Is Coca-Cola vegan?

In this brief guide, we will answer the query, “Is Coca-Cola vegan?” and will discuss the ingredients of Coca-Cola and will discuss the brief history of Coca-Cola.

Is Coca-Cola vegan?

Yes, Coca-Cola is vegan. Vegetarians and vegans may drink Coca-Cola since it does not include any animal-derived components.

According to a recent survey, 28% of consumers eat more plant-based proteins, 24% of them consume more plant-based dairy, 17% of them eat more plant-based meat alternatives and more than 40% of consumers would think that a product if mentioned as plant-based would be healthier than the one that is not with the same nutrition label (5).

The Story of Coca-Cola

In 1886, in Atlanta, Georgia, a mysterious brown liquid was formed. Dr. John Stith Pemberton, a pharmacist at Jacob’s Pharmacy, made the syrup and distributed it in a jug to passersby. The name was inspired by the fact that the primary components were cocaine and caffeine.

The commercial strength of cocaine and coca was discovered towards the end of the 18th century and it was accordingly popularized in the United States for curing various addictions, for its aphrodisiac properties, use in pharmaceutical industry etc. However this legitimacy lasted for a short while, specifically from the year 1884 up until 1900. Coca-Cola’s original syrup contained cocaine till the year 1903, after which it was quietly taken out from the original syrup formula. The Coca-Cola we know today still contains coca — but the ecgonine alkaloid is removed from it. Perfecting that extraction took until 1929, so before that there were still trace amounts of coca’s psychoactive elements in Coca-Cola, which means that “de-cocainised” coca leaf extracts are used as a flavoring agent (1).

Coca-Cola Zero Sugar, Cherry Vanilla, and even Coffee are just some of the numerous varieties that have been introduced since then. The firm now carries over 200 products in a broad variety of nations. In the United States alone, there are over 800 distinct types of alcoholic beverages. Additionally, in 2020, the corporation predicted sales of $33 billion.

As a result, many vegans may have assumed that their favorite fizzy beverage had been freed from the grip of the animal agricultural sector.

What Go into Making Coca-Cola?

There have been several modifications to the original Coca-Cola formula throughout the years. Several stimulants were initially used in the production of Coke, Coca-Cola, or Coca-Cola — whatever you want, but officially it is the hyphenated version.

In the past, the drink’s name was inspired by cocaine leaves and kola nuts, a West African stimulant. However, these ingredients are no longer included in the recipe. Despite the high sugar and caffeine content, Coca-Cola still gives you a quick burst of energy, but it comes with a slew of side effects.

The ingredients list vary, depending on the country of manufacturing. The Coca-Cola website in the United States lists high fructose corn syrup as sweetener, while the Coca-Cola website in the UK and in Brazil list sugar as sweetener.

 Coca-Cola ingredients

Although it comprises six components, around 90% of the drink is carbonated water in Coca-Cola Classic. Sweetener, phosphoric acid, caffeine, and a combination of natural flavors are also included. There is the impression that these ingredients are vegan.

The ingredients influence not only the taste of a carbonated beverage, but also its mouthfeel. Viscosity, astringency, pH and carbonic acid define the sensorial profile experienced by the consumer. For example, when sugar is removed and substituted by artificial sweeteners, in a diet version of the drink, the viscosity decreases and also the mouthfeel and body. In a study, the correlation between beverages ingredients and taste was analyzed. Bite, burn, numbing, and carbonation sensory attributes had a significant positive correlation to pH and total acidity and a significant negative correlation to phosphoric acid. Caramel and vanilla aroma had a significant positive correlation to phosphoric acid. pH had a negative correlation to mouth coating, which may play a role in the perception of mouthfeel, since regular cola carbonated beverages were explained by high mouth coating and diet cola carbonated beverages had a significantly higher pH (2). 

“Coca-Cola does not include any products originating from animal origins and may be incorporated in a vegetarian or vegan diet.” Animal-derived substances may be present in goods, even if they aren’t marked as such on the packaging. Isinglass, for example, is used as a filter in the production of wine. It’s not only Coca-Cola that has to adhere to this rule: the beverage industry as a whole has to do the same thing.

Is it possible to get vegan sugar?

Sugar is, of course, a crucial element in fizzy favorites. Coca-Cola, for example, has 39 grams of sugar in each can. Most sugars are thought to be vegan. However, a surprising number of them are constructed from animal bones.

