The Invention Of Oreo: How America's Best-Selling Cookie Got Its Name

By | May 7, 2020

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Creamy, chocolatey, and impossible to limit to the recommended serving size, the Oreo is a timeless cookie that no household is complete without. Even though they've become America's number-one cookie, they got their start as a doppelgänger of the Hydrox, which paired bitter chocolate shortbread with sweet vanilla fondant. The Oreo was introduced in 1912 by Nabisco as a nearly identical clone of the Hydrox, albeit with a less intricate laurel wreath. In the century-plus that Oreo has been on the market, it has surpassed its competitor through sweeter flavors and minor design changes, but the cookie has remained mysterious in one sense. Nabisco has never explained where the name "Oreo" comes from, inspiring years of speculation and conspiracy theories.

Oreo Or Hydrox?

When Hydrox cookies were introduced in 1908, they were an instant hit with the American public. With two chocolate wafers sealing in vanilla fondant, they provided a crunchy cookies-and-cream treat that looked like a work of art, with ornately designed scrolls, flowers, and laurels baked into the cookies. When Oreos were brought to the market in 1912, they had a similar shape and flavor but a far less intricate design. They did keep the laurel wreath that made the Hyrdrox stand out among competitors, and in the center of that wreath, the simple, mysterious word "Oreo."

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(The Times of Northwest Indiana)

An Oreo By Any Other Name

Nabisco has never been forthcoming about why their top cookie is called the "Oreo," and their silence on this very important issue has led to theories that range from plausible to "the Illuminati." Some of the more banal theories are that "Oreo" is derived from the French word or, which means "gold," or that it's simply a random word that's easy to pronounce. However, according to some tinfoil hat–wearing snackers, the Oreo's origin is more nefarious. They believe that the pattern on the wafer features the Cross of Lorraine, which was carried by the Knights Templar during the Crusades of the 11th century, and its circular shape is a symbol for infinity or power, combining to represent a kind of infinite mystical ... thing? The theory might not hold up, but it's always fun to look closer at the designs chosen for America's favorite snacks.