On Monday morning, Mondelez International introduced the latest twist on the Oreo, the best selling cookie in the world. Oreo Thins are similar to the original wafers, except that they're, well, slimmer. The new cookies are each about 4 millimeters thinner and 18 calories lighter.
But despite their meager size, the new, slimmed down Oreos are actually faced with a pretty tall task: to extend the unparalleled—and seemingly endless—rise of what is, without question, the most widely eaten cookie in history.
Here in the United States, Oreos might as well exist in their own cookie stratosphere. Today, nearly one out of every five dollars spent on cookies is spent on an Oreo. The creme-filled wafers' nearest competitor is Keebler (of which there are eleven varieties, including Chips Deluxe and Fudge Shoppe). But last year Americans spent only about half as many dollars on Keebler cookies as they did on Oreos.
And the distance between the best selling cookie and everything else is only growing. Since 2005, Oreo sales have grown by more than 60 percent, which is easily the largest increase among any of the top cookie brands sold in the United States. For context, consider that cookie sales market-wide rose by only 10 percent over that period, or that more than 7o percent of that growth is directly attributable to increased demand for Oreos.
Oreos are dominant globally, too. The brand, which accounts for roughly 5 percent of worldwide cookie sales, has more than three times the foothold of any other cookie.
There are many reasons for Oreo's dominance. Perhaps most importantly, people really like them. The clearest indication of their appeal is how widely Oreos are used to enhance other foods. The cookie, after all, is gobbled up not only bare or dipped in milk, but fried in dough, mixed with ice cream, blended into milk shakes, pounded into pie crust, and crushed and sprinkled over a lot of sweets.
There is also an element of reliability. After so many years of exposure to both the brand, which has been around since it was introduced by Nabisco in 1912, and the cookie's unique design, people are drawn to Oreos because no other cookie, no matter how similar, can replace the familiarity they offer. On the cookie's 75th birthday, in 1986, The New York Times wrote that "[Oreo] cookies are designed as consciously as buildings, and sometimes better."
But Oreos have managed to grow by breaking with tradition, too. Over the years, the brand has reinvigorated interest by introducing new, often outlandish variations on the original formula. Some of them, like Golden Oreos, which are made with vanilla wafers, have proved popular, and endured. Others, like Watermelon Oreos, have not. All of the permutations, however, have likely helped build interest in the brand at large, whether by introducing a new attractive cookie or reminding Oreo aficionados that it has been too long since they last bought a pack of the originals.
There are currently 61 products listed on the official Oreo website, which includes flavors like Mint, Peanut Butter, and Berry, as well as mini Oreos and 100 calorie snack packs.
Oreo Thins, the newest addition to the lineup, will be available in the United States beginning next week, after a successful run in China, where they were introduced last year. The plan is to eventually roll them out worldwide. They are being pitched as a more "sophisticated" cookie. They are meant to be eaten on their own, in their entirety, rather than after being split into their two components—chocolate wafer and creme—as the original ones so often are. And they offer the exact opposite appeal of the popular Mega Stuf and Double Stuf varieties.
But Oreo Thins are supposed to help jumpstart what has been an otherwise poor start to the year for Mondelez's cookie business. Sales of the company's biscuits, which include brands like Oreo, Chips Ahoy!, Nabisco, and Nilla, among others, were essentially flat in the United States and down internationally in the first three months of 2015 compared to last year.
Word of the slender new member of the Oreo family has, for the most part, has been met with praise. Stefanie Tuder, writing for ABC News, wrote rather bluntly that the newest Oreo is her favorite Oreo.
It remains to be seen, however, whether people will warm up to an Oreo cookie that isn't meant to be dipped or twisted.