Is Coke Vegan: Everything You Need to Know About the Soda

Is Coke Vegan: Everything You Need to Know About the Soda

Although Coke has fiercely guarded its recipe for over a century, the secret formula is becoming a little less secret now.

The recipe was created in 1886 by John S. Pemberton, a druggist in Atlanta who was trying to concoct a healthy drink.

Then on its 125th-anniversary celebrations, Muhtar Kent, former chairman and CEO of The Coca-Cola Company, shared the secret formula with the consumers to celebrate the rich history of this refreshing brand's beginning.

Since the beginning,

The Coca-Cola Company has brought many iterations, such as Diet Coke, Coca-Cola Zero Sugar, and many other flavors.

However, is coke vegan?

And what are the ingredients that make its iconic flavor?

Keep reading to find out. But before that, what led people to ask if Coke is vegan?

Why Do Some People Think Coke Isn't Vegan

Vegans are careful with their diets, and people's suspicion of Coke being vegan or not is normal, but what led them to ask, 'is coke vegan'?

The answer is quite simple; it is because a few of their drinks do contain small traces of fish gelatine and honey.

Some of their drinks also contain milk and lanolin, known as 'wool fat,' which contains vitamin D, possibly sourced from sheep wool.

Is Coke Vegan

Coke is a carbonated soft drink manufactured by the Coca-Cola company, invented by a local pharmacist, Dr. John Stith Pemberton, in the late 19th century. He produced the syrup for Coca-Cola and carried a jug of the new product down the street to Jacobs' Pharmacy, where it was sampled and pronounced "excellent."

It was then sold for five cents a glass as a soda fountain drink. Since its birth at a soda fountain in downtown Atlanta in 1886, Coca-Cola has been a catalyst. Now, coca-cola brings beverage options across 200+ brands to the table, all from coffee & tea, juices, dairy & plant-based sparkling soft drinks, water, and flavored alcohol beverages.

However, is coke vegan? As mentioned, some of their drinks contain animal products, but the company claims that Coke or coca-cola does not contain any ingredients derived from animal sources. Thus, it can be included in a vegetarian or vegan diet.

Everything About Coke Ingredients

Did you know? Coke or coca-cola only contains six ingredients. These ingredients are what give Coke its refreshing title. Let's look through these ingredients to ensure that Coke is indeed vegan-friendly.

Carbonated Water

Carbonated or sparkling water is water that has been infused with carbon dioxide gas under pressure. The carbonation causes small bubbles to form, which produces a bubbly drink. Carbonated water is also known as club soda, soda water, seltzer water, and fizzy water.

However, one of the biggest concerns about sparkling water is its effect on teeth. And studies found that plain sparkling water poses little risk to dental health compared to sugary types.

Considering how coca-cola is 90% water and that water contains carbon dioxide, makes Coke is partially vegan.

High Fructose Corn Syrup

High fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is a sweetener derived from corn starch. High fructose corn syrup is high in fructose, containing either 42% or 55% fructose, with the rest being glucose and water, compared to the pure glucose in corn syrup. High fructose corn syrup is a central ingredient in many traditional soft drinks, including Coca-Cola.

Furthermore, in the Code of Federal Regulations (21 CFR 184.1866), these are referred to in the industry as HFCS 42 and HFCS 55. HFCS 42 is used in processed foods, cereals, baked goods, and some beverages, whereas HFCS 55 is used primarily in soft drinks. And today's use of high fructose corn syrup is nearly equivalent to sucrose use in the United States.

Caramel Color

Caramel color is coloring in the food industry. It is one of the oldest and most used colorings in food and beverages, which is made by heating simple sugars such as glucose, fructose, malt syrup, or molasses. Moreover, their color ranges from pale yellow to amber to dark brown and can create several colors when added to foods.

Furthermore, according to a study, caramel color accounts for more than 80% of all colorants added to the foods we eat and drink. However, coca-cola claimed that a specific caramel is made especially for Coca-Cola to give the drink its characteristic color.

Phosphoric Acid

Phosphoric acid is another ingredient used in food and beverages, found in inorganic phosphate rocks. It is typically used for pH control in the food industry; for example, phosphoric acid is used to manufacture cheese products, fats, and shortenings.

In the beverage industry, it is used in soft drinks, particularly cola. It adds tartness to the cola and the other soft drinks from coca-cola.

Natural Flavors

This is the most protected and secret part of the formula, and the company affirms that the essence of the secret formula of Coca-Cola is a blend of natural flavors.

