producing them in a manner that truly adheres to vegan morals and standards. That brings me to my next point:
What kinds of vegan beverage options are out there?
When I say vegan beverage options, or vegan soft drinks, or vegan sodas, or whatever you are looking for here, I’m referring to products that are not only technically vegan but are also produced in a manner that keeps vegan principles in mind. Luckily there are plenty of companies worldwide that have devoted themselves to creating delicious all natural and vegan soft drinks!
Probably the hottest of them all at the moment, however, is Zevia. Zevia has taken the plant-based world by storm since its inception way back in 2007, and they’re showing no signs of slowing down. Even everyone’s favorite vegan-hater Joe Rogan is drinking the stuff!
Zevia have got loads different flavors to choose from, so finding the right one for you might take a little trial and error. Luckily, there a solution…you can now pick up a Rainbow Variety Pack, which contains two cans of each flavor: Cola, Ginger Root Beer, Ginger Ale, Cream Soda, Grape, Black Cherry, Lemon Lime Twist, Orange, Mountain Zevia, Dr. Zevia, Caffeine Free Cola, and Grapefruit Citrus from Amazon.
There are plenty of other vegan beverages and vegan soft drinks out there – just keep your eyes peeled! Sneaky no-no ingredients on the label that you need to watch out for include cochineal and ester gum.
Is soda vegan? Answered!
So we dove right in to the soda world, and what did we find? Most sodas are, in fact, vegan, including the contemporary classics like Coke and Diet Coke. However just because it’s vegan doesn’t mean you should drink it!
If you’re looking for more natural soda options, Zevia are doing a great job of producing yummy, natural sodas. Sneaky ingredients to watch out for in sodas and other beverage options include cochineal and ester gum – these are not vegan!
What is your view on drinking soda? Do you have any favorite vegan or natural soda options? Let us know in the comments below!