NEW YORK — Some people split the two chocolate wafers and scrape off the filling with their two front teeth; others munch them whole.
However they're eaten, Oreo chocolate sandwich cookies are the world's top-selling cookies--more than 100 billion have been sold since they were introduced 75 years ago, according to the Guinness Book of World Records.
Noting the anniversary, the Oreo's maker, Nabisco Brands Inc., is taking the opportunity to provide all the information you could ever possibly want about the cookies.
One thing Nabisco omits, not surprisingly, is that the Hydrox cookie is older. Invented by an Englishman, Hydrox cookies were first sold in this country in 1908, says their maker, Sunshine Biscuits Inc.
But Oreos are more famous, and by far better sellers.
If all the Oreo cookies that were ever eaten were piled one on top of the other, they would reach to the moon and back twice, or if placed side by side, would circle the Equator 130 times, Nabisco says.
The cookies are sold in 25 countries, and about $1 out of every $10 spent on cookies in American grocery stores is spent on Oreos, the company says.
Theories on Name
Nabisco says it has been forgotten where the Oreo name came from, but there are three theories.
One is that company executives just liked the sound of the combination of letters.
Another is that the prototype looked like a mound, so they gave it the Greek word for mountain.
The third is that the name may be derived from the French word for gold-- or. The original label had the product name in gold, with gold scrollwork, the company says.
In 1975, Nabisco introduced Double Stuf Oreos, which have a double dollop of creme in the middle. That cookie now is the fifth best-selling cookie in the country, the company says.
Two years ago, a mint-flavored version was brought out.
"It's a very good brand franchise. By expanding the line, they may have brought some additional consumers into the market," said George Pierides, an analyst with Standard & Poor's Corp.
Other flavors could come later, Pierides said.
"It's the prudent thing to do when you've got an established line, well-recognized brand name, to squeeze it for what its worth," he said.
Nabisco, which is based in Parsippany, N.J., declines to release statistics that would illustrate the trend of Oreo sales in recent years. Sunshine Biscuits also won't provide such numbers, citing competitive reasons.
The American Bakers Assn. in Washington and the Milling & Banking News in Kansas City, Mo., say they don't have any figures.
Competition in the Oreo-Hydrox market has been heating up.
In April, Sunshine Biscuits introduced Hydrox Doubles, which contain extra creme filling plus one of these three flavors: mint, fudge and strawberry.
'Taking Off the Gloves'
Sunshine, based in Woodbridge, N.J., is planning to launch an advertising campaign in June that claims Oreos sometimes are made with lard, while Hydrox cookies are always made with 100% vegetable oil.
"We're kind of taking off the gloves and taking on the competition," said Alexander Nichols, director of advertising for Sunshine. "We expect to have a lot of activity. We're trying basically to interrupt the consumers' buying patterns."
More than 1 million Oreo cookies are produced in an eight-hour shift at five Nabisco bakeries.
It takes an hour and 35 minutes for an Oreo to wend its way through the process.
Over the years, the size of the cookie has varied. The current, 20-year-old version is 1 3/4 inches across.
A standard Oreo contains 47 calories, the company says.
Oreos cost about $2.29 for a 16-ounce bag.
They are most popular with 6-year-olds to 18-year-olds, the company says.
They also are said to be loved by these celebrities: Milton Berle, Dinah Shore and Frankie Avalon.
Also in recent years, Americans have been eating "milk and Oreos."
"Keep your milk from getting lonely," says a joint advertisement from Nabisco and the American Dairy Assn.