Is Hot Cocoa Vegan? It depends. The two critical factors that determine whether or not a particular cup of hot cocoa is vegan, are:
- Presence of milk (or milk substitute)
- Type of sugar
Homemade hot cocoa can be made without adding milk. Common alternatives include soy, almond, cashew or oat milk in place of dairy products. However, many prepared hot cocoa mixes found at major retailers designed to simply add hot water do contain dry milk or milk solids.
Sugar may or may not be vegan depending on which plant it is made from and how it is refined. Sugar can be derived from beets, which is always vegan (it does not require the same level of filtering for impurities and color). But, more commonly, sugar comes from sugar cane. "Raw" sugar is unrefined and always vegan since it undergoes minimal processing to remove impurities and crystalize it. It contains more molasses as a result, giving it a blonde or brown color.
The white, brown and powdered sugars commonly used for baking, added to food and drinks and readily available at grocers and other retailers are refined. Refined cane sugar involves bleaching and removing impurities to give it the uniform color, size and texture consumers expect from table sugar. Historically this was done using bone char (made from cattle or other livestock bones), hence rendering it NOT vegan. However, more modern refineries use activated carbon or ion-exchange resin or polymer.
Some major sugar manufacturers utilize multiple refineries that may utilize both methods and it can't be assumed they are vegan based on brand alone without further indicators such as specific line or lot code. Sugars that are labeled as "certified vegan" or "organic" do not use the bone char method for refining.
Cocoa powder is the powdered form of the remaining solids left behind from cocoa beans after the fat (or cocoa butter) is removed during processing. Cocoa (or cacao) beans grow on Theobroma cacao trees. The processing of cocoa butter and powder does not involve any products derived from animals.
You can rest assured that ViVealth's Vocoa utilizes a lactose-free, non-dairy vegan milk substitute to give it its creaminess. Our sugar is grown and processed in the United States and certified vegan.