Are All Sodas Vegan?
The vegan lifestyle is full of challenges but most people committed to it wouldn’t choose to live any other way. The biggest challenge is often trying to determine if widely available products like snack foods and soda are safe to consume or whether there is some hidden element that flips them into the “unsafe” category.
Vegans and non-vegans alike are often surprised to learn that some of the most popular soft drinks in the world are actually safe for herbivores to drink. Not by any conscious choice made by the manufacturer, mind you. But just because it happened to work out that way. But not all soda, even natural soda, passes muster with vegans.
How to Tell if a Soda is Vegan
If you are a herbivore you’ve probably found yourself hesitating more than once when you reach for a soda. “Is it safe?” It’s a good question and one even vegetarians and those still flirting with the idea of eliminating animal products from their diet want an answer to.
The truth is many brands of soda (including some of the biggest names in the global soft drink industry) are perfectly safe for vegans to drink. That’s the good news. The bad news (actually it’s not all that bad) is that until you figure out which are safe and which aren’t you’ll need to do plenty of label reading. Here are seven ingredients to look for that indicate a company incorporates animals at some point in their production process:
- Cochineal: This is a red food dye that is derived from bugs typically found on prickly pear and other forms of cactus. So what’s the big deal, you ask? The deal is that some vegans consider insects to be members of the animal kingdom and will not consume anything that contains cochineal dye.
- Ester Gum: Ester gum is derived from glycerol and is used as a stabilizer and sweetener in some brands of soda. The problem is that while some soda makers use lab-made glycerol others use glycerol derived from animals. To make matters worse it can be extremely difficult to determine which kind is in a particular soda.
- Yellow 5: This is a food coloring most famously found in Mountain Dew, although it’s also used in other beverages as well. Some herbivores object to the inclusion of yellow five because it is known to be tested on animals during the manufacturing process. If your brand of veganism rejects the notion that animals are a commodity to be used however humans see fit, you’ll want to avoid yellow 5.
- Artificial vanilla flavor: Vanilla is largely derived from orchids of the genus Vanilla. But (and this is a big hairy butt), some vanilla flavoring is derived from the butt secretions of beavers. That’s right. Beavers secrete a thick goo from a gland next to their anus that smells like vanilla and is used by some beverage manufacturers who list it on the ingredient list as “artificial vanilla flavor”.
- Vitamin D3: You’ll find vitamin D3 in quite a few energy drinks but it won’t pass muster with a vegan because it’s derived from the oil in sheep’s wool. It doesn’t matter that the sheep are not killed during the shearing process. The fact is that vitamin D3 is an animal byproduct.
- Refined sugar: If a soda contains organic or raw sugar that should not be a problem. But if it uses refined sugar as a sweetener you’ll want to give it a pass. That’s because some refined sugars are filtered using bone char from cows. Most soda labels will not specify whether organic, raw, or refined sugar was used. You’ll likely need to contact the manufacturer and ask them.
- Honey: Some all-natural sodas will use honey as a sweetener instead of sugar but honey is problematic for some adherents to veganism. This goes back to what we said earlier about some feeling that insects are animals and as such nothing derived directly or indirectly from them should be used or consumed. That would include honey.
Ingredients That Get a Passing Grade from Vegans
If your soda contains only some or all of the following ingredients you can drink it with confidence:
- High fructose corn syrup
- Caramel color
- Carbonated water
- Sodium benzoate
- Phosphoric acid
What About GMOs?
At first, it might seem like a no-brainer that genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and veganism cannot coexist. But the fact is that unless a particular plant had its DNA modified with animal DNA then it can confidently be considered safe for vegans. Now, some vegans might balk at consuming GMOs just on principle. But those genetically modified organisms are still safe for herbivores.
The Bottom Line
Drinking something like Coca-Cola might seem like it’s forbidden by veganism, but that’s actually not the case. Other considerations aside, the ingredients in Coke are vegan-friendly meaning that, should an herbivore feel so inclined, tipping back a Coke on a hot summer day will not require them to compromise their beliefs. Other sodas may, however, so it’s important that you check the ingredient list before you buy.
Try Our Full-Flavored Vegan Soda Flavors
Rocky Mountain Soda Company's natural soda flavors are each gluten-free, kosher and contains no-GMOs. Better still, drinking it will not violate your commitment to veganism. We offer a dozen different natural flavors that will have you wondering why you never tried our soda before.