A study identified that cola's unique and complex flavor resulted from natural ingredients, such as vanilla extract, lime juice, and essential oils of orange, lemon, cassia or cinnamon, coriander, nutmeg, and neroli.

Furthermore, the main constituents found in essential oils are usually quantified for quality control purposes, and the compounds found in each flavoring are usually present in varying proportions.


There was a popular rumor that coca-cola once contained cocaine, and the nickname 'coke' hints at this secret ingredient. However, the answer was a little more complicated than expected.

Although cocaine was never part of the original recipe, the company even confirmed that Coca‑Cola does not contain cocaine or any other harmful substance, and cocaine has never been an added ingredient in Coca‑Cola. However, Coca-Cola once contained coca leaf extract, a substance from which cocaine is derived. But, later, it was replaced with caffeine.

Caffeine is one of the ingredients that helps give Coca-Cola its unique and great taste, and it is naturally found in the fruit, leaves, and beans of coffee, cacao, and guarana plants. Coke's caffeine content is 34mg for a 12-oz can, that's three to four times less than coffee.

As explained in each ingredient, every six ingredients are sourced from plants which makes them 100% vegan and therefore suitable for vegetarians and vegans.

Is Diet Coke Vegan

After knowing, is coke vegan, let's know if other drinks are too. Diet coke is a no-sugar and no calories alternative to regular Coke and contains a few other components that aren't in the classic drink. The ingredients include,

  • Carbonated water
  • Caramel color
  • Aspartame
  • Phosphoric acid
  • Potassium benzoate (to protect taste)
  • Natural flavors
  • Citric acid
  • Caffeine

Aspartame is made from two amino acids which are major corn-producing and methanol; on the other hand, potassium benzoate is a white, odorless powder that's obtained by combining benzoic acid and potassium salt under heat.

About Sugar in Coke Zero

Much like diet coke, Coke zero is too sweetened with a sugar alternative, aspartame. The alternate sugar is blended with acesulfame potassium, an artificial sweetener also known as Ace-K, and together, they create a great taste with zero sugar and zero calories.

Similarly, Coke Vanilla, Coke No Sugar, Fanta Orange, Fanta Jelly Fizz, Sprite, Powerade, Powerade Zero, Lift, Appletiser & Grapetiser, Coke Raspberry, and Fanta Passion Fruit Cream are suitable for vegans and vegetarians.

Non-vegan Coke Drinks

The Coca-Cola Company affirmed that most of their drinks, including Coca‑Cola, are suitable for vegetarians and vegans as they do not contain any animal products. However, some drinks are not free from animal derivatives and thus unsuitable for vegetarians and vegans. The following drinks contain animal products:

  • Lilt
  • Lilt Zero
  • Kia-Ora Orange Squash No Added Sugar
  • Schweppes Indian Tonic Water
  • Schweppes Orange Squash
  • Honest (contains Lemon and Honey)
  • Glaceau Vitaminwater Zero Sunshine and Multi V
  • Costa Coffee Ready-to-Drink Caramel Latte
  • Costa Coffee Ready-to-Drink Latte
  • Costa Coffee Ready-to-Drink Americano

Some of the above drinks may contain small traces of fish gelatine which is used as a stabilizer for the beta-carotene color. Schweppes Indian Tonic Water and Honest Lemon and Honey both contain honey. As mentioned before, some of the coke variations contain vitamin D, which may be sourced from lanolin in sheep's wool, meaning that they also may not be suitable for vegans. In addition, Costa Coffee Ready-to-Drink Caramel Latte, Costa Coffee Ready-to-Drink Latte, and Costa Coffee Ready-to-Drink Americano contain milk and thus aren't suitable for vegans.

Final Words

Is coke vegan? Definitely, yes.

Vegans are careful with their diets, and people's suspicion of Coke being vegan or not is normal because Coke has fiercely guarded its recipe for more than a century. And with many variations like Diet Coke, Coca-Cola Zero Sugar, and many other flavors, along with the rumor, it naturally raised suspicion among consumers.

Therefore, on its 125th-anniversary celebrations, Muhtar Kent, former chairman and CEO of The Coca-Cola Company, shared the secret formula with the consumers. And to everyone's surprise, it only contained six ingredients: carbonated water, high fructose corn syrup, caramel color, phosphoric acid, natural flavors, and caffeine.

Moreover, each ingredient is sourced from plants, making them 100% vegan. Even so, there are some drinks that vegans should look out for, refer to the list of drinks provided above. And make sure to check the ingredient label before the purchase to be extra sure.


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