Is Powerade Vegan?


Is Powerade Vegan?

Powerade is a popular sports drink put out by The Coca-Cola Company (Gatorade is a PepsiCo’s brand). Like with popular sodas, I get asked quite a bit if any Powerade flavors are suitable for vegan consumption. It’s a good question—after all, there are numerous ingredients present in most flavors, which means numerous opportunities for animal-derived ingredients to be snuck in.

Is it vegan? Yes, Powerade beverages are vegan. At least, every flavor I’ve encountered. Formulations vary, but most are some combination of water, HFCS, salt, phenylalanine, potassium citrate, sodium citrate, sucrose acetoisobutyrate, malic acid, potassium phosphate, vitamins B2 and B6, artificial colors, and sugar.1

So yeah, water, electrolytes, sugars, and organic acids, etc. Not much can go wrong here. Keep in mind that’s just a general description of most flavors. Each flavor contains its own unique ingredients and coloring agents.

There are numerous flavors these days, so what we’ll do here is go over the most popular versions of the beverage, and why each is considered vegan.

Why Powerade Is Considered Vegan

Lemon Lime

This is probably the most iconic flavor profile for sports drinks in general.

This one contains:2

  • Water
  • High fructose corn syrup (HFCS)
  • Citric acid
  • Salt
  • Electrolytes—mono-potassium phosphate, magnesium chloride, and calcium chloride
  • Gum acacia*
  • Natural flavors
  • Glycerol ester of rosin**
  • Vitamin fortification—niacinamide (vitamin B3), pyridoxine hydrochloride (B6), vitamin B12
  • Ascorbic acid (flavor protection)
  • Calcium disodium EDTA (to protect the color)

*Gum acacia aka gum Arabic is a natural gum composed of the hardened sap of the acacia tree (senegal or seyal, etc.).3

So, it’s plant-based and thus vegan.

**Glycerol ester of rosin does require the use of glycerin. Glycerester of rosin, aka glyceryl abietate (no that’s not a typo) or ester gum, is a food additive (E number E445 specifically), produced by reacting refined wood rosin with the glycerol ester.

Glycerol is a grey area for some in the vegan community and is mentioned by PETA as a potentially animal-derived ingredient.4

But, most vegans don’t go out of their way to avoid the stuff, because it’s pretty ubiquitous in vegan staple foods and it’s often 100% vegan-friendly.

Then, there’s the Powerade Zero Lemon-Lime sports drink—the low-calorie version of the lemon-lime flavor.

This one contains:5

  • Water
  • Citric acid
  • Salt
  • Potassium citrate and magnesium chloride, calcium chloride and potassium phosphate
  • Natural flavors
  • Sucralose, acesulfame potassium
  • Vitamin B3 (niacinamide), vitamin B6 (pyridoxine hydrochloride), and vitamin B12
  • Yellow 5 and Blue 1

No problems here.

Fruit Punch

Another common flavor.

This one contains:6

  • Water
  • HFCS
  • Citric acid
  • Natural flavors
  • Sodium chloride, potassium citrate, magnesium chloride, calcium chloride, potassium phosphate
  • Modified food starch
  • Red 40*
  • Ester gum
  • Coconut oil, brominated vegetable oil
  • Niacinamide (B3), pyridoxine hydrochloride (B6), and vitamin B12

*Red 40 (Allura red) and Red 4 (carmine) often get confused. While the former is petroleum-derived and thus vegan, the latter is produced from a certain type of beetle and is thus non-vegan.7-9

I bring this up because they share a common name and color, so folks reading this might think that the one present in Powerade is non-vegan.

But you can rest assured that it is 100% suitable for most vegans. I say “most” because there are some extra prudent vegans who want to avoid anything that may be been tested on animals (for carcinogenicity, etc.).

But, the ingredient is non-animal derived and thus technically vegan.

Powerade Zero Fruit Punch contains:10

  • Water
  • Citric acid
  • Salt
  • Mono-potassium phosphate and magnesium chloride and calcium chloride
  • Natural flavors
  • Sucralose, and acesulfame potassium
  • Vitamin B3 (niacinamide), vitamin B6 (pyridoxine hydrochloride), and vitamin B12
  • Red 40
  • Ascorbic acid
  • Calcium disodium EDTA

No problems here.

Orange

This one contains:11

  • Water
  • HFCS
  • Citric acid
  • Salt
  • Monopotassium phosphate, magnesium chloride, calcium chloride
  • Gum acacia
  • Natural flavors
  • Glycerol ester of rosin
  • Yellow’s 5 and 6*
  • Vitamin B3, vitamin B6, and vitamin B12
  • Ascorbic acid
  • Calcium disodium EDTA

The orange comes from a combination of Yellow 5 and Yellow 6.

Yellows 5 and 6 both fall in the class of azo dyes (the class of dyes produced from petroleum).12,13 Thus both are considered vegan.

