Is Ginger Ale Vegan? Here Is What You Should Know

Are you craving a cold can of ginger ale but are afraid it may contain animal ingredients?

Well, it turns out starting today you don’t have to worry! Yay ~

While there are brands that may contain animal ingredients, most brands of ginger ale are considered to be vegan-friendly. Naturally, you still have to be cautious and inquisitive before you purchase, but finding flagrant animal ingredients should be rare.

In this short article, we will quickly look at:

  • Common ingredients in ginger ale;
  • Potential ingredients stricter vegans might be against;
  • Vegan-friendly ginger ale brands;
  • And how you can make your own vegan ginger ale at home.

If you’re curious, feel free to continue reading!

Ginger Ale: Ingredients

ginger ale
Image by F Delventhal, license CC By 2.0, via Flickr

I’ve researched a few different brands of ginger ale and found a combination of the following ingredients in most of them:

  • Carbonated water
  • Sugar or high-fructose corn syrup
  • Ginger Extract
  • Natural Flavors
  • Citric Acid
  • Sodium Benzoate
  • Caramel Color

Looking at this list of ingredients, there are obviously no animal ingredients.

However, if you’re a more stringent vegan, there are certain ingredients ginger ale brands use that may be questionable, so they require a bit more attention.

Those ingredients are:

  1. Refined sugar (although not all brands use sugar)
  2. Natural flavors
  3. Caramel color

Let’s have a closer inspection, shall we?

Sugar

Sugar can be derived from two sources: sugarcanes and beets.

They are both used in similar amounts in the United States and have a similar taste and texture. However, they have a different refining process.

While beet sugar is filtered using a diffuser and mixed with vegan-friendly additives to crystallize, cane sugar may be filtered and bleached with bone char.

What is bone char?

Bone char is used by the sugar industry as a decolorizing and deashing agent and is responsible for giving sugar its white, pristine color. It is also capable of removing inorganic impurities such as sulfates, as well as ions of magnesium and calcium.

However, as you might tell from the image above, bone char is obtained by heating the bones of cattle at high temperatures.

That process results in a black, granular material quite similar to charcoal.

But Wait! Not All Companies Rely On Bone Char

That’s right! Not all companies in the sugar industry use bone char.

There are modern alternatives such as activated carbon and ion-exchange resins capable of achieving the same result as bone char.

However, the problem is that this information is not disclosed in product labels, so it’s difficult to know what type of sugar was used and the method used to refine it.

What You Can Do Access That Information

The two ways of getting ahold of that information are:

  • Visiting the brand’s product or FAQ page, and hope they have that information available;
  • Or contact them directly through email or by phone.

If most ginger ale companies are like Oreos or Ghirardelli, then their sugar is obtained from different suppliers, including ones that use bone char. Always check to make sure!

Natural Flavors

The issue with natural flavors is that they can be derived from both plant-based and animal-based ingredients. In fact, here is the FDA’s definition of “natural flavors”:

“The term natural flavor or natural flavoring… contains the flavoring constituents derived from a spice, fruit or fruit juice, vegetable or vegetable juice, edible yeast, herb, bark, bud, root, leaf or similar plant material, meat, seafood, poultry, eggs, dairy products, or fermentation products thereof, whose significant function in food is flavoring rather than nutritional.”

Furthermore, here is a piece of info I found on the Wikipedia page for Ginger Ale:

ginger ale wikipedia page

As I’ve mentioned in this blog post, the term “natural flavors” can be a way of a company preserving the uniqueness and identity of their product.

However, by doing that, they’re not obliged to mention any animal ingredients that may be used under the “natural flavors” umbrella, as long as it’s not an allergen.

Looking at the screenshot above, some “natural flavorings” may include ingredients such as cane sugar, as well as honey — an animal ingredient.

That’s why I also advise you to contact companies when you see “natural flavors” on a label because we never know what type of ingredients are actually being used.

Caramel Color

Typically, caramel color is created by heating carbohydrates (i.e: sugar). There may be some acid or salt present, but nothing that wouldn’t be considered vegan.

This being said, the caramel color is only as vegan as the carbohydrate used to make it.

There are different sweeteners used to make caramel color:

  • Fructose
  • Glucose
  • Malt Syrup
  • Molasses
  • Sucrose
  • Sugar
  • Starch Hydrolysates

Usually, they are all considered vegan, but as we’ve covered earlier in this blog post, refined sugar may or not be considered vegan based on its refining process. 

Therefore, if you’re strict in your choice of products, contact the company and see what type of carbohydrate they’ve used to create the caramel color.

Vegan Ginger Ale Brands

Here is a quick list of vegan ginger ale brands:

Given the information we’ve gone through, I’ve selected brands that (1) don’t have any “questionable ingredients” (i.e: natural flavors), and (2) brands that either advertise themselves as a vegan-friendly brand or have been confirmed to be vegan-friendly by Barnivore.

Homemade Vegan Ginger Ale

Here is a quick video on how to make ginger ale at home:

The author of the video uses regular, white sugar, but feel free to use a sugar that is either unrefined or certified vegan!

The video is only 2 minutes long, and the recipe doesn’t seem complicated, so you should be able to nail it quite easily! Have fun!

Bottom Line: Most Ginger Ale Brands Are Vegan

Yes, most ginger ale brands are vegan.

In fact, feel free to pick one of the brands we’ve listed above.

If you happen to go for a different brand, make sure you’re cautious of any “vague” ingredients that pop up. This, of course, if you’re stricter with your choices.

As we’ve learned, there’s more to certain ingredients than what meets the eye.

By the way, there’s no problem if you’re not as strict in your approach to products and labels because that doesn’t make you any less vegan than any other vegan on Earth!

I hope this blog post has shined some light on your question, and thank you for reading!

Alexandre Valente

Hey there! My name is Alex and I've been vegan for more than five years! I've set up this blog because I'm really passionate about veganism and living a more eco-conscious life. Hopefully, I can use this website as a channel to help you out on your own journey!

Decaf Coffee: Does It Reduce Iron Absorption?
Previous Post Decaf Coffee: Does It Reduce Iron Absorption?
Is NOS Energy Vegan? Here Is What You Should Know
Next Post Is NOS Energy Vegan? Here Is What You Should Know