We’re back with Part 2 of “Cookies: Double Stuffed” Get ready for an extra deep Deep Dish with our Foodlosopher, Anna Van Valin, as she dives into one of the most epic food business rivalries in history: the century-long battle between Oreo and Hydrox. When a ruthless lawyer and two bitter baker brothers collided at the beginning of the 20th century, it led to the creation of the very first food conglomerate, a world-changing invention, and the most popular cookie on earth. She tells us which cookie really came first (it’s not the one you think!!) and how some of the best and worst marketing played a big role in who came out on top. It’s a story STUFFED with corporate backstabbing, petty revenge and so much shade. Milk isn’t the only thing Oreo’s been DUNKing on!
*If you need reproductive care, want to learn more about your reproductive rights, or find out how to help, visit choice.crd.co
More info from the show:
* Watch the deliciously dramatic “Cookie Wars: The Food That Built America” from the History Channel
* Oreo's delightful 1980 commercial
*Hydrox's questionable commercial from 1966
*Hydrox's VERY questionable 1988 commercial
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* For more great content about the stories & foods we talk about on the show (plus a peek BTS) follow us at @FoodDayPod on Instagram, Twitter & Facebook or check out our webpage.
* Join our mailing list for extra content and to keep up with all the exciting things we have planned for this season.
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0:00:00.3 Anna Van Valin: Hi listeners, it's Anna and Lia. Before we start the show today, we wanna acknowledge what's been going on with the Supreme Court, especially eliminating American's constitutional and human right to decide if, when, and how they have a child by overturning Roe versus Wade.
0:00:15.4 Lia Ballentine: We are devastated and furious and we know many of you are too. So we wanted to take a minute to offer solidarity and support.
0:00:25.7 AV: We thought about having a moment of silence but you know what, instead we're gonna have a moment to scream. So grab a pillow, a sweatshirt to scream into or you know if you're alone or in a car you just go for it. We're gonna turn off our mics. I want you to take three seconds to just scream it out. Here we go.
0:00:42.6 AV: That's better.
0:00:44.1 LB: If you yourself need care or you want resources on how you can help in your community or across the country, go to choice.crd.co.
0:00:52.7 AV: Everyone should have the freedom to decide what's best for themselves and their families including when it comes to ending a pregnancy. This decision has dire consequences for individual health and safety and could have harsh repercussions for other landmark decisions.
0:01:07.7 LB: Restricting access to comprehensive reproductive care, including abortion, threatens the health and independence of all Americans.
0:01:18.0 AV: We don't have any big solutions or miracle cures for the situation and we know that that's not what you come to us for, but we hope that the next 58 minutes of this episode is gonna make you smile in a week when it's been really hard to smile.
0:01:29.4 LB: Please take care of yourselves and each other and visit choice.crd.co for more resources and support.
0:01:39.4 AV: There's one I love that says, "If you wanna keep everyone happy, serve Oreos sold in packages or by the pound." By the pound?
0:01:47.2 LB: Hold up, by the pound. Like wait a minute. Can we do that today please? That would be like, way easier for me to just buy them by the pound.
0:01:57.5 AV: Yeah, I mean you don't know how many are in a package, but I know how many I can carry in pounds. I don't know why we got rid of that.
0:02:04.9 LB: I think we need to start a petition.
0:02:06.6 AV: Change.org.
0:02:08.0 LB: And say we need to bring back bulk Oreos.
0:02:10.3 AV: I agree. I think that the greatest metric is volume...
0:02:13.4 LB: Yeah.
0:02:15.1 AV: Of Oreo.
0:02:17.0 AV: Okay, we'll put that on our list.
0:02:18.4 LB: Okay, yes.
0:02:18.8 AV: Everyone keep an eye out for our hashtag Oreos by the pound.
0:02:21.5 LB: Oreos by the pound, please.
0:02:25.1 LB: Hi everyone. Welcome to Everyday is a food day. A show about the stories, scandals, history, and holidays behind your favorite foods.
0:02:49.5 LB: I'm Lia Ballentine, a chef creator.
0:02:51.9 AV: I'm Anna Van Valin, your resident foodlosopher.
0:02:55.1 LB: We can never eat just one cookie and we couldn't make just one cookie episode either. So we're back with part two of this double-stuffed cookie episode.
0:03:11.2 AV: Last time, Lia gave us the history behind cookies, a double-digit list of cookie holidays and introduced us to some cookie legends we should all know.
0:03:12.8 LB: Today Anna's got a deep dish packed with more delicious morsels than a chewy Chips Ahoy, the epic century long battle between Hydrox and Oreo.
0:03:23.1 AV: Most people think Hydrox is just a cheap ripoff of Oreo, but that's not the way this cookie crumbled. Hydrox was out of the oven first. It's a shocking story of corporate backstabbing and petty revenge with Easter eggs of shade sandwiched into every cookie. In the end, Oreo's masterful marketing let it dunk on Hydrox to become the number one cookie in the world.
0:03:47.3 LB: Did we ever figure out what was in the Oreo stuff?
0:03:48.8 AV: Does it matter?
0:03:50.5 LB: If you missed part one, subscribe to the show wherever you get your podcast to hear it and all our episodes.
0:03:56.3 AV: If you wanna support this women and BIPOC created independent podcast, click the buy me a coffee link in the show notes or on our website and help us cover the cost of production and please leave us that rating and review.
0:04:07.4 LB: For more delicious content about these foods and stories and a peek behind the scenes, check out the links in our show notes to visit our website, join our mailing list and connect with us on social media at the screen name, @fooddaypod, including our monthly Instagram lives.
0:04:21.7 AV: Ready to get baked, Lia?
0:04:22.9 LB: You batter believe it.
