The mystery of Canadian Special K

9 Nov

 Mrs Kim’s morning start

For a number of years now my breakfast cereal of choice has been Special K, with an added sprinkling of dried apricots.  When I worked at Kensington I had to get up far too early to have breakfast at home I usually ate this sitting at my desk and contemplating the day ahead.  When at home I’d add a generous spoonful of Greek yoghurt to the mix (I’ve never ever had my cereal with milk).  What I especially like about Special K is its combination of wheat and rice to give you a cereal that sits comfortably between the oh-so virtuous branflake and the ‘can that really be doing you any good?’ cornflake.  It also is a cereal that works particularly well without milk (the same cannot be said for Weetabix which is a little bit like eating straw)

I assumed on reaching Canada that my routine could continue unbroken which it has, after a fashion, except I’ve been met with something of puzzle.  Canadian Special K is without wheat.  On taking my first bite of Canadian Special K I discovered that something was undoubtedly missing – no wheat.  It was like eating a grown up version of rice krispies which in shape resemble the orecchiette pasta form.  Sure enough, when you look on the side of the box, there is no wheat in this anaemic form of Special K and to my dismay I didn’t think it was going to fulfil the all important energy giving start to the day I needed.

 Wheat gluten but no whole wheat!

I became even more baffled however on visiting the supermarket (I should probably call it grocery store now I’m in north America).  Trying to find a Special K substitute I began to look more closely at the Special K variations; Special K with nuts, Special K blueberry, Special K red berries.  All these versions have wheat in them!  I know this because I’m now on my second box of Special K red berries.  (I never used to buy this because I always found the freeze dried strawberries a bit sharp but they’re infinitely preferable to grown up rice krispies).

spot the difference

Now, I’m more than familiar with the idea that when a product crosses international borders its ingredients and form are more than likely to change.  Look at Nestlé’s Kitkat for example which has, or so it tastes, a different recipe for each country.  And a quick search on the internet suggests that the reason for the rice only Special K in Canadian, according to the Consumer Relations Department of Kellogg’s in Canada, is that this suits Canada’s taste preference.  But this doesn’t explain why the Special K variations in Canada are still the regular rice and wheat flake.

So I’m still on the hunt for the missing wheat.  In the meantime I’ll keep on eating my Special K red berries (I’m actually quite enjoying them now) but if anyone can offer any clues as to the logic behind Special K without wheat I’d love to know.


6 Responses to “The mystery of Canadian Special K”

  1. Craig June 3, 2013 at 2:05 am #

    According to Wikipedia, it’s to reflect the “Canadian taste preference”.

    As a Canadian who moved to the US years ago, I was also surprised by the difference between the cereals — I’d gotten used to the flattened out Rice Krispies. 🙂

  2. maplesyrupandcastersugar June 3, 2013 at 2:14 am #

    Thanks for the comment Craig; which do you prefer, the squashed rice crispies or the wheat and rice mix?

    • maplesyrupandcastersugar October 30, 2013 at 3:19 am #

      Dear Cynthia

      thanks for your comment and I’m glad that you found the post helpful. I still can’t really figure out why it should be that regular Special K have not wheat and yet the special flavours Special K in Canada does. My recommendation would certainly be for the red berries but there are plenty out there to chose from!

      with all best wishes


  3. Cynthia October 30, 2013 at 3:15 am #

    I found your blog because I just found out about the difference. My family and I were vacationing in the States and to save money and keep a healthier diet than eating at greasy spoons, we decided to have Special K for breakfast every morning. I often had Special K when I was younger, and I assumed that the formula changed since I was young. So when we came back home to Canada, I bought a box of Special K, since it was so satisfying… I was so sad when I found out it wasn’t the same.

    Now that I know the other types of Special K are like the States’ Special K, I’m going to explore my other options.

  4. Brian May 24, 2014 at 1:59 am #

    I found this page because today I decided to finally find out why Australians have such weird Special K.

    Although I’d lived in the UK and had visited the US, I had never thought to bother checking out Special K before. However, twenty years ago, I was living in Japan and while visiting Australia, I was longing for Western supermarkets (by the way, in Canada, we use supermarket and grocery store interchangeably) and happened to discover that their Special K was completely different from ours.

    Only just now did I discover I’ve had it wrong all along and in fact it is Canada that has Special K that it is different from everyone else’s. What a shocker! 😉

    I always thought that Australian Special K seemed essentially like Raisin Bran without the raisins. However, it is indeed Canadian Special K that is like Rice Krispies squashed into a spoon shape. Of course, regardless of the nutritional makeup, I prefer the Canadian version since it is what I remember from time immemorial. Oddly, I never made the link that they are really Rice Krispies that got flattened. I don’t even eat Rice Krispies nor any of those new variations with the freeze-dried fruit or simulated flavours.

    Amazing the things we learn… how did we ever survive before the internet?!?

  5. Cooper Martin September 15, 2014 at 2:14 pm #

    I too have travelled quite a bit over the years and found Special K was different in the UK and USA. Having grown up in Canada, these “foreign versions” we’re not as good.

    Last week the Kellogg’s plant in London, Ontario was closed down and the US version is being rolled out in Canada. I find it quite amusing to see the box of “Special K Original” has a “NEW RECIPE” written on the top.

    I am sad that Kellogg’s is now trying to sell me a product that now only has 8 essential nutrients (vs.9) and 10 more calories

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