Is Special K Cereal Vegan?

When it comes to supermarket breakfast cereal, expect to be disappointed on the regular if you are vegan. But is Special K cereal vegan? The answer is not if you are strict enough.

Not every vegan is, so you may wish to turn a blind eye to the animal-derived culprits found in this Kellogs-made cereal. Let’s take a closer look, and seek out some vegan-friendly alternatives. 

Special K Ingredients

Cereal used to be so simple. There were plenty of brands, but each one only had a flavor or two to choose from. 

Even Special K has several options, but let’s start with the Original flavor. The ingredients are as follows:

Rice, wheat gluten, sugar, defatted wheat germ, contains 2% or less of salt, malt flavor, BHT for freshness. Vitamins and Minerals: Reduced iron, vitamin C (ascorbic acid), niacinamide, vitamin E acetate, beta-carotene, folic acid, vitamin B6 (pyridoxine hydrochloride), vitamin B1 (thiamin hydrochloride), vitamin B2 (riboflavin), vitamin D3, vitamin B12.

The non-vegan ingredients may come as a surprise, and are as follows:


That’s right, your common sugar can be a non-vegan ingredient. This is because many US-based companies process their sugar using bone char. 

To decolorize their sugar and make it a more desirable white, they often import charred cattle and pig bones to bleach the sugar. There is no trace of it in the food after, but it is enough to make vegans question the ethics of many brands to the point they will avoid them.

The lack of transparency makes it difficult to tell whether or not a brand has used this process, and when asked, many will give a generic response about using multiple suppliers.

To stay on the safe side, many vegans only consume organic cane sugar or sugar derived from beets and coconut. 

Vitamin D3

Cereals are often fortified with vitamins and minerals, and whilst these can be beneficial for any vegan, they are not always plant-based.

Vitamin D3 is often derived from the waxy secretions found on sheep’s wool. Yes, it can be sourced from sheep’s grease.

Sheep use it to waterproof their coats, but this makes it animal-derived and non-vegan. There are plant-based sources of D3, but these are often more expensive which is why this version is preferred by large corporations. 

How To Tell Vitamin D3 Is Not Vegan In Special K

It only takes a quick look at Kellogg’s website to confirm which of their products are derived from animals. The following statement includes D3 and covers their range of products:

Animal Sources: Eggs, Dairy (Milk, Whey, Casein, Cheese, Lactose and Yogurt), Gelatin, Vitamin D3 (but the ingredient label may not denote whether the vitamin is D2 or D3)

Although it is a shame, it is good to get clarification. Unfortunately, this is not something a vegan can expect, and whilst it would be better if this information was featured on the label, it is good to have confirmation that their D3 is not vegan. 

Vegan Sourced Ingredients In Kellogs

There are vegan ingredients in many Kellogg’s products, but once they are combined with a non-vegan ingredient, the product as a whole is not suitable. 

Some of the following ingredients are in Special K:

Non-Animal Sources: Vitamin B12, Vitamin D2 (but the ingredient label may not denote whether the vitamin is D2 or D3), Vitamin B2/riboflavin, Lactic acid • Proteolytic enzymes, Rennet, Emulsifiers (including monoglycerides, diglycerides, and polysorbate), Enzymes, Glycerin, Yeast ingredients

Are Any Special K Flavors Vegan?

Using the above criteria, none of their flavors are vegan.

Every single one includes both sugar and vitamin D3 although vegans who are not as strict could still buy them.

There are other offending ingredients to look out for and these include nonfat milk, nonfat yogurt powder, honey, natural flavors, milk protein concentrate, and Greek nonfat yogurt powder. 

Natural flavors are tricky because they can be derived from animals, as well as plants, and many brands do not specify. 

Honey is animal-derived and deprives bees of their natural food source.

And of course, there’s dairy…

Does Special K Contain Dairy?

As we have just seen, some flavors of Special K do contain dairy. This is in the form of nonfat milk, nonfat yogurt powder, milk protein concentrate, and Greek nonfat yogurt powder. 

They are found in two flavors: Special K Probiotics Berries & Peaches to Special K Fruit & Yogurt Cereal. 

This makes them non-vegan due to the animal source of the ingredients, and the way the dairy industry treats cattle.

Are There Any Vegan Alternatives?

Kashi Breakfast Cereal – Strawberry Fields

Made by Kellogs, the Kashi range is mostly plant-based although some of their flavors use honey. They are often organic, using organic cane sugar that is not processed with bone char, and even says which of their flavors are vegan on their website. 

The Strawberry fields flavor includes the following ingredients:

Organic Long Grain Rice, Organic Hard Red Wheat, Organic Evaporated Cane Juice, Organic Freeze-Dried

Nature’s Path Red Berry flax Cereal

Another organic brand, their product is a good alternative to some of the Special K flavors that include fruit in the recipe. 

The cane sugar is organic, and the cereal itself is high in fiber.

Whole Wheat Meal*, Rolled Oats*, Wheat Bran*, Cane Sugar*, Flax Meal*, Soy Oil*, Freeze-Dried Berry Blend* (Freeze-Dried Strawberries*, Freeze-Dried Raspberries*), Brown Rice Flour*, Oat Bran*, Flax Seeds*, Barley Malt Extract*, Sea Salt, Natural Strawberry Flavor, Oat Syrup Solids*, Tocopherols (Vitamin E), Molasses*, Cinnamon*. *Organic

Final Word

Kellog’s doesn’t have the best reputation with vegans, but they are getting better. This is evident in their Kashi cereal which is often vegan, but unfortunately, the same cannot be said for Special K.

With valid alternatives out there, we vegans do not have to go without a healthy fiber-filled breakfast.

Featured image by Mike Mozart (CC BY 2.0)

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