Special K is a brand of breakfast cereal and meal bars manufactured by Kellogg's. The cereal was introduced to the United States in 1955. It is made primarily from grains like lightly toasted rice, wheat and barley. Special K used to be marketed primarily as a low-fat cereal that can be eaten to help one lose weight.
The Special K brand previously advocated the "Special K Challenge." The goal of this challenge was to help an individual lose six pounds in two weeks; this loss was achieved by eating specific Special K products throughout the day. The diet began with a single serving of any Special K cereal, accompanied with 2/3 cup of skim milk and a side of fruit. The second meal of the diet included either a Special K Protein Meal Bar, Special K Protein Shake, or another serving of Special K cereal with 2/3 cup of skim milk and a side of fruit. The third meal of the day could be consumed normally, without any Special K restrictions. Throughout the day, an individual is allotted two Special K snacking times, eating any of the following specified snacks: Special K Protein Meal Bars, Special K Protein Shakes, Special K Breakfast Shakes, Special K Protein Granola Bars, Special K Crackers, Special K Cracker Chips, or Special K Popcorn. For any additional snack servings, an individual could consume fruits and vegetables. During the challenge, drinks could be consumed normally.
Critics of the Special K diet feel that it may leave dieters feeling hungry because of its limited food options and deter people from sticking to the diet. The diet has been criticised for being too low in protein, fiber, vegetables, and fruits. The diet does not include guidance on how to change unhealthy overeating or lack of exercise and their importance to permanent weight loss.
In the United States (US), Special K Original has 120 Cal per 31g cup serving. One serving contains 0.5g fat, 23g carbohydrates, 4g sugar, and 6g protein. In the United Kingdom (UK), Special K Original is 17% sugar, meaning a 30g serving contains 5g of sugar.
In the UK, an advertising campaign has focused on the results of a study run in collaboration with the Department of Human Sciences at Loughborough University, requiring overweight volunteer subjects to replace two meals a day with a bowl of the cereal.  The study found that "after 2 weeks, up to 75% of subjects had slimmer waists and hips." The university's scientists concluded that the majority of this was due to fat loss.
In the US, Special K currently comes in fourteen different varieties of Special K Cereal: Original, Chocolatey Delight, Chocolatey Strawberry, Cinnamon Pecan, Red Berries, Vanilla Almond, Fruit & Yogurt, Brown Sugar Gluten Free, Oats & Honey, Touch of Honey Granola, Chocolate Almond, Cranberry Granola, Protein, Cinnamon Brown Sugar Crunch Protein, and Apple Cinnamon Crunch (Seasonal).
In the UK & Ireland, Special K comes in ten different varieties of Special K Cereal: Original, Red Berries, Hazelnut & Almond, Milk Chocolate, Strawberry and Chocolate, Fruit & Nut, Creamy Berry Crunch, Peach & Apricot, and Yoghurty.
Ingredients in Special K include: wheat bran, soy grits, rice, wheat gluten, soybean oil, soy protein isolate, whole grain wheat, contains 2% or less of sugar, salt, malt flavouring, sucralose, natural and artificial flavour, and BHT for freshness.
Vitamins and minerals include vitamin C (ascorbic acid), vitamin E (alpha tocopherol acetate), niacinamide, reduced iron, vitamin B6 (pyridoxine hydrochloride), vitamin B1 (thiamin hydrochloride), vitamin A (palmitate), vitamin B2 (riboflavin), folic acid, and vitamin B12.
In the US, Special K provides meal replacements in two different forms, protein meal bars and protein shakes.
There are eleven varieties of Special K Protein Meal Bars: Mocha Crunch Protein, Chocolate Peanut Butter, Strawberry, Double Chocolate, Chocolatey Chip, Honey Almond, Cranberry Walnut, Chocolate Caramel, Chocolatey Brownie, and Chocolatey Dipped Mint.
There are eight varieties of Special K Protein Shakes: Milk Chocolate, Strawberry, French Vanilla, Rich Chocolate, Strawberry Banana, Chocolate Mocha, Vanilla Cappuccino, and Raspberry Cheesecake.
Kellogg's Special K snacks are marketed as low-fat alternatives to regular snacks. There are several varieties of Special K snacks, including Special K Protein Granola Bars, Special K Breakfast Shakes, Special K Cereal Bars, Special K CrackerChips, Special K Popcorn, and Special K Crackers.
There are four varieties of Special K Protein Granola Bars: Chocolatey Peanut Butter, Dark Chocolate, Greek Yogurt & Fruit, and Almond Honey Oat.
There are five varieties of Special K Breakfast Shakes: Chocolate Mocha Coffee House, Vanilla Cappuccino Coffee House, Chocolate Delight, Red Berries, and French Vanilla.
There are two varieties of Special K Cereal Bars: Red Berries, and Chocolatey Pretzel.
