What is Carnation Instant Breakfast made of?

Carnation Instant Breakfast is a powdered breakfast drink mix manufactured by Nestlé. It was first introduced in 1964 as a quick and nutritious breakfast option. The main ingredients in Carnation Instant Breakfast are maltodextrin, sugar, milk proteins, cocoa, and vitamins and minerals. It is available in different flavors such as chocolate, strawberry, and vanilla. When prepared with milk or water, Carnation Instant Breakfast provides a balanced breakfast with protein, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals.

Main Ingredients

The primary ingredients in Carnation Instant Breakfast are:


Maltodextrin is a polysaccharide made from starch. It acts as a filler and provides texture to the powdered drink mix. Maltodextrin makes up around 20-40% of the total weight of Carnation Instant Breakfast.


Various types of sugars such as sucrose, fructose and glucose make up 20-40% of Carnation Instant Breakfast. The sugar provides sweetness and energy.

Milk proteins

Proteins from milk like casein and whey make up 10-15% of the drink mix. These proteins provide amino acids for building and repairing muscles.

Cocoa powder

Cocoa powder provides flavor and color to chocolate and mocha flavors. It makes up around 5-10% of the total weight.

Vitamins and minerals

A vitamin and mineral blend is added to enrich Carnation Instant Breakfast. It provides 25% or more of the recommended daily values for vitamins like vitamin A, vitamin D, B vitamins, vitamin C and minerals like calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, zinc and iron.

Nutritional Profile

Here is the typical nutritional profile for one packet (38g) of Carnation Instant Breakfast prepared with 240ml of 2% milk:

Nutrient Amount
Calories 240
Protein 13g
Carbohydrates 33g
Fat 7g
Vitamin A 10% DV
Vitamin C 25% DV
Calcium 35% DV
Iron 25% DV

As the table shows, Carnation Instant Breakfast prepared with milk provides 240 calories and a significant amount of vitamins and minerals, making it a nutritious breakfast choice.

Ingredients by Flavor

The main ingredients remain the same across flavors, but additional natural and artificial flavorings are added to give each one its distinct taste profile.


The chocolate flavor contains cocoa powder as well as artificial chocolate flavoring. It also includes caramel color for the brown shade.


The strawberry flavor includes natural strawberry flavor derived from strawberry juice concentrate. Red 40 coloring is added to produce the pink color.


The vanilla flavor gets its taste from natural vanilla extract. Additional vanilla flavors produced artificially are also included.


The mocha variety contains cocoa powder for chocolate flavor along with coffee extract for a hint of coffee taste. Caramel color is added for the dark brown color.

Vitamins and Minerals

Here is a detailed break-down of the added vitamins and minerals in Carnation Instant Breakfast and their benefits:

Vitamin A

Carnation Instant Breakfast is fortified with vitamin A in the form of retinol palmitate. Vitamin A supports immune function, vision, skin health and cellular communication.

Vitamin D

The vitamin D added is cholecalciferol or vitamin D3. It aids calcium absorption and promotes bone health.

Vitamin B1

Also known as thiamine, vitamin B1 helps convert carbs into energy and supports nerve function.

Vitamin B2

Riboflavin or vitamin B2 is important for growth and red blood cell production.

Vitamin B3

Niacin or vitamin B3 plays a role in converting nutrients into energy and cholesterol metabolism.

Vitamin B6

Pyridoxine hydrochloride provides vitamin B6 which supports protein metabolism and nerve function.

Folic acid

Folic acid or vitamin B9 is crucial for new cell creation and preventing neural tube defects in infants.

Vitamin B12

Added as cyanocobalamin, vitamin B12 maintains nerve cells and produces DNA.

Vitamin C

Ascorbic acid or vitamin C boosts immunity, acts as an antioxidant and aids iron absorption.


Calcium supports bone strength and density. It is also required for muscle and nerve function.


Works closely with calcium to build bones and teeth.


Magnesium is needed for turning food into energy and making proteins and bones.


Zinc boosts immunity, facilitates wound healing, supports taste and smell and enables DNA synthesis.


Iron carries oxygen in the blood to organs and tissues. It is essential for cognitive function.


Here is a detailed look at the macronutrients in Carnation Instant Breakfast:


Carnation Instant Breakfast contains milk proteins like casein and whey, providing all the essential amino acids. These proteins support muscle growth and maintenance.


Maltodextrin and added sugars like sucrose provide a quick source of carbohydrates for energy. They increase blood glucose levels.


The fat in Carnation Instant Breakfast comes from the milk used to prepare it. Whole milk provides more fat compared to skim or low fat milk.


One packet of Carnation Instant Breakfast (38g) prepared with 240ml of 2% milk provides approximately 240 calories. This provides around 12% of daily calorie needs for adults. The calories come mainly from carbohydrates and protein.

