Coca-Cola is probably the most known brand all over the world, but, could it be that is off-limits for vegans?. The giant beverage company also owns others people's favorites such as Fanta, Dr. Pepper, Lilt, and Powerade. However, we know that some of the most known sodas contain animal-derived ingredients. But the most important question for all of us is: is Coke vegan friendly? And what is it inside sodas that makes them not suitable for vegans?
The Coca-Cola story
Coca-Cola was born way back in 1886 in Atlanta, Georgia. A Pharmacist named John Stith Pemberton crafted this unique syrup, serving it inside a jug down the streets outside Jacob's Pharmacy. Incredibly or not its main ingredients were cocaine and caffeine: which inspired the name.
Since then, lots of water passed under the bridge, and we have had many different iterations, such as diet Coke, Coca Cola Zero sugar, and flavors from cherry, vanilla, and even coffee. Today the company offers 200 brands worldwide.
In the US alone, there are 800 different drinks available with a revenue of USD 33 billion.
But to the disappointment of many vegans, their beloved drink is not free from ingredients of the animal kingdom or industrial agriculture.
Coke ingredients explained
Is coke vegan?
Each can of Coca-Cola Classic contains more than 30 grams of sugar (about 2 spoons), and six ingredients, though the drink is around 90 percent carbonated water. It also includes caramel color, phosphoric acid, caffeine, and a blend of secret natural flavors. On the surface, it would imply that these are vegan ingredients and the company says: “Coca-Cola does not contain any ingredients derived from animal sources and can be included in a vegetarian or vegan diet.”
However, some animal-derived ingredients can be found in products despite not being labeled as such. For example, to make wine, it's common to use ingredients such as isinglass to casein as a filter. This is a similar case in the soda industry too, to produce certain colors and flavors: and Coca-Cola is no different.
A key ingredient in carbonated sodas is sugar. Each can of Coca-Cola, for instance, contains 39 grams of and It is widely considered that most sugars are vegan. However, many are made using animal bones, why? it's often known, is added to achieve a white color. The char, also called ‘natural carbon', comes from the bones of slaughtered cows.
The types of sugar found in Coca-Cola vary from country to country. It's either high fructose corn syrup or sugar, the company states. Via its website, Coca-Cola says it uses aspartame in ‘some of its products to offer less sugar and fewer calories.
In Europe and Oceania, aspartame is a common artificial sweetener. It's made from amino acids, and whilst it's not sourced from animals, it has been tested on animals.
Products that contain it include Coke Zero Sugar, Diet Coke, Fanta Zero, and Sprite Zero. So in terms of the risk of bone char, the brand classic Coke is vegan, right?
Is coke vegan?
Some of Coca-Cola's products contain fish gelatin. The product is extracted from the collagen in fish scales before it's soaked in hot water.
It is used as a stabilizer in the food industry but it's also used as a thickener. Whilst gelatin is often harvested from pigs, fish gelatin has become more common because it overcomes religious concerns: as Jewish and Muslim faiths avoid pork consumption.
For Coca-Cola, gelatin is used to create the beta-carotene color in some of its products. In Israel, it is extracted from algae. But in the food industry, it is often recreated, replicated, and synthesized.
Other Coca-Cola drinks
Some of Coca-Cola's most well-known drink brands include Lilt and Schweppes. However, both are neither suitable for vegans nor vegetarians because they contain fish gelatin.
The brand's full list of products containing animal products are:
- Lilt/Lilt Zero
- Kia-Orange Orange Squash No Added Sugar
- Schweppes Tonic Water/Orange Squash
- Honest Lemon and Honey
- Glaceau Vitaminwater Zero Sunshine and Multi V
- Costa Coffee Ready-to-Drink Latte/Caramel Latte/Americano
Coca-Cola affirms most of its drinks are vegan-friendly. They include:
- Coca-Cola Classic/Zero Sugar/Energy
- Diet Coke
- Glaceau Smartwater/Vitaminwater
- Dr. Pepper
- Fuze tea
However, it is unclear whether any of its drinks may contain non-vegan sugar. So, what's the answer? Some may avoid the risk of bone char by avoiding sugar or artificial sweeteners altogether.