There are five varieties of Special K Cracker Chips: Sea Salt, Cheddar, Sour Cream & Onion, Barbecue, and Salt & Vinegar.
There are two varieties of Special K Popcorn: Kettle Corn and White Cheddar.
There is one variety of Special K Crackers: Multi-grain.
Kellogg's Special K2O Protein Water was a beverage released in September 2006 by the Kellogg Company. It was produced in several flavors and has been marketed as a weight-control and weight-loss product. The product was re-launched in 2007 by the Kellogg Company. The product is no longer available. Special K2O Protein Water was available in several flavors, including Strawberry Kiwi, Lemon Twist, and Tropical Blend. Marketed as low-calorie alternative protein drink, a 16-ounce bottle of K2O contains 5 grams of protein, 10% DV of calcium, and 50 calories. The product has also been marketed as a weight-loss product, and has been marketed as part of "The Special K Challenge" and "Feeling good never looked better" advertising campaigns.
On August 15, 2007, Kellogg's re-launched Special K2O Protein Water with enhanced graphics and a new flavor, Mixed Berry. In addition to the 5 grams of protein, the product was formulated with 5 grams of soluble fiber, from polydextrose, and 20% DV each of vitamins B3 (Niacin), B6, and B12 while maintaining 50 calories. The product was also manufactured in a powdered form as a drink mix that is sold in packets, which is then added to water. The powdered product has 30 calories, 5 grams of fiber and 5 grams of protein per serving. The powdered mix has also been marketed as a weight-control product.
Kellogg's produces Special K Protein Shakes.
Until the summer of 2014, Kellogg's used a special Special K formula that was different in Canada from that used in the US. With the June 2014 closure of Kellogg's London, Ontario plant, Canadians now eat Special K that is made in the U.S. This formulation was similar to the original Special K introduced in the US in 1955.
The discontinued Canadian formula had a different taste which reflected the "Canadian taste preference" (according to the Consumer Relations department of Kellogg's in Canada). The Canadian formula included rice, wheat gluten, sugar/glucose-fructose, defatted wheat germ, salt, malt (corn flour, malted barley), vitamins (thiamin hydrochloride, niacinamide, pyridoxine hydrochloride, folic acid, d-calcium pantothenate), iron, and BHT added to the package material to maintain product freshness.
In September 2015, Special K launched a new advertising campaign with the slogan "Own It" during the Emmy Awards broadcast. Kellogg wants Special K's message to be about self-empowerment, rather than counting calories. Discussing how Canadian women's approach to health management has changed, Natasha Millar of Kellogg Canada said: "Her stance on diet is not about starvation or calorie-counting … her benchmark is achievement. Skinny is not how she wants to be perceived, but rather, strong. It’s not about losing weight, it’s about working out and building her sense of self. And while her stance on body image was at one point about looking good, now it’s about feeling good."
Denmark has outlawed the addition of vitamins in Kellogg's products since 2004. Danish health officials banned cereals containing added vitamins because they claimed Kellogg's Special K wanted to add extremely high levels of vitamin B6, calcium, folic acid, and iron, which would reach toxic levels when eaten on a daily basis. Young children risk liver and kidney damage while the fetuses of pregnant women could suffer complications.
In an episode aired on October 15, 2009, the Dutch television show Keuringsdienst van Waarde (nl), followed up one of Kellogg's Special K nutritional claims, namely the addition of iron. The show provided evidence that the iron was not nutritional ionic iron—as it occurs in natural foods like spinach—but was, in fact, metallic iron. A Kellogg's telephone help desk employee was not willing to discuss the ingredients of their products in general, claiming it was a company secret; although, in the show, the company was not confronted with the findings. The nutritional experts in the show agreed that metallic iron should not be part of a diet. Metallic iron is speculated to damage organs. After the airing, the Dutch food authority nuanced the claims made in the TV program, claiming there are no health risks. They also challenged the claim that the cereal could contain "shredded bites," and responded that iron powder is suitable for human consumption.
The evidence provided during the show followed David Catz's description of an experiment by Dr. Babu George, Sacred Heart University, in which iron is extracted from cereals. The description dates from 1984. As a result of this experiment being published and inquiries being made to the manufacturers, some companies have replaced the metallic iron in their products with an iron compound such as iron (III) phosphate, ferric phosphate.
In May 2013, shoppers disapproved of the altered Special K formula, complaining that the cereal's flakes are too hard. The reason behind the extra crunch is the additional ingredient, barley. Kellogg shoppers also complained that the cereal has become too sugary. The company assures that the sugar content has remained the same (17%), the difference is that some of the sugar is baked on the outside of the flake, giving an added crunch.
In late February 2013, the company announced on its website that it was recalling three sizes of the Special K Red Berries in the US which might contain pieces of glass.
Special K Sponsor AFL Women's.