Lilt, rebranded to Fanta Pineapple & Grapefruit in 2023, is a fizzy drink that has a “totally tropical taste” thanks to it containing both pineapple juice and grapefruit juice. What could be more tropical than that?! It is made by the multi-billion dollar beverages conglomerate, the Coco-Cola Company, but interestingly, if you asked for a Lilt in Coke’s home country of the United States, no one would know what you were talking about. That’s because Lilt was only ever produced to be sold primarily in the UK and Ireland (although apparently, people of Gibraltar and, rather strangely, the Seychelles, were also able to purchase Lilt).
But, we digress. The point of this article is to answer the very simple question you never realised you wanted to ask: is Lilt vegan? And, rather alarmingly to those of us who used to love this zingy drink back in the day, the answer is no. Lilt is not suitable for vegans or those following a plant-based diet.
Editor’s Note – On the 14th February, 2023 it was reported that Lilt would be rebranded as “Fanta Pineapple & Grapefruit”. Ultimately, as Lilt was non-vegan, this is of relatively little interest to those on a plant-based diet. Producers the Coca-Cola Company have said they will not be changing the ingredients, production method or taste. So, that sadly means the lovely fish gelatine stays in, and vegans ought to stay away!
Why Isn’t Lilt (Fanta Pineapple & Grapefruit) Vegan?
Let’s delve into why Lilt is not vegan. Given that it is essentially fizzy water with a bit of fruit juice thrown in, there doesn’t seem anything obvious that would stop it being suitable for those on a plant-based diet. So, let’s run through all the ingredients:
Carbonated Water, Fruit Juices from Concentrate 5% (Pineapple, Grapefruit), Sugar, Citric Acid, Antioxidant (Ascorbic Acid), Sweeteners (Acesulfame K, Aspartame, Sodium Saccharin), Preservative (Potassium Sorbate), Flavourings, Stabilisers (Acacia Gum, Guar Gum, Sucrose Acetate Isobutyrate, Glycerol Esters of Wood Rosins), Colour (Carotenes). Contains a Source of Phenylalanine.
Even though some of those ingredients might not be wholly familiar to most people, there is nothing that jumps out as being definitely non-vegan. They’ve opted for plant-based stabilisers in the form of acacia gum, guar gum and glycerol esters of wood rosins, while Phenylalanine is an essential amino acid that occurs naturally in the aspartame sweetener that is added to the drink. A vegan eating a clean, healthy, unprocessed diet might not want to some of these things but they don’t seem to come from animals. So, why on earth isn’t Lilt fit for vegans?
The Offending Non-Vegan Ingredient: Carotene
For vegans who have spent any time looking into what goes into food and drink products, it might not come as a massive surprise that the makers of Lilt use an ingredient that destroys the product’s chances of being classified as vegan. The ingredient in question: is carotene. This might be confusing given that carotene is prevalent in various vegetables and fruits, including (you’ve guessed it!) carrots, as well as sweet potatoes, broccoli and pumpkin. But, according to the FAQ section on Coca-Cola GB’s website, “a few of our drinks do contain small traces of fish gelatine which is used as a stabiliser for the beta-carotene colour”.
Just like with certain beers that used the dried swim bladders of fish in the filtering process, it is products made from fish that render Lilt unsuitable for vegans. Because it is used as a stabiliser or solvent for the carotene, it doesn’t even need to be listed amongst the ingredients, meaning vegans might well have inadvertently consumed Lilt without realising it wasn’t vegan. But fear not, as there are plenty of vegan-friendly beverages that could serve as decent alternatives to Lilt.
Best Vegan Alternatives to Lilt (Fanta Pineapple & Grapefruit)
If you are seeking a “totally tropical taste” but without the added fish gelatine, there are still several vegan-friendly options available. None of them are exactly on the money when it comes to replicating the exact flavour of Lilt. But if you are seeking something that just tastes a little bit tropical or even just different to your run-of-the-mill soft drinks or fruit juices, here are a few options to try.
|Equinox Kombucha – Pink Grapefruit & Guava Flavour||Kombucha – fermented, slightly fizzy, flavoured tea – is all the rage these days, partly due to the various health benefits that have been ascribed to it (we’ll not delve into that here).
This pink grapefruit and guava flavour option certainly has a tropical flavour, and while you’ll never mistake it for Lilt, you might well prefer it. Moreover, it is almost certainly a healthier pick.
|Firefly Peach and Green Tea||There are various other tea and mate soft drinks on the market and they come in a range of flavours. This option from Firefly has a great tangy taste that might not replicate Lilt’s cloying tropical sweetness, but it is nonetheless refreshing and worth trying.|
|Levantine Pomegranate & Lime Pressé||Another option that is well worth seeking out is this pomegranate and lime pressé. It’s possibly more Middle Eastern than Caribbean, but it has hints of the tropical so it’s made our list.|
|Belvoir Passion Fruit Martini (Non Alcoholic)||With passion fruit juice, lime juice and even some vanilla, this lightly fizzy mocktail is surprisingly quaffable. As with the homemade “Lilt” below, you can add your alcoholic spirit of choice to ramp it up a notch.|
Can You Make Your Own “Lilt”?
There’s no reason you couldn’t make your own vegan-friendly version of Lilt if you’re so inclined. It’s unlikely to taste exactly like the Coco-Cola-produced version (unless you happen to have a bit of Sucrose Acetate Isobutyrate and Glycerol Esters of Wood Rosins kicking around your pantry). But you can get close enough using the following ingredients and then altering the relative quantities to match your taste.
- 4 measures carbonated water (soda water)
- 2 measures pineapple juice
- 2 measures grapefruit juice
- ½ measure agave nectar
- A sprig of fresh mint
If you want to ensure the flavours are well mixed, add them all to a cocktail shaker with a handful of crushed ice and shake it like you’re Brian Flanagan (Tom Cruise) in the 1988 classic-but-actually-a-bit-crap movie, Cocktail. Then serve it with a chintzy cocktail umbrella and a maraschino cherry on a stick.
Of course, assuming you are over 18 (because, yes, here at VF HQ we all waited until we were 18 to start drinking!), you could always throw in a couple of measures of good-quality white rum to really get the tropical party started. Alternatively, if you wanted a little more bite, you could replace the soda water with ginger beer.
Lilt (Fanta Pineapple & Grapefruit) Isn’t Vegan & We’re Not Happy
Like many things that very well could be vegan, it’s a little annoying that Lilt and the new rebranded Fanta version isn’t suitable for those on a plant-based diet. Surely to goodness, a company with Coke’s buying power could source some carotene that hasn’t come into contact with fish bones and cartilage? But until they wake up and change their ways, the Lilt Man won’t be doing his rounds for anyone in the vegan community.