Is Kool-Aid Vegan? The Bottom Line


Is Kool Aid Vegan

Kool-Aid is a popular brand of fruit-flavored drink. It’s usually a powder, but also comes in liquid form.

It’s been around for decades now, so a lot of vegans grew up drinking the stuff and want to know if they can continue to do so after switching to a 100% plant-based diet. Others are raising their kids on a vegan diet and want to know if the drink is suitable for vegan children.

Is it vegan? Yes, Kool-Aid is vegan. For a time, it was rumored that the popular drink mix contains gelatin, an animal protein, but the rumor is unfounded. Formulations vary, but most flavors are some combination of simple sugars, citric acid, vitamin C, calcium phosphate, and artificial flavors and colors.

What we’ll do here is go over the various reasons Kool-Aid is considered vegan along with an analysis of the ingredients.

Why Kool-Aid Is Vegan

Kool-Aid Contains Vegan-Friendly Colorants

Which is another way of saying that Kool Aid contains synthetic or petroleum-derived food dyes. Vegans, as a group, might be known for having hipster-like tendencies when it comes to only wanting to consume ingredients that are all-natural, non-GMO, etc.

But, the fact is that “all-natural” ingredients can spell trouble for vegans. Food dyes are one such example.

Food colorings are vegan when they’re made as a byproduct of the petroleum industry, or when they’re produced synthetically—i.e. synthetic food dyes tend to be made without the use of animal-derived precursors.

The only non-vegan food dye I’m aware of is Red 4, or carmine. Red 4, not to be confused with Red 40, is a red pigment that’s derived from beetles.1-3

It also goes by other names including crimson lake, cochineal, and cochineal extract, among others.

Luckily, the red varieties of Kool Aid contain Red 40, which is an azo dye, a class of food coloring agents produced as byproducts of the petroleum industry.4,5

Red 40 can also be obtained from strawberries.6

For example, the Tropical Punch flavor contains:7

  • Citric Acid, Ascorbic Acid
  • Salt, Modified Cornstarch
  • Artificial Color, Red 40, and Blue 1
  • Calcium Phosphate
  • Natural and Artificial Flavor
  • BHA (as a Preservative)

The cherry drink mix contains:8

  • Citric and Ascorbic Acids
  • Salt and Modified Cornstarch
  • Artificial Color, Blue 1, Red 40
  • Calcium Phosphate
  • Artificial Flavor
  • BHT (Preservative)

Black cherry contains:9

  • Ascorbic Acid, Citric Acid
  • Salt, Maltodextrin
  • Calcium Phosphate
  • Red 40, Blue 1
  • Artificial Flavor

Finally, the strawberry contains:10

  • Citric Acid, Ascorbic Acid
  • Salt, Calcium Phosphate
  • Red 40
  • Natural and Artificial Flavor

Other flavors contain red dye in the mix, but it’s always red 40. I list the above as examples because these are the flavors you’d expect to see carmine if it was present.

Then, there’s Yellow 5, Yellow 6, and Blue 1, which are always vegan-friendly. The former two are azo dyes, and thus petroleum-derived.11,12

The latter (Blue 1) is synthetic.13

Kool-Aid Does Not Contain Gelatin

For a while, there was a concern that Kool Aid may contain gelatin.

So you know, gelatin is a protein that’s only found in animal tissue, so it’s always non-vegan. It’s derived from collagen, the protein that’s found abundantly in the epidermis of the skin.

Basically, manufacturers boil down animal parts—bones, skin, everything—causing the protein to leach out into the water forming a yellowish substance.

If it sounds gross, that’s because it is.

Anyway, I’m not sure where this rumor initially started.

If I had to guess, I’d say it has to do with the Kool-Aid line of Jello-like dessert that hit the market some years back. I think it’s still available.

The strawberry Kool-Aid dessert contains sugar, gelatin, adipic and fumaric acids (for tartness), artificial flavor, sodium citrate, disodium phosphate, and Red 40.14

Kool-Aid Contains Vegan-Friendly Additives

Kool Aid doesn’t have nearly the amount of ingredients you’d expect for such a highly processed food product.

Which is a good thing. The more ingredients a product has, the higher the chances a non-vegan ingredient will rear its ugly head.  

As for additives, most Kool Aid simply contains citric and ascorbic acids, calcium phosphate, and BHA.

