The reason it’s so hard to answer whether or not soda is vegan is that soda is such a general term these days that encompasses thousands of beverages. If we were simply talking about a handful of colas, like Pepsi, Coke, and RC, the question would be a lot easier to answer; but who knows how many brands and flavors of soda are actually out there?
For the purpose of this article, I am defining soda as any variety of soft drink – i.e., soda water mixed with syrup and flavorings. Depending on where you’re from, you may also refer to it as “pop,” “tonic,” “fizzy drink,” or simply “coke.”
COKE & PEPSI
No matter what kind of soda you’re drinking, there’s a good chance it was made by either Coca-Cola or Pepsi (Britvic). The good news is, we came across multiple sources that agree most Coca-Cola and Pepsi soft drinks are suitable for vegans. Ironically, when it comes to Coke, it’s their fruit juices that aren’t vegan, not their sodas – but that’s probably a subject best left for another article.
POSSIBLE NON-VEGAN INGREDIENTS IN SODA
It’s easier to talk about the possible ingredients you’re likely to find in a soda that’s not vegan-friendly, then it is to list every single soft drink that may contain animal derivatives. It’s often the fruit flavored sodas that contain these ingredients, which you’ll find listed on the ingredients label.
If you’re drinking a soda with a red tint to it, you should check to see if it has carmine in it. Carmine is made from an insect, the cochineal bug, which is why it’s not suitable for vegans. It may also be listed as “Natural Red 4” or “Red 4.” However, do not confuse that with Red 40, which is a different chemical made from petrol.
While not common, some sodas may contain dairy ingredients. Cream soda, for example, may include cream or half-and-half if it is made to order.
GLYCEROL / ESTER GUM
When I first Googled the subject of this article, the top result was a rather outdated and uninformative “list” article that simply labeled all sodas as “non-vegan” because some sodas may contain ester gum, which may contain glycerol that might be from an animal source.
As far as I can tell, most sodas do not contain ester gum or glycerol, except for orange sodas. Sunkist lists the ingredient as “glycerol ester of wood rosin.” Glycerol may also be labeled as “glycerine.”
You should also know that according to a report put out by The Vegetarian Resource Group in 2010, glycerine (glycerol) is usually sourced from plants when it’s used in foods and beverages. When it’s used in cosmetics, however, it’s typically sourced from animal fats.
It is common to see "natural flavors” used as an ingredient in many sodas. There’s always a chance they may be derived from animal sources, but that is becoming less common. Coca-Cola has said most of their sodas are suitable for vegans, even though this would include sodas that contain “natural flavors.” It would be reasonable to assume other beverage makers also use vegan-friendly “natural flavors,” but it is not guaranteed.
Written by Adam