Happy Birthday, Oreo Cookies

by Betty Wrenn Day - Posted on Apr 11, 2012 - 02:32 PM

The world’s favorite cookie, with an annual global revenue of $1.5 billion, is celebrating its 100th birthday. The Oreo cookie was born in 1912, the same year the South Pole was discovered and the Titanic sank.

Kraft Foods is the proud custodian of Oreo, but it hasn’t always been so. The cookie began with the National Biscuit Company (Nabisco, which in 1971, became the official corporate name).

It was in 1898 that several baking companies merged to form Nabisco. By 1902 the company created Barnum’s Animal cookies and made them famous by selling them in a cage-like box with a string attached (to hang on Christmas trees).

The next great creation given to the cookie-loving public was the Oreo, two chocolate disks with a cream filling in between. The first Oreo cookie, with an embossed thin wreath on the outer edge and the Oreo name on the plain surface in the middle, looked very similar to the Oreo cookie of today; its look didn’t change much until 1975 when the Double Stuf Oreo was released. Nabisco continued to create variations: 1987, Fudge covered Oreos; 1991, Halloween Oreo; 1995, Christmas Oreos.

The very first one was sold in Hoboken, N.J., where Oreo was originally packaged in bulk tins and sold by weight. In 1912 grocers paid 30 cents for a pound of Oreo cookies.

In 1981 Nabisco merged with Standard Brands. In 1985 Nabisco Brands merged with R. J. Reynolds. In 1993 Kraft General Foods acquired Nabisco ready-to-eat cold cereals from RJR Nabisco. In 2000 Philip Morris Companies, Inc., acquired Nabisco and merged it with Kraft Foods, Inc.

It’s a mystery how the cookie got its name. According to Jennifer Rosenberg, author of "History of the Oreo Cookie," "The people at Nabisco aren’t quite sure. Some think the name was taken from the French word for gold ‘or’ (the main color on early Oreo packages). Others claim the name stemmed from the shape of a hill-shaped test version; thus naming the cookie in Greek for mountain, "oreo." Still others believe the name is a combination of taking the "re" from "cream" and placing it between the two ‘o’s in ‘chocolate’ making O-re-o. And still others believe that the cookie was named Oreo because it was short and easy to pronounce."

How or where its name originated will probably never be confirmed but there are a few facts that have been verified.

* Oreos can be found in more than 100 countries.

* The Oreo cookies are most popular above all other cookies (in order) in the United States, China, Venezuela, Canada, Indonesia, Mexico, Spain, Central America and the Caribbean, the United Kingdom and Argentina.

* There has been a street named after it: Oreo Way formerly known as West 15th Street, between 9th and 10th Avenue in New York City where the first Oreo cookie was made at the original Nabisco bakery.

* Oreo owner Kraft Foods, is the world’s largest biscuit baker and Oreo is made at 21 bakeries around the world.

* Over 362 billion Oreo cookies have been sold since it was first introduced, making it the best selling cookie of the 20th and 21st centuries.

Do you know?

An interesting tidbit: Fifty percent of all Oreo eaters pull apart their cookies before eating, with women twisting them open more often than men.

Happy Birthday, Oreo cookies.

Note: Facts on Oreo cookies were taken from "History of the Oreo Cookie," Wikipedia encyclopedia, "Food Time Line History" and ‘History of Nabisco."