Aah, Bisto. There’s nothing quite like it. Bisto gravy is one of those vital components that can make or break a meal. To be honest, there’s nothing it can’t go with.
But here’s the question – is Bisto vegan? Can it be enjoyed by meat eaters and non-animal product eaters alike? Can Bisto really be the gravy glue that joins us together to end the war on who wants to eat what?
Whether you are a long-term professional vegan or just beginning to delve into the diet, and you’re curious about whether Bisto is vegan – you’ve come to the right place.
The Short Answer
Oh boy, I wish I could give a comprehensive short answer to this question. Take this for now if you are in a rush:
Bisto is…..sort of vegan. Sometimes. Kind of.
Refer to the next section if you’re slightly boggled by this short answer (because we are too).
The Long Answer
Here are the juicy details.
It all depends on the type of Bisto product you buy, because the meat-based gravy products (Beef Gravy, Lamb Gravy, Chicken Gravy etc.) all use real meat juices for their flavouring. Obviously, we don’t expect vegans to question if those ones are vegan.
Let’s consider the bog standard Bisto Favourite Gravy Granules. No meat in the name, just gravy. So what are the ingredients?
- Potato starch
- Palm oil
- Wheat flour
- Color (E150c)
- Flavour enhancers (E621, E635)
- Emulsifier (E322) (Contains soya)
As you can see, there is no mention of meat or dairy products in the immediate ingredients list. This means that if you are a more lenient vegan, you can get away with using this gravy. However, if you want to take it more seriously, let’s delve further into the ingredients list.
If you are a serious vegan (or if you’re just curious), the flavour enhancers are what you need to consider the most.
These enhancers are designed to enrich the flavour of the food on the plate, whether it’s roast beef or a roast potato. This does not always necessarily mean that the flavour enhancers include meat products to enhance the flavour of meat, however.
Let’s take a look at E621. This is a flavour enhancer that also goes by MSG, or monosodium glutamate. It’s pretty common in a lot of foods, but it’s actually quite controversial in terms of health concerns.
Though it is worth saying that not all vegan diets are healthy, despite the nature of avoiding meat and dairy products. You can still be an unhealthy vegan, in which case you’re probably already consuming flavourings like E621 anyway.
E621 is also found in canned vegetables, Chinese food, meat products, seasoning, soups, and even food supplements.
We won’t go into the details of how E621 is manufactured, because it’s pretty confusing, but here is the answer to the question you’re probably wondering: whilst it doesn’t include meat or dairy products, this does not mean it may be cross contaminated with them.
If you’re confused about cross contamination, we will talk about it later.
Other than the risk of cross contamination, E621 is actually vegan.
Okay, so what about E635?
E635 is the flavour enhancer number for disodium 5’-ribonucleotides. It has actually 4 times the amount of flavouring as E621, which is why it is also a popular flavor enhancer in the processed food industry.
It’s high in sodium, which is why it is perfect in foods with low salt to enhance the flavour. Gravy is salty, so the more the merrier – especially if there is no meat juice included. It is most commonly found in flavoured noodles, fast food, snacks, chips, and some sauces.
E635 may be vegan, but it depends. It is mostly made from sodium salts, which are often taken from the flesh of animals. It can also be taken from plants. It’s a bit of a guessing game that can’t actually be answered for each Bisto product.
So, this is where it becomes a bit of a risky game. As with most food products that are technically vegan, such as Oreos for example, there is always the risk of cross contamination.
Cross contamination is when food products don’t involve meat or dairy products in their ingredients, but are often made in facilities that handle meat or dairy products.
This isn’t always the case with every single Bisto gravy product, however, and it doesn’t state it on the packaging either. It all depends on the facilities the product was made in.
This doesn’t mean that you are a bad vegan for consuming Bisto gravy without considering the risk of cross contamination.
There’s no way you can or cannot know whether there’s a chance your gravy was made in a facility that handles meat or dairy products, so it’s not really worth beating yourself up about it.
This is where the ethical vegan debate comes in. The majority of Bisto products involve palm oil to give it the smooth texture.
For those who don’t know, the palm oil industry is one of the leading contributors to climate change. Each day, acres upon acres of rainforests are destroyed to make room for palm oil trees.
The destruction of rainforests leads to mass habitat loss to a large number of species, most notably the Orangutan, and is also highly destructive to the environment.
Rainforests and forests have a huge impact on the environment due to the amount of trees. These trees soak up the carbon dioxide created by volcanoes, and then generate oxygen from the CO2. In short, trees are vital to humanity so we can breathe properly.
Destroying millions of trees for palm oil means that there are less trees to create oxygen, and less trees to support an essential biodiversity.
Palm oil is technically vegan, as it is mostly natural and does not contain meat or dairy products. However, the impact of palm oil on the environment creates a different debate on whether it is vegan or not.
It all comes down to personal preference. Not every single product in the world contains palm oil, so you’re not exactly contributing to the industry if you only consume Bisto gravy a handful of times in a couple of months.
If you consume Bisto gravy daily, however tempting that may be, that may pose concerns on both your personal health and the contribution to the palm oil industry.
Also, it’s not entirely possible for vegans to solely consume vegan farming given the amount of products that include palm oil or palm oil-based ingredients – which may or may not be mentioned in the ingredients list.
It’s an interesting debate and really comes down to how comfortable the individual feels about consuming palm oil, but for the majority of plant-based consumers, a little bit of Bisto isn’t the end of the world.
What About Other Bisto Products?
Whatever the product is, it’s best to read the list of ingredients.
There’s a high chance that meat-based powders may be an ingredient for flavouring, which is usually made from ground up bones and parts from the animal.
Definitely not a vegan or vegetarian option.
So…is Bisto Vegan?
Through our research, we can’t really determine whether it is vegan or not. For the most part, yes, Bisto can be vegan depending on which gravy product it is.
The option that is the most vegan is the classic Bisto Favorite Gravy Granules. It does not seem to contain meat or dairy products in the list of ingredients, which is enough for most vegans.
If you are more serious about maintaining a strict vegan diet, however, you may want to consider other factors. These factors include flavour enhancers, which can often be manufactured in facilities that also handle dairy and/or meat products.
Bisto products in general can also be handled in such facilities, though there is no way of confirming or denying this for every single pot of gravy granules.
It is also worth considering your own personal stance on palm oil. Bisto gravy does include palm oil, amongst a lot of other food products, which is unfortunately a destructive contributor to the environment, climate change, habitat loss, and increase the chances of species extinction.
However, it’s not entirely possible for any human to have a completely palm oil-free diet due to how many products include it. This means that if you sometimes consume Bisto gravy, say for a special vegan roast dinner, you shouldn’t beat yourself up about it.
You’re already doing enough by not contributing directly to the meat and dairy industries, and you’re technically not contributing further by consuming Bisto gravy.
We hope that our research has answered the question for you! As with most food products, it’s inevitably not easy to say whether Bisto is 100% vegan or not due to a variety of complicated factors.
If you are concerned that it’s not vegan, there are a multitude of vegan gravy options available on the market instead.