The Oreo cookie has come a long way since making its national debut on March 6, 1912.
As the story goes, the first Oreo Biscuits — which came in a metal canister with a glass lid — were sold to a grocer in Hoboken, N.J., for 30 cents per pound. Over the next century, the National Baking Company (later Nabisco) would introduce new flavors, sizes and styles-- but one thing would always remain the same: America just couldn't get enough of Oreo.
Today, on its 105th birthday, the Oreo is the best-selling cookie in the world. But there's more to the Oreo than just chocolate and creme filling. In fact, the story behind the Oreo is just as addictive and intriguing as the cookie itself.
Here are a few tidbits about "milk's favorite cookie."
1. Nabisco introduced Oreos alongside two sister cookies.
Oreos were originally marketed as part of a trio of new offerings from the National Biscuit Company, but neither of its sister cookies became as popular. On April 2, 1912, an internal memo at Nabisco heralded the upcoming release of Oreo Biscuits, Mother Goose Biscuits and Veronese Biscuits as “three entirely new varieties of the highest class biscuit packed in a new style.” The Mother Goose Biscuit was described as “a rich, high class biscuit bearing impressions of the Mother Goose legends," while the Veronese was marketed as “a delicious, hard, sweet biscuit of beautiful design and high quality.” They were both discontinued within a few years.
2. The Oreo's second-ever flavor was lemon.
According to the Oxford Companion to Sugar and Sweets, Nabisco debuted a second Oreo flavor in 1920: a lemon crème-filled Oreo with chocolate wafers. They were discontinued in 1924, and Nabisco mostly refrained from introducing new varieties for the next several decades. Lemon Twist Oreos were released for a limited time in 2012.
3. Researchers say Oreos are as addictive as cocaine.
In 2013, research from Connecticut College suggested that Oreos might be just as addictive as cocaine. Faculty and students were studying the effect of high-sugar/high-fat diets on lab rats, and they found that certain foods — specifically Oreos — stimulated the pleasure centers of the rats’ brains more so than cocaine or morphine. One student also observed that the rats “would break [the Oreos] open and eat the middle first.”
4. The Oreo came after the Hydrox, not the other way around.
The Hydrox cookie is often thought to be an Oreo knockoff, when in fact the opposite is true. Sunshine Biscuits introduced the Hydrox — a sandwich cookie which shares striking similarities in shape, size and flavor as the Oreo — in 1908, about four years before the Oreo first hit the scene. The National Biscuit Company was able to outperform Sunshine in both advertising and distribution efforts, and the Oreo became (and remained) the better-selling of the two sandwich cookies.
Hydrox cookies continued to be available in some form or another until 2003, when they were discontinued by then-owner Kellogg’s before reappearing for a limited time in 2008. A company called Leaf Brands has since acquired the Hydrox name, and they relaunched the cookies in 2015.
5. The largest of all Oreo varieties was discontinued.
In 1984, Nabisco marketed a product called the Oreo Big Stuf, which was essentially a three-inch-wide Oreo cookie advertised as “an on-the-run snack.” The Big Stuf was discontinued in 1991.
6. Oreo cookies used to be made with lard. And now they're kosher.
Oreo cookies were made with lard until the mid-1990s, when Nabisco swapped the animal fat with partially hydrogenated vegetable oil due to growing health concerns. (Later, in 2006, the company switched to non-hydrogenated vegetable oil.) In 1997, Nabisco also earned kosher certification — a process that took over three years. "It was probably the most expensive conversion of a company from non-kosher to kosher," said Cornell professor Joe Regenstein, who served as an “informal consultant” to Nabisco during the transition. According to Regenstein, Nabisco had about 100 ovens spanning the length of a football field, and each needed to be cleaned by a rabbi wielding a blowtorch. Furthermore, every oven needed a replacement belt at the cost of $150,000 each.