As with many popular beverages, you can never be too prudent as a vegan. Doing your due diligence is what part of following a plant-based diet is all about. So, is Kool Aid vegan?
The short answer is yes, but as always, things are not as simple as they seem. We’re going to put this artificial fruit drink under the microscope to find out more.
Kool Aid Ingredients
Even though this drink is mostly artificial and does not contain any real fruits, the ingredients are not unsuitable for a vegan lifestyle. But a strict vegan will question more than one ingredient.
Strictly speaking, there are no animal-derived ingredients in any of their various flavors. It was once thought that these types of drinks might include gelatin, but as you can see from the following ingredient profile, this is not true:
SUGAR, FRUCTOSE, CITRIC ACID, CONTAINS LESS THAN 2% OF ASCORBIC ACID (VITAMIN C), ARTIFICIAL FLAVOR, CALCIUM PHOSPHATE, RED 40, BLUE 1.
Let’s take a closer look a some of the problematic ingredients that might not be vegan:
The inclusion of sugar is not ideal and will raise a few eyebrows for anyone following a plant-based diet. This is because it is often processed with bone char. This is often called natural carbon, but it is made from the charred bones of cattle and pigs.
When burned, the bones can be used as a decolorizing filter to bleach sugar. This makes it a more desirable white within the food industry.
Bones are imported into the US and used by various producers, but it can be difficult to tell which ones.
Since many brands do not openly disclose the source of their sugar, they can be less than transparent as a result. However, any brand that uses bone char is going to be non-vegan, so contacting a company directly can be useful, although many will just say they use multiple suppliers so it is difficult for them to say.
It can be frustrating to see this on the label of any food or drink product as it is incredibly vague. However, the good news is that these flavors are vegan friendly, and fine for consumption.
Natural flavors are more problematic as they can be derived from both plant and animal sources.
Although some red dyes are derived from crutches insects, Red 40 is not. It is made from petroleum byproducts, but it is not without its alarm bells for a vegan.
Like many artificial colors, it is often tested on animals. This makes it a problematic ingredient as although it is not derived from animal products, it is not cruelty-free. Consuming Kool Aid will be a matter of ethics for the individual.
It is the same story for blue 1. Petroleum derived, and not from animals, is still tested routinely on them in the name of safety for human consumption.
It is another problematic ingredient for many vegans.
Unsweetened Kool Aid
These can be less tricky for a vegan because of the lack of sugar. This removes the bone char concern, but still leaves other ingredients as the Orange Flavor Unsweetened Kool Aid variety will show:
CITRIC ACID, MALTODEXTRIN, SALT, NATURAL FLAVOR, CALCIUM PHOSPHATE, CONTAINS LESS THAN 2% OF ASCORBIC ACID (VITAMIN C), ARTIFICIAL FLAVOR, ARTIFICIAL COLOR, RED 40, YELLOW 5, BHA (PRESERVATIVE).
However, this version does contain Red 40, and Yellow 5, another problematic ingredient.
Does Kool Aid Contain Gelatin?
The inclusion of gelatin is not uncommon in synthetic drinks and is made by the boiling of animal skin, ligaments, cartilage, and even bones. Thankfully, Kool Aid does not contain gelatin.
How Is Kool Aid Made?
Usually sold in powder form, this can be in either packets or mini tubs. To prepare your own Kool Aid, mix the powder with water and sugar to make a pitcher.
The vegan alternative to a synthetic fruit juice drink like Kool Aid is, of course, natural fruit juice. However, if you want a quick fix on the go, why not stock up on the following vegan-friendly drinks:
Naked Fruit Juice Blue Machine Smoothie
To be honest, any of their smoothie range is vegan friendly, but this is one of the most popular. Be sure to avoid their protein range as they contain whey, but the ingredient profile of this option makes for pleasant plant-based reading:
Apple Juice, Banana Puree, Blueberry Puree, Fibersol-2 Fiber (Maltodextrin), Blackberry Puree, Natural Flavors, Fruit and Vegetable Juice for Color, Ascorbic Acid (Vitamin C), Vitamin E (as Acetate), Niacinamide, D-Calcium Pantothenate (Vitamin B5), Pyridoxine Hydrochloride (Vitamin B6), Cyanocobalamin (Vitamin B12).
Capris Sun Fruit Punch, 100% Juice
With a relatively simple ingredient profile, and available almost everywhere, this is a good alternative. Vegan friendly, it contains the following ingredients:
APPLE, GRAPE, AND CHERRY JUICES FROM CONCENTRATE (FILTERED WATER; APPLE, GRAPE, AND CHERRY JUICE CONCENTRATES), CITRIC ACID (FOR TARTNESS), NATURAL FLAVOR.
Micro Ingredients Organic Pomegranate Powder
A powder that may not come in sachet form, but can provide a vegan-friendly boost. It is cold-pressed and contains natural vitamin X to boost the immune system.
It only contains organic pomegranate juice powder to ensure it can be added to a plant-based shopping list.
It can be hard to avoid certain ingredients such as artificial colors as they seem to be everywhere. Still, with Kool Aid, it is down to a matter of how strictly a person follows a plant-based diet.
There may be no animal-derived ingredients, but natural fruit juice is a simple and far more vegan-friendly alternative.