The Double-Stuffed History of Oreos

What’s a cookie without a little controversy?

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There are some things you eat that you’ll never forget: your first McDonald’s Chicken McNugget, a delightfully messy Doritos Locos Taco, or the taste of a perfectly balanced Oreo. Nothing beats the taste of a homemade cookie, but Oreos come close. There’s a reason people have been munching on them for decades.

Mass-produced cookies like fig Newtons and Animal Crackers first started gracing the shelves of grocery stores across the United States at the turn of the 20th Century. Hard to imagine a world where grocery store shelves aren’t stocked with your favorite snacks, right? Sadly, the Oreo wasn’t there just yet. In 1898 a bunch of cookie slingers came together to create a company called “The National Biscuit Company,” which was a mouthful to say the least. Nowadays we call it Nabisco.

It took roughly another decade, but in 1908, the Oreo was finally invented. Well, sort of. A few years earlier, in 1902 Jacob Loose, a member of Nabisco’s board of directors, branched out on his own to create cookies in Kansas City with his brother. As one does. He names the brand Sunshine Biscuits and they release an ultra exotic English biscuit called Hydrox. If you don’t think that sounds appetizing, you’re not alone. For whatever reason, Loose thinks the best name for his cookies is a combination of the names of the molecules that make water: hydrogen and oxygen. 

By some miracle, or perhaps a lack of the extensive snack market we’re accustomed to today, Sunshine Biscuits is able to sell Hydrox. The Midwest quite literally eats it up and then, out of nowhere, in 1912 some city slicker at the national biscuit company in Manhattan announces that they “invented” a new cookie. The tasty treat is described as “two beautifully embossed chocolate-flavored wafers with a rich cream filling” and thus Nabisco’s Oreo is born. It’s unclear where the name comes from, but it’s abundantly clear that it’s a better name than Hydrox, which is maybe why Nabisco so coldly and blatantly ripped of Sunshine Biscuits’ idea. Who knows.

Whatever the case, the folks at Sunshine Biscuit were ready to duke it out with Nabisco. The rivalry lasts most of the 20th Century, which is a long time to be fighting about cookies. Nabisco kicks things up a notch in 1923, placing Oreo ads on trolly cars promoting what eventually comes to be known as the “Oreo twist.” Much to Loose and Sunshine Biscuits chagrin, the twist takes off. Nabisco estimates more than 50% of all Oreo fans twist open their cookies before tossing them back. 

That same year, Loose dies. Although his cookie idea was stolen, he’s very rich (but not like… Oreo rich, probably). After his death, Oreo runs Hydrox into the ground, and in the decades to come, Oreos become one of the most popular cookies in America. Hydrox remains popular for a little while with Jewish snacks because Loose made them kosher and Oreos, for whatever reason, have lard in the cream, but for the most part, Hydrox is done.

While Sunshine Biscuits’ creation falls apart, Oreo continues to grow. In 1974, Nabisco releases Double Stuf Oreos and nothing is the same again. Even if they are actually only about 1.8x the stuff of traditional Oreos. Sorry, folks -- facts are facts. They’re still delicious. As if that wasn’t enough, in 1985 Dairy Queen teams up with Nabisco to launch the Oreo Blizzard and what could be better than ice cream and Oreos? Oh, right. Nothing. That same year, Oreos officially earn the title of best selling cookie in the world, according to the Guinness Book of World records, selling more than 6 billion cookies a year. 

Hydrox never stood a chance, but Sunshine Biscuits wasn’t ready to roll over and die. In 1996 Keebler bought the company and tried to breathe new life into Hydrox. A bold choice by the Keebler Elves for sure. The company rebrands Hydrox as “droxies,” which still sounds more like a designer drug than a cookie. Unsurprisingly to… well, anyone, they don’t take off and Oreo continues to thrive. In 1998, Nabisco finally revamps the recipe and removes the lard from Oreo cream. The cookies are officially deemed kosher and Nabisco edges out Sunshine once more. Sorry, “droxies.”

The revamped cookies are officially discontinued in 2003 without much fuss from the public. Honestly, we’re surprised it took that long. Then, in a move no one sees coming, in 2015 a new company buys Hydrox and re-releases them under the same bad name. No, seriously… you can buy them on Amazon right now and according to some of the reviews, “they’re still better than Oreos.” Actually, a lot of the reviews say similar things. The only way to find out is to try them for yourself. 

Anyway, here we are more than 100 years after the Oreo hit the market and they’re still more popular than ever. You can find them on their own, in strange flavors, in ice cream, fried at state fairs, in popcorn, and even in churros. Hydrox fought the good fight, but they’ll never be that popular. You know what they say, that’s just the way the cookie crumbles. It’s probably for the best Loose wasn’t around to see how it all played out.

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Caitlyn Hitt is Daria IRL. Don't take our word for it -- find her on Twitter @nyltiaccc.