Is Coca-Cola Vegan? Yes and No.

Is Coca-Cola Vegan? Yes and No.
The Coca-Cola Company claims that the “vast majority” of their drinks are vegan. Is it true? Is Coca-Cola Vegan?

While perusing Coca-Cola’s UK website the other day, I came across a page on which the company claims that the “vast majority” of their drinks are vegan. The website states that none of the Coca‑Cola and Schweppes brands beverages contain milk, eggs or any products derived from mammals. However, the website notes, vegans and vegetarians should note that a few of their beverages contain small traces of fish gelatine, which is used as a stabilizer for the beta-carotene color. The sodas listed seemed to be available only in the UK. What about in the US?

According to a blog post by Joshua Cuellar Coke’s Sodas Are Vegan & Coke’s Juices Are Not, Coca-Cola wrote him a long email about the topic. In the email the company stated that some Coca-Cola products contain cochineal (which is listed on the label), and some products contain milk (which is also listed on the label).

Some Coca-Cola juice products contain Vitamin D3, which is usually derived from lanolin. Lanolin is a natural oil in the fiber of sheep’s wool. It is separated from the wool after the sheep’s hair is cut (sheared). Lanolin oil is obtainable without harming the sheep but may be an issue for strict vegans.

The email goes on to say that some of Coca-Cola’s suppliers use a common industry practice for grape juice clarification that does involve animal by-products. The gelatin used to clarify the juice is made from bovine skin. Make note, in the US gelatin is derived from pigs – not fish – and the gelatin is used for juice clarification not color stabilization. Curious.

All that said, Coca-Cola claims that in the US, the only Coca-Cola brand products that are currently produced with cochineal are Minute Maid Juices To Go Ruby Red Grapefruit Drink, Jugos Del Valle Strawberry Banana Juice Nectar, and Jugos Del Valle Strawberry Juice Nectar. And, the only currently manufactured Coca-Cola brand products that contain milk are Far Coast (World of Coca-Cola only), FUZE Refresh, and Minute Maid Fruit and Creme Swirls.

Is Cola-Cola vegan? Looks like it, but many of Coke’s other products are not. In the end, no matter why you choose to be vegan – for your health, religious beliefs, to reduce your carbon footprint or to eliminate animal suffering – Coca-Cola’s vegan status seems like nothing more than Coca-Cola conveniently exploiting their ingredient list.

What do you think? Coca-Cola veganism: Marketing ploy or corporate mission?

Written by Jennifer Kaplan

Jennifer Kaplan writes about sustainable food and wine, the intersection of food and marketing and food politics for Insteading (and EatDrinkBetter.com before the two sites merged) and is the author of Greening Your Small Business. She is an Instructor at the Culinary Institute of America-Greystone and was named one of The 16 Women You Must Follow on Twitter for Green Business. She has four kids, a dog, a hamster, an MFA and an MBA – follow her on Twitter.

7 Comments

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  1. Almost all sodas are NOT vegetarian as they use animal charcoal filters to filter sugar… it’s like having a Boca burger cooked on a meat skillet, hardly vegetarian.

  2. The difference between the words “vegan” and “vegetarian” are very misleading here. A vegetarian has one restriction in their diet – they do not eat meat. That’s it. Vegans on the other hand, do not consume any animal products or byproducts. It is not just a diet, it is a lifestyle. We do not buy leather, suede, wool, etc. In your article, many times you used the word vegetarian. This article has nothing to do with the consumption of meat, therefor it only regards to vegans. This is a classic type of misinformation, even if only accidental. It hurts the vegan movement when you include vegetarians with vegans, because vegetarianism is absolutely not the same thing – the two should never be lumped together for countless reasons.
    As the other comment stated though, most sodas containing sugar are not vegan. In the UK I believe their sugar is not refined with bone char, but in the US it is. There are vegan sodas though that use stevia instead of sugar. These are also zero calorie, but unlike most zero calorie sodas you’ll find on the market, (Fresca, Diet Coke, etc.) sodas using stevia do not contain phenylalanine and have a low glycemic index.
    I hope this helps you with future articles!

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