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There’s a lot of discussion on soft drinks as of late, maybe more so than there ever has been. Since Pepsi is one of the most popular soft drinks of all time, we thought it best to focus our attention on it today. Is it vegan? Does it contain ingredients that make it non-vegan? And what about Diet Pepsi?
We’ll answer these questions and more, so get comfortable and enjoy our discussion as we uncover the truth behind Pepsi.
What Is Pepsi?
Pepsi is a carbonated soft drink created by PespiCo (Pepsi Company). For years, Pepsi has gone neck-and-neck with Coca-Cola in an effort to reign supreme as the most powerful cola company on the planet. Currently, however, Coca-Cola is the number one soft drink company, while Pepsi is number two.
Pepsi is dark brown or amber in color and looks like most other soft drinks of its kind. But Pepsi wasn’t always known as Pepsi. It started out as Brad’s Drink, named after its original creator, Caleb Bradham. Bradham’s profession was pharmacist, and it was in his pharmacy that he sold the now-famous beverage, starting in 1893.
Just five years later, however, Bradham changed the name from Brad’s Drink to Pepsi-Cola. The reasoning for the name change is quite simple; Bradham advertised his soft drink as a treatment for an upset stomach.
Although not used much today, the medical term for upset stomach and indigestion is dyspepsia. So, Bradham shortened dyspepsia to “pepsi” and tacked on “cola” because of its cola flavoring. Thus, “Pepsi-Cola” was born.
Today’s Pepsi isn’t the same as the Pepsi-Cola from yesteryear. Back then, vanilla could be found among its ingredients. Pepsi does today offer a variation that includes vanilla. However, the modern standard Pepsi recipe does not.
With sales steadily on the rise, Bradham moved his bottling efforts into a rented warehouse (he had been doing everything from his drugstore). Selling approximately 8,000 gallons of Pepsi in 1903, sales nearly tripled the following year, making it clear that Pepsi was a big hit and was here to stay.
In the years since its inception, Pepsi has undergone several variations, some staying, others lasting only a short while. Some of these variations include:
- Pepsi-Cola (with Real Sugar Vanilla)
- Pepsi-Cola (with Real Sugar Cherry)
- Pepsi-Cola Soda Shop Black Cherry
- Pepsi-Cola Soda Shop Cream Soda
- Pepsi-Cola (with Real Sugar)
- 1893 Black Current Cola
- 1893 Original Cola
- 1893 Ginger Cola
- Raging Razzberry
- Strawberry Burst
- 1893 Citrus Cola
- Salted Caramel
- Hot Chocolate
- Cherry Vanilla
- Holiday Spice
- Summer Mix
- Tropical Chill
- Wild Cherry
In other countries, there are even more flavors, many of which relate to their various cultures and markets. Over the many years that Pepsi has been around, flavors tend to come and go like the wind. Many are only for a limited time, although consumer response has resulted in some making a comeback.
The most notable is perhaps Crystal Pepsi. It’s essentially Pepsi without its caramel color ingredient, as it tastes very similar to traditional Pepsi. After being discontinued following a short run in the early 1990s, many fans of the clear drink petitioned for its return.
And in the 2010s, Pepsi did just that, re-releasing Crystal Pepsi for a short time. In 2020, PepsiCo again teased the re-release of Crystal Pepsi, though nothing has yet come to fruition.
So, Is Pepsi Vegan?
To answer this question, let’s look at the ingredients in today’s recipe. There are only seven ingredients in total, so let’s examine them one at a time.
Carbonated Water: Water with carbon dioxide added to make Pepsi carbonated. This essentially adds bubbles to the beverage.
Sugar: Some sugar manufacturers use animal bone char as a filter to whiten the sugar. Pepsi, however, claims they do not.
Caramel Color: A common misconception is that this is a food coloring. Instead, caramel color is the result of heated sugar.
Citric Acid: Citric acid usually comes from black mold, with sugar used to promote the mold’s growth.
High Fructose Corn Syrup: High-fructose corn syrup is famously known as a vegan sweetener. This has even been confirmed by VRG (Vegetarian Resource Group).
Phosphoric Acid: Phosphorous can sometimes be found among animal bones. However, phosphoric acid isn’t the same thing and is therefore a vegan-friendly ingredient.
Caffeine: Caffeine typically comes from coffee beans, not animal products.
Natural Flavor: Natural flavors are neither natural nor a flavor. What’s more, it can include animal products. It’s worth noting that Pepsi claims to have a secret ingredient that they won’t share. Could this lone ingredient make Pepsi non-vegan? Read on to find out.
When it comes to whether Pepsi is vegan, PepsiCo confirmed that it is. It would seem the “secret ingredient” does not contain animal products of any kind, although we have no way of knowing for sure. We’ll just have to take PepsiCo’s word for it and assume that Pepsi is vegan.
Is Pepsi a Good Choice for Vegans?
It depends on where you stand with soft drinks in general. Is Pepsi vegan? Yes. But is Pepsi good for you? Studies would suggest otherwise. As it stands, though, Pepsi is a vegan soft drink that you can enjoy in your vegan diet.
It’s worth pointing out that Diet Pepsi, on the other hand, is not vegan-friendly. You can see this for yourself on Pepsi’s official website. The reason Diet Pepsi is non-vegan? Pepsi won’t say. We have to assume that there’s an animal ingredient in there that doesn’t sound too appetizing.
But you can confidently regular Pepsi without fear of conflicting with your vegan lifestyle. If you found this article helpful in your quest to maintain a healthy vegan diet, we encourage you to head on over to our vegan info page and check out the many other brands we highlight.
We discuss everything from restaurants to ingredients and everything in-between, so you know which products you can trust to be vegan-friendly.