The Powerade Zero version contains:14

  • Water
  • Citric acid
  • Salt
  • Mono-potassium phosphate, magnesium chloride, and calcium chloride
  • Natural flavors
  • Sucralose and acesulfame potassium
  • Vitamin B3 (niacinamide), vitamin B12
  • Yellow’s 5 and 6
  • Ascorbic acid
  • Calcium disodium EDTA

All good here.

White Cherry

This is the clear version (or at least one of them).

It contains:15

  • Water
  • HFCS
  • Citric acid
  • Salt
  • Monopotassium phosphate, magnesium chloride, calcium chloride
  • Natural flavors
  • Modified food starch
  • Ascorbic acid
  • Medium-chain triglycerides (MCT’s)*
  • Calcium disodium EDTA
  • Sucrose acetate (isobutyrate)
  • Vitamin B3 and vitamin B6

*Most triglycerides you encounter in food are made up of longer chain fatty acids. But, fatty acids come in all lengths. There are the short-chain fatty acids (like the kind our gut bacteria make) and medium-chain fatty acids like those in MCTs found in coconut oil.

Vegans run into MCTs on food panels a lot and wonder if they’re vegan. The answer is yes, they are vegan. They’re usually derived from coconuts.

It may be worth mentioning that some are derived from palm kernel oil.16 This can be problematic for some vegans, but the presence of palm oil or palm kernel oil does not render a food product non-vegan by most standards.

Twisted Blackberry

This is a slightly less common flavor, but I thought I’d throw it in given the red color and potential for carmine.

It contains:17

  • Water
  • HFCS
  • Natural flavors
  • Citric acid
  • Salt and mono-potassium phosphate, magnesium chloride and calcium Chloride
  • Red 40
  • Calcium disodium EDTA
  • Vitamin B3 (niacinamide), vitamin B6 (pyridoxine hydrochloride), and vitamin B12
  • Blue 1

As you can see, they stuck with the usual Red 40, so no problems here.

That’s it for the vegan status of Powerade. Thanks for reading.

You may also want to check out the following related articles:

References

  1. Powerade. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Powerade
  2. Powerade Ion4 Lemon Lime Sports Drink, 32 Fl. Oz. https://www.walmart.com/ip/Powerade-ION4-Lemon-Lime-Sports-Drink-32-Fl-Oz/16821203
  3. Gum Acacia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gum_arabic#Production
  4. Animal-derived Ingredients Resource: Living. https://www.peta.org/living/food/animal-ingredients-list/
  5. Powerade Zero Lemon Lime Sports Drink, 32 Fl. Oz. https://www.walmart.com/ip/Powerade-Zero-Lemon-Lime-Sports-Drink-32-Fl-Oz/15136709
  6. Powerade ION4 Zero Fruit Punch Sports Drink, 20 Fl. Oz. https://www.walmart.com/ip/Powerade-ION4-Zero-Fruit-Punch-Sports-Drink-20-Fl-Oz/17757384
  7. Is Red Dye 40 Toxic? https://www.healthline.com/health/food-nutrition/is-red-dye-40-toxic
  8. Bug-Based Food Dye Should Be Exterminated, Says CSPI. https://cspinet.org/news/bug-based-food-dye-should-be-exterminated-says-cspi-20060501
  9. Carol Potera. DIET AND NUTRITION: The Artificial Food Dye Blues. Environ Health Perspect. 2010 Oct; 118(10): A428. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2957945/
  10. Powerade Zero Sports Drink, Fruit Punch, 20 Fl Oz, 8 Count. https://www.walmart.com/ip/Powerade-Zero-Sports-Drink-Fruit-Punch-20-Fl-Oz-8-Count/22210629
  11. Powerade ION4 Orange Sports Drink, 20 Fl. Oz. https://www.walmart.com/ip/Powerade-ION4-Orange-Sports-Drink-20-Fl-Oz/15610622
  12. Yellow 5. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tartrazine
  13. Yellow 6. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sunset_Yellow_FCF
  14. Powerade Zero Orange Sports Drink, 32 Fl. Oz. https://www.walmart.com/ip/Powerade-Zero-Orange-Sports-Drink-32-Fl-Oz/15136708
  15. Powerade ION4 White Cherry Sports Drink, 32 Fl. Oz. https://www.walmart.com/ip/Powerade-ION4-White-Cherry-Sports-Drink-32-Fl-Oz/16940378
  16. MCT’s. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Medium-chain_triglyceride
  17. Powerade ION4 Twisted Blackberry Sports Drink. https://www.walmart.com/ip/Powerade-ION4-Twisted-Blackberry-Sports-Drink-32-Fl-Oz/49409660

Drew Davis

Hi! I'm Drew and this is the place where I nerd out about vegan and plant-based diets. I have a BS in Nutrition and Dietetics from the University of Alabama and have taken dozens of classes in areas like organic and biochemistry, food science, medical nutrition therapy, nutritional genomics, and vegetarian diets. I'm still learning every day, and on this blog, I'll be sharing everything I discover about vegan diets as I go.

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