Nowadays, citric acid is produced from the mold Aspergillus niger fed on a glucose or sucrose-containing medium usually in the form of molasses, corn steep liquor, hydrolyzed corn starch, etc.15

Ascorbic acid is just another term for vitamin C, so it’s vegan. So you know, vitamin C is made industrially via fermentation.16

BHA stands for butylated hydroxyanisole. It’s made synthetically without animal-derived precursors and is recognized by the Vegetarian Resource Group (VRG) as being suitable for vegans.17

Finally, calcium phosphate is typically considered vegan. While it is present in bones, it tends to be sourced from phosphate rocks. And the VRG considers it vegan-friendly.17

Is Kool-Aid Liquid Vegan?

As mentioned above, Kool-Aid is probably best known for its powder mix form, but it also comes in liquid. I have been asked from time to time if the liquid variety is vegan-friendly.

It’s a concentrated syrup that is to be added to water, in the same way you’d mix the powder.

Yes, Kool-Aid liquid is vegan. Ingredients vary by flavor, but most flavors are some combination of water, citric acid, gum arabic (or acacia gum), potassium citrate, potassium sorbate, artificial flavor, Red 40, Blue 1, sweeteners (e.g. acesulfame K and sucralose), and sucrose acetate isobutyrate.18

All of which are vegan.

That’s it for the vegan status of Kool-Aid. Thanks for reading.

References

  1. Bug-Based Food Dye Should Be Exterminated, Says CSPI. https://cspinet.org/news/bug-based-food-dye-should-be-exterminated-says-cspi-20060501
  2. Carmine. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carmine
  3. Carminic Acid https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carminic_acid
  4. Stern, P.W. 1988. Food, drug and cosmetic colors, in Pigment Handbook, Vol. 1. P.A. Lewis, Ed. John Wiley & Sons, New York, pp. 925–945.
  5. Natural Colorants For Food and Nutraceutical Uses (Page). Francisco Delgado-Vargas, Octavio Paredes-López – CRC – 2003. ISBN 1-58716-076-5
  6. Potera, C., 2010. Diet and nutrition: the artificial food dye blues. Environ Health Perspect. 118 (10), A428–A431.
  7. Kool-Aid Tropical Punch Drink Mix Unsweetened 0.16 Oz Packet. https://www.koolaid.com/en/product/00043000955437
  8. Kool-Aid Cherry Drink Mix Unsweetened 0.13 Oz Packet. https://www.koolaid.com/en/product/00043000955628
  9. Kool-Aid Black Cherry Drink Mix Unsweetened 0.13 Oz Packet. https://www.koolaid.com/en/product/00043000955673
  10. Kool-Aid Strawberry Drink Mix Unsweetened 0.14 Oz Packet. https://www.koolaid.com/en/product/00043000955611
  11. Committee on Food Chemicals Codex (2003). Food chemicals codex (5th ed.). Washington, DC: National Academy Press. ISBN 9780309088664.
  12. Diet and Nutrition: The Artificial Food Dye Blues. Carol Potera. Environ Health Perspect. 2010 Oct; 118(10): A428. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2957945/
  13. El Ali, Bassam M.; Bassam El Ali; Ali, Mohammad Farahat (2005). Handbook of industrial chemistry: organic chemicals. New York: McGraw-Hill. ISBN 978-0-07-141037-3.
  14. Kool-Aid Strawberry Gelatin, 3 oz. https://www.instacart.com/giant/products/1484922-kool-aid-strawberry-gelatin-dessert-mix-3-oz
  15. Lotfy, Walid A.; Ghanem, Khaled M.; El-Helow, Ehab R. (2007). “Citric acid production by a novel Aspergillus niger isolate: II. Optimization of process parameters through statistical experimental designs”. Bioresource Technology. 98 (18): 3470–3477. https://linkinghub.elsevier.com/retrieve/pii/S0960852406005943
  16. The production of vitamin C. https://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/20120119194657/http://www.competition-commission.org.uk/rep_pub/reports/2001/fulltext/456a4.2.pdf
  17. Vegetarian Journal’s Guide To Food Ingredients. By Jeanne Yacoubou, MS. VRG Research Director. https://www.vrg.org/ingredients/
  18. Kool-Aid Cherry Liquid Drink Mix, Caffeine Free, 1.62 fl oz Bottle. https://www.walmart.com/ip/Kool-Aid-Cherry-Liquid-Drink-Mix-Caffeine-Free-1-62-fl-oz-Bottle/23598044

Drew Davis

Hi! I'm Drew and this is the place where I nerd out about vegan and plant-based diets. I have a BS in Nutrition and Dietetics from the University of Alabama and have taken dozens of classes in areas like organic and biochemistry, food science, medical nutrition therapy, nutritional genomics, and vegetarian diets. I'm still learning every day, and on this blog, I'll be sharing everything I discover about vegan diets as I go.

Recent Content

error: Alert: Content is protected !!