Is Soda Vegan? How to Choose a Plant-Based Carbonated Drink

Are any animal products bubbling up in your favorite soft drink?

Female hand pouring cola drink from tin to glass

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Nothing tastes quite like an ice-cold soda from a fountain. The bubbly bite of the carbonation pairs perfectly with the syrupy sweetness, but it also leaves vegans wondering if animal products might be lingering inside that delicious effervescence. 

On the whole, soda is considered a vegan food. That sugary goodness often comes from vegan-friendly corn syrup or artificial sweeteners. However, some sodas also contain sugar—a plant-based food that is commonly processed using non-vegan bone char.

Learn more about what’s in your cup in our guide to vegan sodas.

Why Almost All Sodas Are Vegan 

The overwhelming majority of ingredients in a wide variety of soft drinks are plant-based, but a few ingredients give vegans pause. Beyond questions about the processing of sugar, on rare occasions, sodas may contain additional animal-derived ingredients.

Here are a few common vegan and non-vegan ingredients in the most popular soda brands.


A by-product of the meat and seafood industries, non-vegan gelatin is collagen extracted by boiling the connective tissues of cattle, chicken, pigs, and fish. While uncommon and not found in the most popular soda brand products, a select number of soft drinks use this animal product to stabilize food coloring.


Honey is a by-product of bees. Vegans concerned with animal welfare view beekeeping as animal exploitation and therefore abstain from honey. 

Other vegans acknowledge that bee labor generates much more than its by-products. Bees are responsible for pollinating a third of all food grown for humans. Even plant-based foods like almonds and avocados wouldn’t exist without commercial bee pollination, calling into question the definition of vegan food.


Sugar comes from plant-based sugar beets and sugarcane. For this reason, vegans who follow a “practical and possible” lifestyle consider sugar to be an acceptable food. Some strict adherents, however, point to the processing of cane sugar as proof that not all sugar is truly vegan. 

Cane sugar is regularly tumbled with bone char, a by-product of the meat industry. The one exception is 100% USDA-certified organic cane sugar, which is always vegan. Because beet sugar doesn’t go through a second refining step, it is always vegan. Generally speaking, foods labeled with the general term “sugar” contain both vegan beet sugar and non-vegan cane sugar.

High Fructose Corn Syrup

A common added sugar in processed foods, high fructose corn syrup is a family of corn and potato syrups. This vegan-friendly sweetener is processed by enzymes to convert about half the glucose into fructose. 

Natural Flavors

Natural flavors are derived from plants, fungi, or animal products. The materials are heated, and their essential compounds are extracted to be added later to processed foods. Because of the sweet, often fruity flavor of soft drinks, the natural flavors in soda come from plants and are therefore vegan friendly.

Artificial Flavors

Federal regulations deem flavors created in the laboratory from chemical sources (including unsustainable petroleum) to be artificial flavors. On a molecular level, however, these food additives are indistinguishable from natural flavors. Unless the label of the soda includes a milk allergy warning, even the “cream” in cream soda comes from synthetic sources.

Artificial Colors

Popular artificial colors like Blue 1, Yellow 5 Lake and 6 Lake, and Red 40 are derived from petroleum-based sources, giving some environmental vegans pause.

Caramel Color

Caramel coloring is distinct from caramel candies which often include non-vegan butter and cream. The coloring comes from heated sugar and water and is generally considered vegan.


Carmine is a non-vegan red food coloring made from the wax covers of female cochineal scale insects. Demand for carmine in cosmetics and food requires tens of billions of cochineals each year. Because of allergy labeling laws, products that contain either carmine or cochineal extract must explicitly state so on the label. It is rare to find carmine in soda today, even in red-colored varieties that most frequently use artificial colors.


Some sodas contain glycerine, or glycerol, also listed as ester gum. This food additive can come from both plant and animal sources, but, in general, food sources are plant-based. Cosmetic sources of glycerine come from animal fats.

Did you know?

Bottled water isn’t the only source of rampant plastic pollution. In 2022, the non-profit Break Free from Plastic named Coca-Cola the worst plastic polluter for the fifth year. In second place is Pepsi. The previous year, Coca-Cola debuted a limited run of nearly 100% plant-based plastic bottles, but the company hasn’t made the reduced carbon bottles available for purchase. The company has also promised to use 50% recycled packaging materials by 2030. Likewise, Pepsi recently committed to using 20% recycled packaging by 2030.

But as Treehugger has reported extensively, a tiny percentage of plastics are recycled, and a change in consumption culture is required to make a dent in the plastic problem.

Frequently Asked Questions
  • Do vegans drink soda?

    They do! Vegans have the option of drinking just about every commercially available soda. Even vegans who avoid sugar because of possible animal products used during processing, there are sugar-free and corn syrup-sweetened varieties to suit their needs.

  • Which soft drinks are not vegan?

    In the U.S., almost all sodas are vegan. However, in the U.K., an undisclosed ingredient makes Diet Pepsi non-vegan. Similarly, a few Coca-Cola products in the U.K. contain fish gelatin.

View Article Sources
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  3. "Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act of 2004 (FALCPA)." U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

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