To obtain the white hue, bone char (as it’s often called) is typically added, although it isn’t likely to appear on the label of your favorite brand. The bones of killed cows are used to make char, which is also known as “natural carbon.”

Bone char may be used in the production of brown sugar, even though this form of sugar does not need it. Bone char is a heterogenous adsorbent, which is produced from the destructive distillation of dried, crushed cattle bones. Typically, it has been utilized in the sugar industry for the removal of color by sorption. The bones from cattle, goat, sheep, chicken etc. are accumulating day by day as waste materials and require proper solid waste management. The utilization of this bone for the synthesis of bone char, which can be used as an adsorbent to remove contaminants from the wastewater, can provide a better solution for the waste management (3).

From nation to country, Coca-Cola has a variety of sugars. The firm claims that it’s either high fructose corn syrup or sugar. Coca-Cola claims it employs aspartame in some of its products to reduce sugar and calories, according to the company’s website.

The artificial sweetener aspartame is popular in the United Kingdom (including the Republic of Ireland), Ireland, and Australia. There are no animals involved in its production, but the product has been carefully tested on them.

Fish collagen

There are “small amounts” of fish gelatin in non-vegan Coca-Cola beverages, according to the company’s website. The collagen in fish scales is removed before the product is soaked in hot water.

Many food manufacturers use it to stabilize their products, but it may also be used to thicken and emulsify. The usage of fish gelatin, rather than pork gelatin, has grown in popularity because it addresses religious objections to pork intake.

Using gelatin to stabilizegenerate the beta-carotene color in Coca-Cola products is a common practice. A typical source of beta-carotene, found in carrots, is fish gelatin, which is used to create the orange hue.

In addition, as mentioned in the website of Coca-Cola in UK, Schweppes Indian Tonic Water and Honest Lemon and Honey both contain honey and are therefore not suitable for vegans. In addition some variants from the glaceau vitaminwater range contain vitamin D and this may be sourced from lanolin in sheep’s wool meaning that they also may not be suitable for vegans. Costa Coffee Ready-to-Drink Caramel Latte and Costa Coffee Ready-to-Drink Latte both contain milk and are therefore unsuitable for vegans; Costa Coffee Ready-to-Drink Americano may contain milk.

Animal experimentation

Back in 2007, Coca-Cola announced that it will no longer perform or sponsor animal testing for its products. “The Coca-Cola Company does not perform animal testing and does not directly sponsor animal testing on drinks,” PETA  claimed in a letter.

In addition, it said that it will write letters to its partners and research groups requesting that they utilize alternative approaches instead. Controversial tactics such as force-feeding rats ‘caramel color’ have been revealed by the corporation in the past.

In addition to the safety of caramel, the safety of sweeteners was also conducted by animal testing. For the approval of the FDA and to determine the ADI, the acceptable daily intake of these sweeteners, defined as the estimated amount (usually expressed in milligrams per kilogram of body weight per day) that a person can safely consume on average every day over a lifetime without risk, animal experiments were intensively performed in the past (4).

Other FAQs about Vegans that you may be interested in.

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Conclusion

In this brief guide, we answered the query, “Is Coca-Cola vegan?” and discussed the ingredients of Coca-Cola, and also discussed the brief history of Coca-Cola.

References

  1. Chauhan, Megha. Crisis and Coca-Cola. Available at SSRN 3664678. 2019. 
  2. Kappes, S. M., S. J. Schmidt, and S‐Y. Lee. Relationship between physical properties and sensory attributes of carbonated beverages. J food sci, 2007, 72, S001-S011.  
  3. Hyder, A. H. M. G., Shamim A. Begum, and Nosa O. Egiebor. Adsorption isotherm and kinetic studies of hexavalent chromium removal from aqueous solution onto bone char. J Environ Chem Eng, 2015, 3, 1329-1336.
  4. Kroger, Manfred, Kathleen Meister, and Ruth Kava. Low‐calorie sweeteners and other sugar substitutes: a review of the safety issues. Comprehen rev food sci food safe, 2006, 5, 35-47.
  5. Tireki, Suzan. A review on packed non-alcoholic beverages: Ingredients, production, trends and future opportunities for functional product development. Trend Food Sci Technol, 2021, 112, 442-454.