What’s Really in My Hot Cocoa?

Hot cocoa occupies a unique space in our brains that exist at the intersection of indulgence and nostalgia. Obviously, in the Coconut Cloud kitchen, we have a vision of better-for-you, non-dairy drinks – vegan creamers, lattes, and golden milks. But we’re human, too. As soon as the first frost hits, we crave a warm, sweet mug of hot cocoa, and – honestly – sometimes we recall the very distinct, powdery scent of grocery store instant hot chocolates like Swiss Miss and Nestle.


hot cocoa

The problem is that beneath that sweet, signature smell of instant hot chocolate lay some unsuspecting ingredients. We looked at some of the best selling instant hot cocoas on Amazon and listed the most common ingredients we found below.

Here are the obvious ones:

  • Sugar – Makes things sweet. No surprise here!
  • Cocoa – As there should be.
  • Salt – Pro tip: Adding a pinch of salt to sweet recipes is awesome. It counterbalances the sweetness.

Where’s the milk?

This blog post is for the purpose of uncovering what’s in some of the most popular conventional hot cocoas, so we are looking at hot cocoa mixes that contain dairy.

Anyway, hot cocoa needs something to make it creamy, and we were surprised to find that a lot of hot cocoa mixes don’t contain powdered milk (milk evaporated until it’s dry). Instead, they contain:

  • Dairy Product Solids – Initially weird and vague. Dairy product solids are the dairy byproducts after removing components like protein, lactose, minerals, or whey from the milk.
  • Sodium Caseinate – Milk protein.

So if you’re dairy-free and hot cocoa claims to be lactose-free – as many mixes can claim after processing lactose out of their milk – just know that the above ingredients still derive product from cows.

The Other Stuff

Finally, here’s everything else. Some are artificial sweeteners, some are preservatives, and others are additives used for texture.

  • Corn Syrup Solids – 100% glucose, the simplest form of sugar. It’s corn syrup but dried.
  • Hydrogenated Vegetable Oil – Arguably the worst form of fat. Oil is liquid at room temperature, but adding hydrogen to oil makes this fat solid and “spreadable.”
  • Cellulose Gum – Thickening agent.
  • Sodium Aluminosilicate – Prevents dry foods from clumping.
  • Carrageenan – Thickener. This is also commonly found in plant-based milks to make them less “watery.” We actively avoid this ingredient in our own vegan creamer, as it’s been linked with triggering inflammation.
  • Calcium Carbonate – Calcium additive.

In short, there’s a lot of “stuff” in the hot cocoas with which we’re familiar. We make food too, so we understand that some of these additives – from a supply chain standpoint – may help with shelf life or transportation; at the end of the day, however, we believe in having less “stuff” in our food and more “food” in our food. That’s why we sought to create a better vegan hot cocoa – one that’s dairy-free, minimally processed and powered by coconuts (coconut cream AND coconut sugar!) too.

We launched our original pouch less than a year ago and now have individual packets. If you’re looking for a better, vegan, and non-GMO hot cocoa fix, we’ve got you covered.