Carnation Instant Breakfast Packets

Carnation Instant Breakfast is sold in boxes containing packets of powdered mix. Here are some details on the packaging:

  • Each box contains 8 to 15 packets
  • Individual packets weigh around 38 grams
  • Packets are foil lined paper packets or plastic tubs
  • Powder in packets is beige, brown or pink depending on flavor
  • Boxes have nutrition facts, ingredients and preparation instructions

How to Prepare

Carnation Instant Breakfast is prepared by emptying the powder from one packet into a glass or mug and adding fluid as directed:

  1. Open packet and empty contents into a glass
  2. Add 240ml of cold milk and stir briskly until dissolved
  3. For thicker drink, use less milk. For thinner consistency, use more milk
  4. Can also be prepared with water or non-dairy milk like soy or almond milk
  5. Use a spoon or whisk to mix and dissolve any lumps
  6. Drink immediately or refrigerate up to 24 hours

Storage Instructions

To maintain freshness, Carnation Instant Breakfast packets should be stored properly. Here are the storage guidelines:

  • Store unopened boxes in a cool, dry place below 25°C
  • Keep packets away from moisture, heat and sunlight
  • After opening box, reseal tightly to prevent moisture entering
  • Use packets within a month of opening box
  • Do not use packets beyond best before date printed on box
  • Prepared drink can be refrigerated in a sealed container up to 24 hours


Carnation Instant Breakfast was launched in 1964 by the Carnation Company. It was one of the first instant breakfast drinks introduced commercially. Here are some key milestones:

  • Developed by Carnation scientist Alan Sachs
  • Test marketed in California in 1963
  • Launched nationally in US in 1964 in chocolate and strawberry flavors
  • Advertised as a nourishing breakfast for dieters
  • Sales reached $10 million in first year
  • Acquired by Nestlé in 1985
  • New flavors like French Vanilla and Cinnabon Crunch launched over the years


Some top competitors for Carnation Instant Breakfast in the instant breakfast market include:

  • Nesquik Breakfast Cereal – Made by Nestlé, offers protein and fiber
  • Quaker Instant Oatmeal – Provides whole grain oats with toppings
  • Special K Protein Shake – Higher protein formula by Kellogg’s
  • Ensure – Nutrition shake high in nutrients
  • Slim Fast – Lower calorie option focused on weight loss
  • Soylent – Nutrient dense meal replacement drink

Consumer Reviews

Here are some common compliments and complaints about Carnation Instant Breakfast based on consumer reviews:


  • Easy and quick to prepare
  • Good taste and variety of flavors
  • Helps satisfy hunger in the morning
  • Provides protein and vitamins
  • Convenient for busy mornings and travel


  • High in sugar
  • Contains artificial colors and flavors
  • Not very filling on its own
  • Can cause sugar crash later
  • More expensive than other breakfast options

Nutrition Concerns

While Carnation Instant Breakfast can provide important vitamins and minerals, there are some nutrition concerns to consider:

  • High sugar content – Up to 40% sugar is added
  • Limited fiber – Only contains 0-1g of fiber per serving
  • Low protein – Provides only about 13g protein with milk
  • Lots of additives – Contains artificial colors, flavors and sweeteners
  • Highly processed – Ingredients are processed and powdered

To make Carnation Instant Breakfast more balanced, nutrition experts recommend pairing it with nuts, whole grains, fruit or yogurt for extra protein, fiber and nutrients. Moderating added sugars by preparing it with unsweetened almond milk or less powder is also advised.

Cost Analysis

One box of 10 packets of Carnation Instant Breakfast costs approximately $5-7 depending on flavor and store. Here is a cost breakdown:

  • Average cost per packet: $0.50 – $0.70
  • Price per gram: Around $0.015
  • Price per serving prepared with milk: $0.70 – $1.00
  • Substantial ingredients like milk and cocoa drive costs
  • Processing and packaging costs contribute as well
  • Unit cost is reasonable compared to other breakfast options

While Carnation Instant Breakfast requires an upfront purchase, it can be cheaper than buying a meal out. Homemade breakfasts can cost even less, but take more time to prepare.

Environmental Impact

The environmental impact of Carnation Instant Breakfast includes:

  • Greenhouse gas emissions from dairy farms supplying milk ingredients
  • Water usage for growing cocoa and sugar crops
  • Non-recyclable foil packets generate waste
  • Packaging requires cardboard, plastic and aluminum
  • Transportation emissions to move ingredients and products

Steps that could reduce the environmental footprint include:

  • Sourcing cocoa and milk from sustainable farms
  • Using renewable energy in production facilities
  • Creating recyclable or compostable packaging
  • Optimizing logistics to reduce transport impacts

Nutritional Alternatives

Some healthier alternatives to Carnation Instant Breakfast include:

  • Whole grain cereal or oatmeal – Provides complex carbs, fiber and nutrients
  • Greek yogurt parfaits – Good source of protein and calcium
  • Nut butter on whole grain toast – Healthy fats and sustained energy
  • Smoothies with fruit, veggies and protein powder – Nutrient-dense option without additives
  • Cottage cheese with fruit – Mix of protein and produce

Homemade options allow control over ingredients. Packaged alternatives like protein bars or shakes with limited added sugars are also available.


Carnation Instant Breakfast provides a quick, convenient breakfast with protein, vitamins and minerals. However, the high sugar content, artificial additives and lack of whole food nutrition make it an imperfect balanced meal. Lightening the powder or pairing with nutritious foods can improve its nutritional value. Alternatively, homemade options like smoothies and yogurt provide comparable nutrition without highly processed ingredients.

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