Is Coke Vegan? The Truth About the Classic Soda

Everyone loves the flavor of Coke, the classic soda with its delicious sweetness and bubbles, but is Coke vegan, or is there an animal product lingering there?

Classic soda is sweet, and like most soft drinks, it gets its sweetness from sugar, or in this case, high fructose corn syrup. Other sodas may get theirs from cane sugar or artificial sweeteners.

The Coca-Cola Company produces the globe’s favorite beverage in over 200 countries globally, and most of its soft drinks are considered vegan. However, some contain products like milk, cochineal. They list all ingredients on their product labels.

When is a Soft Drink Not Vegan?

Treehugger provides a thought-provoking list of some of the ingredients often included in soft drinks. Some are vegan, whereas others aren’t. As a vegan, you should read any soft drink’s labels before consuming it to determine if it is vegan.

The following are the most common products you will see on the labels of most popular soda brands and whether they are vegan:

Artificial Flavors

According to federal regulations, all artificial flavors are created in a laboratory from chemical sources. Because of their molecular structure, these food additives give foods and drink natural flavors. Therefore, even in cream sodas, the cream comes from a synthetic source unless the label includes a milk allergy warning.

Artificial Colors

Most colors used in colas are artificial. However, artificial colors, including Blue 1, Yellow 5 Lake, and Red 40, are petroleum-based source derivatives, meaning some environmental vegans won’t indulge.

Caramel Color

Caramel coloring differs from caramel because it doesn’t include butter and cream. It’s made by heating sugar and water, making it vegan-safe.


Carmine is a non-vegan red food coloring derived from cochineal insects. The dye comes from the wax covers of female insects for use in cosmetics and food. Allergy labeling laws demand that a label explicitly states the presence of cochineal extract or carmine in any product. According to Ethical Elephant, carmine has several names, including cochineal extract, CI 75470, E120, Crimson Lake, and Natural Red 4. Carmine is rarely found in sodas because most companies use artificial colorants for their red-colored drinks. However, it is often found in yogurt, candy, some juices, and ice creams, so always read the labels.


Many soft drinks contain gelatin to stabilize food coloring, but popular Cola brands don’t include it. Any product that states it has gelatin is unsuitable for vegan consumption because its extraction entails boiling the connective tissues of several animals, including fish, cattle, chickens, and pigs. For example, some drinks made by Coca-Cola contain traces of fish gelatine to help stabilize their beta-carotene colorants.


Glycerin or glycerol is also known as ester gum. It is a sweet-tasting and viscous food additive extracted from plant and animal sources. Generally, foods contain plant-based glycerin, and cosmetics contain animal-based glycerol.

High Fructose Corn Syrup

One of the most common sugars added to processed foods, high fructose corn syrup, is vegan-friendly. Enzymes help convert glucose into fructose.


Most plants cannot exist without bee pollination, but honey is considered an animal by-product for most vegans.


Sugar from sugarcane and sugar beets is an acceptable food for most vegans. However, for some vegans, the cane sugar processing comes into question because its second refining step includes using bone char. Beet sugar does not go through this step, meaning it’s always vegan, but most products don’t specify what type of sugar they use.

Natural Flavors

Natural flavors are the extracts from plants, fungi, or animal products removed by heating processes. Most sodas require a fruity flavor, meaning they come from plants and are vegan-friendly.

Is Coke Vegan?

Before determining if Coke is vegan, let’s closely scrutinize its label. Surprisingly, it only contains six ingredients.

Carbonated Water – Dissolved carbon dioxide gas added to water gives Coke its fizz, and it’s vegan.

High Fructose Corn Syrup – Coca-Cola’s official American website states that they use high fructose corn syrup to sweeten their famous soft drink. Therefore, if there’s no white sugar present, you don’t need to worry if you take issue with the bone char used in processing sugar.

Caramel Color – Caramel color is vegan because glucose, fructose, molasses, or malt syrup are heated to make it. These are all simple sugars, meaning the caramel color is vegan.

Phosphoric Acid – Soft drinks usually contain a small amount of this mineral acid, a derivative of inorganic phosphate rocks, to add its sharp flavor.

Natural flavors – At the mention of natural flavors, most vegans worry that these may include animal-derived ones. Coca-Cola’s natural flavors remain a closely guarded secret, but the company says that its classical Coke and other versions are vegan.

Caffeine – This ingredient comes from plants, making it suitable for vegans.

Other Vegan Sodas

Diet Coke has a few other components not included in the regular soft drink. Besides carbonated water and caramel color, it contains aspartame, phosphoric acid, potassium benzoate, natural flavors, citric acid, and caffeine. It also includes a source of phenylalanine. Diet Coke has no direct animal products, but aspartame generally is tested on animals.

The list for Coke Zero is similar but also includes potassium citrate and acesulfame potassium. None of these are sourced from animals, meaning vegans can also enjoy this drink.

Some flavored cola drinks that meet the vegan criteria include Coca-Cola Cherry, Vanilla, and Cherry Vanilla.

However, although the classic soda most people love is vegan, the company manufactures over 200 products. Some of their drinks may contain traces of fish gelatin that acts as a stabilizer, to add color, or as a gelling agent. Some of their drinks may also have milk or lanolin (a natural sheep wool oil). Lanolin contains Vitamin D3, and even though it comes from the sheep shearing process, meaning that it doesn’t harm the animal, some vegans have an issue with its use or consumption.

Tips when choosing a vegan soda

Veganism is not an absolute rule. Everyone has the right to decide what they can or cannot include in their diet, so it’s essential to be aware of all the possible animal-derived ingredients in sodas.

The most important tip for vegans looking for a suitable soft drink is to read the labels carefully. Unless you know the manufacturing process and ingredients used, avoiding any product that doesn’t explicitly state its components on the label is best. It’s also advisable to research popular companies and find out their techniques and processes before purchasing their products. Moreover, always double-check nutrition facts if you have specific dietary requirements.

Final Take

Therefore, the answer to “Is Coke vegan?” is yes. You can continue enjoying your classic soda without fear because it contains no animal-derived ingredients. The same applies to its diet, zero and flavored versions. 


Is red food coloring in Coke vegan?

Most red food coloring in Coke is vegan-friendly because it’s made from heated sugar and water. Still, some sodas may contain carmine derived from cochineal insects and are unsuitable for vegans.

Does Coca-Cola use gelatin?

Generally, Coca-Cola does not use gelatin as an ingredient in their products. Still, they use a few substances processed using fish gelatine to stabilize their beta-carotene colorants. As such, some of their drinks may contain traces of fish gelatin.

Are natural flavors in Coke vegan?

Coca-Cola’s natural flavors remain a closely guarded secret, but the company states that it’s classical Coke and other versions are vegan. Natural flavors are plant-based extracts from plants, fungi, or animal products removed by heating processes. Therefore, they can be suitable for vegans.

Is honey in Coke vegan?

Some sodas contain honey as an ingredient; however, it is considered an animal by-product for most vegans and isn’t found in popular Cola brands like Coca-Cola.

Is Coca-Cola vegan?

Yes, Coca-Cola is vegan. Its classic version and other variants don’t contain any animal-derived ingredients. Still, some of their drinks may include traces of fish gelatine to help stabilize their beta-carotene colorants. Some sodas may also have milk or lanolin (a natural sheep wool oil). However, most vegans accept these as suitable for vegan diets.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *