Cocoa Pebbles first hit grocery store shelves in 1969, shortly after the rise of the famous Flintstones animated TV show. Cocoa pebbles and Flintstones on Saturday morning were a total vibe at the time. What better combination could you ask for as a kid in the 70s?
Unfortunately, vegans can’t just go on “vibes” when it comes to picking their food.
So, are Cocoa Pebbles vegan?
Cocoa Pebbles aren’t very vegan-friendly. Although the cereal doesn’t contain any obvious animal ingredients like dairy or gelatin, it does contain vitamin D3.
This is one of the few vitamins that vegans can’t consume, as it’s derived from sheep’s wool and animal hairs. Cocoa Puffs also contain refined sugar, which is a “gray area” ingredient.
I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news. It is a bit disappointing how one ingredient can turn an otherwise vegan-friendly food into a non-vegan food. I’m not going to leave you empty-handed, though! Below, I’ll give you a full breakdown of the ingredients, so you can see for yourself.
Do Cocoa Pebbles Contain Dairy?
When it comes to breakfast cereal (and breakfast food, in general) dairy is a very popular additive. Dairy doesn’t just mean milk, either. Dairy can include a number of additives, such as:
- Whey or Whey Protein
- Casein or Sodium Caseinate
- Powdered Milk
- Milk Cultures
- … and more
For example, dried and powdered milk products are often used to season popular cereals to give them a smoother, milkier flavor and texture.
Thankfully, Cocoa Pebbles are 100% dairy-free. Unless you add milk to your cereal bowl, you’ll never have to worry about any dairy by-products in this breakfast cereal.
This means that Cocoa Pebbles are a perfectly safe option for anybody who’s lactose intolerant. You won’t have to worry about any dairy-related stomach pain or discomfort.
Is Cocoa Vegan?
Cocoa is one of the main ingredients used in Cocoa Puffs. The cereal gets its iconic flavor from real cocoa powder too, instead of cheap flavor additives. Sadly, many cocoa and chocolate-containing sweets are non-vegan.
Cocoa, by itself, is always vegan, though!
Cocoa is a powder that’s made from the seeds of the cacao tree. The tree bears large pod-like fruits when it’s in season. Each pod is packed full of cocoa beans and raw fatty cocoa butter.
To create cocoa, the beans are harvested, cleaned, dried, and then baked. The baked cacao beans are then crushed into a fine powder. The final product is sold as “cocoa” to differentiate it from the raw, unprocessed cacao.
Cocoa is a pure, plant-based food that’s actually quite healthy when eaten as part of a balanced diet. It’s a mild stimulant that can provide you with an energy boost and also contains compounds that boost your mood and can alleviate feelings of depression and anxiety!
In South and Central American culture, many tribes still practice ancient cacao rituals, which involve drinking a hot cacao beverage, meditating, and thanking the earth for its fruit and life. It’s also become very popular in modern health culture as well:
Vitamin D3 in Cocoa Pebbles – Why They’re Not Vegan
So if cocoa is all-natural and there aren’t any meat-derived ingredients or dairy by-products in Cocoa Pebbles, then why is the cereal non-vegan?
It all has to do with the added vitamins and minerals that are added to the cereal. Most mainstream cereal brands include a blend of added nutrients in their cereal recipes to make them healthier and more nutritious.
This, of course, helps sales because parents want to feed their kids a “healthier” breakfast.
Unfortunately, the vitamin D3 used in Cocoa Pebbles isn’t a vegan-friendly product.
Unlike most other vitamins, which are synthetically created or come from plant-based sources, vitamin D3 is extracted from animal hairs and fibers. Usually, D3 comes from sheep’s wool, which is a very exploitative and often cruel industry.
What Are Cocoa Pebbles Made Of? Ingredients Analyzed
Overall, Cocoa Pebbles are made with a relatively simple recipe. Compared to other popular cereals, Cocoa Pebbles have fewer artificial ingredients, preservatives, and other non-desirable additives.
This is mostly thanks to the fact that the cereal was invented in 1969, long before all of this processed junk in our food became normalized. The recipe really hasn’t changed much (if at all) in the past fifty years!
Are you feeling curious yet?
Here’s a quick look at the ingredients in Cocoa Pebbles:
As you can see, there’s really nothing out of the ordinary, except for the BHT preservative. Below, I’ll give you a complete breakdown of each of these ingredients, so you can better understand what goes into one of America’s favorite breakfast cereals.
Unlike other popular cereals that are made with corn or oats, Cocoa Pebbles are made from pure puffed rice. Of course, the name “Cocoa Rice” didn’t sound too appealing, so the manufacturers decided to call the cereal “Cocoa Pebbles” instead.
Rice is 100% vegan and is a natural grain that’s grown all around the world. Nutritionally speaking, the white rice used for Cocoa Pebbles isn’t the most nutritious. It’s mostly just empty carbs and starch. However, it does contain a bit of fiber, which is filling and healthy.
Aside from the vitamin D3 used in the cereal, refined sugar is the only other ingredient that you need to worry about. Many people mistakenly assume that white sugar is a vegan product since it comes from the sugarcane plant.
However, this isn’t exactly the full story.
Cane sugar (which has yet to be processed into white sugar) is vegan. However, to turn cane sugar into the pretty white sugar used in most foods, it must first be filtered through high-carbon animal bone char filters.
That’s right – white sugar is filtered through animal bones.
Although no animal bones actually end up in the final sugar product, they’re still an integral part of the refining process.
For this reason, a growing number of vegans are boycotting (or at least avoiding) white sugar. Instead, vegan cereals are typically made with unprocessed cane sugar.
Some dietary vegans don’t mind white sugar, as it’s still a plant-based product.
However, strict vegans tend to be more ethically driven and make decisions based on the deeper implications of their food.
3) Canola Oil
Canola oil is a natural plant-based oil that’s extracted from the seeds of the canola flower. This oil is vegan-friendly and doesn’t contribute to any rainforest deforestation (like palm oil), so this isn’t a problem!
As I explained above, cocoa is 100% vegan! It’s an all-natural powder made from dried, baked, and ground cocoa beans. Naturally, it has a bitter flavor. However, when it’s mixed down with sugar, the bright, fruity notes in the cocoa really shine through.
A bit of salt is also added to this cereal to help balance out the flavors and to serve as a natural preservative. Salt is always vegan-friendly, though, so don’t worry about it.
6) Caramel Color
The majority of Cocoa Pebbles’ color comes from the real cocoa powder that coats the cereal.
However, to ensure that all of the cereal has the same appearance, a bit of natural caramel coloring is added. Caramel color is vegan-friendly, though, and isn’t made with any animal by-products.
7) Natural & Artificial Flavors
The real cocoa and sugar provide most of the flavor in Cocoa Pebbles. However, to create a deeper, more complex flavor, Post also adds a blend of natural and artificial flavors to the cereal.
These could really be anything, but I assume that vanilla is one of the main ones, as it’s commonly paired with chocolate snacks and candy.
8) BHT Preservative
BHT is a preservative that’s added to the lining of the plastic bags that the cereal is stored in. This prevents bacteria and the outside air from penetrating the plastic packaging and causing the food to go bad before its time.
The Verdict – Are Cocoa Pebbles Vegan-Friendly?
If you’re a dietary vegan who’s solely concerned with eating plant-based foods and staying away from meat, then Cocoa Pebbles can be considered vegan.
However, if you’re a stricter vegan who’s more concerned with the ethics behind their food, then you may want to stay away from this cereal, as it contains vitamin D3 and refined sugar, which aren’t exactly vegan-friendly.
Conversely, you could make the whole experience easier on yourself by sticking to a 100% vegan-certified breakfast cereal. To see my favorite vegan breakfast cereal brands, keep reading here!