No one knows what Oreo means.
It’s true, the origin of the name of the most popular cookies on earth has been lost to time. Though the name was trademarked in 1912 when the cookies were first produced by Nabisco, no one knows exactly what the word means anymore. There are many ideas, including that it might be derived from the Greek word meaning mountain or the French word meaning gold. Whatever the meaning, what is known is that it was always an imitation of the Hydrox cookie, which was produced beginning in 1908.
Chocolate and Creme
The Oreo cookie is the most popular cookie in the United States. Nabisco sells the cookie in over a hundred countries around the world, and in some parts of the world like Britain it is referred to as the “Oreo biscuit” rather than the “Oreo cookie”.
The cookie consists of two chocolate wafers with a vanilla creme in the middle. This sandwich cookie generally takes on that original format, however there have been dozens of variations over the years of production that add flavor to the creme, increase or decrease the level of creme, or change the flavor of the cookie. Limited editions of Oreo cookies are incredibly popular and have become a major sales tactic of the company.
Oreo cookies are accidentally vegan. They are made without the use of any animal products, which as a bonus also makes them kosher. These cookies are a favorite among animal loves who want to keep from eating animal products but also want to fulfill their sweet tooth.
In the 1990s Nabisco changed its recipe to remove lard from its cooking process for Oreos. The cookies are now made with non-hydrogenated vegetable oil. Food scientist Sam Porcello is responsible for developing the modern Oreo, and he holds five patents related to the product.
Though Oreo has, for the most part, eschewed controversy, the company witnessed a major boycott in 2015 when it moved its North American cookie production from the United States to Mexico. Labor unions in America called for boycotts of the company in protest of those jobs moving out of America.
Mondelez International, the multinational food manufacturer that makes Oreos for Nabisco, decided to move production to cut costs and stuck with that decision. Though there was a great deal of press surrounding the boycott at the time, the company’s sales were not negatively affected in any kind of long term fashion.
That’s the Way the Cookie Crumbles
Oreo has continued to be the dominant brand of cookie on Earth, despite its changes over the years. Competitors like Famous Amos and Chips Ahoy don’t come anywhere near the ubiquity of the Oreo.
Part of what’s gotten Oreo so far ahead is that it uses savvy advertising to keep its product relevant. The company is iconic for its commercials that asked how people should eat an Oreo, twisting it open and getting the cream from inside. Since the year 2000, the company has leveraged its limited-edition cookie flavors to reach new markets and stay relevant. In 2012, it marketed rainbow cookies in celebration of LGBT Pride Month.
With two billion dollars in annual sales, Oreo dominates the marketplace. Not bad for a cookie that started out as an imitation!