0:04:28.5 LB: Hi Anna. Are you ready for part two?
0:04:34.1 AV: Hi Lia. I'm ready for part two. I hope everyone else is ready for part two because just like we thoroughly underestimated how much there was to cover when it comes to cookies overall, I underestimated how complicated and long and intense the Oreo-Hydrox story is, so that is why this deep dish is its own damn episode.
0:04:58.8 LB: Now, I know we've done some food business rivalry stories in the past.
0:05:03.3 AV: Right.
0:05:03.9 LB: We had french fries, which was just full of the McDrama.
0:05:07.2 AV: Oh my God, so much McDrama. Yes, our French fries episode. My deep dish was the story of the McDonald's French fries, which is really just the history of McDonald's and there's some dark corners in that fry basket. There's some like, secrets in the ketchup packets people. There's legal trickery, boardroom shenanigans, there were angry vegans. There were riots in India.
0:05:26.1 LB: And those poor McDonald's brothers.
0:05:28.5 AV: Oh, I felt so bad for them.
0:05:30.4 LB: Makes me sad.
0:05:31.3 AV: Sold their lives away.
0:05:33.5 LB: Oh, poor guys.
0:05:34.6 AV: Not a royalty insight. So is this story going to be like the McDonald's story? The McDrama. Is it like Oreo drama, odrama.
0:05:46.1 LB: More like "Oh, there's drama."
0:05:48.1 AV: Oh, there's drama.
0:05:49.3 LB: Oh, there's drama. So there's definitely similarities but this story is a little different.
0:05:55.5 AV: Okay.
0:05:55.9 LB: First of all we got no angry vegans or riots in India.
0:06:00.4 AV: Oh, that's good.
0:06:04.2 LB: Oreo versus Hydrox is strictly boardroom shenanigans, marketing mayhem, it's all corporate intrigue.
0:06:07.2 AV: Got it. Okay.
0:06:08.5 LB: So second of all, you know, the McDonald's Brothers, they were just no match for Ray Kroc. You know?
0:06:13.2 AV: Yeah.
0:06:14.9 LB: They did not know how to grind it out. Not like Ray Kroc.
0:06:20.6 AV: No one can grind it out like Ray Kroc...
0:06:22.5 LB: No one.
0:06:22.9 AV: Can grind it out.
0:06:23.7 LB: He wrote the book on grinding it out, people. He was also a hardcore capitalist and maybe a sociopath. I'm not a doctor.
0:06:34.1 AV: But if you had to guess?
0:06:35.5 LB: If you told me Ray Kroc was a sociopath, I'd go, "Uh-huh." So it's really sad, but it is not surprising that the McDonald's brothers lost the business battle to Ray Kroc.
0:06:48.4 AV: Right, yeah.
0:06:48.8 LB: But in this story, these are all very skilled business people who know what they're doing. And they are equally going at each other. But the big difference here is this was all personal and girl, it was petty.
0:07:06.4 AV: Wow. Oh, my gosh.
0:07:08.8 LB: This is some petty sh*t. And honestly, I am here for it.
0:07:14.6 AV: I know, I'm like... Wait.
0:07:15.6 LB: I am here for it.
0:07:16.8 AV: I kind of wanna hear more about this.
0:07:20.2 AV: Break out the popcorn. I'mma eat it with my tongue.
[music] “That’s a Callback!”
0:07:21.5 LB: Gotta frog that corn.
0:07:26.7 AV: Gotta frog that corn. And I'm gonna tell the story. Now kids buckle up 'cause it's a bit of a long walk to get to Oreos.
0:07:33.9 LB: Okay. Alright.
0:07:35.0 AV: But once I got into it, I had to go there. Okay. So this might take a minute, but buckle up, it ends with Oreos. So I was gonna give you an intro, set the stage but then I watched an episode of the History channel's show 'The Food That Built America' about Oreo. And you gotta hand it to the history channel because they managed to make absolutely everything they are talking about sound like a documentary on Pearl Harbor.
0:08:04.4 LB: I've never thought about that but...
0:08:05.8 AV: Everything.
0:08:06.2 LB: That is so true.
0:08:08.4 AV: So I can't possibly do better than this intro from the History Channel. So I'm just gonna play it for everyone.
0:08:13.5 LB: Alright here we go.
0:08:14.5 AV: Alright.
VIDEO: History Channel’s “Foods That Made America: Cookie Wars”
0:08:16.1 Speaker 3: Over a thousand Oreos produced every second, forming the heart of a cookie and cracker empire worth nearly $15 billion: Nabisco.
0:08:31.3 Speaker 4: Nabisco is absolutely everywhere in everyone's home. Then it's the largest baking company in America.
0:08:40.1 Speaker 3: But only a century ago, crackers are sold in filthy barrels.
0:08:46.9 Speaker 5: Back in the day, crackers would oftentimes spoil and food-borne illness was a massive, massive problem.
0:08:54.6 S3: And packaged cookies don't exist.
0:08:58.7 Speaker 6: Really? They are not what you eat every day, unless you're in a very wealthy household.
0:09:05.6 S3: Until two ambitious brothers.
0:09:07.4 Speaker 7: Come on.
0:09:09.5 S3: Join with one ruthless entrepreneur...
0:09:13.6 Speaker 8: Sit down.
0:09:15.2 S3: To launch cookies and crackers into the mainstream.
0:09:16.4 Speaker 5: It was a revolution. It changed the food landscape forever.
0:09:21.4 S3: Until betrayal, tears them apart.
0:09:23.5 Speaker 9: You can't do this.
0:09:26.0 S3: Their bitter competition sparked some of the biggest innovations in American food, revolutionizing packaged goods.
0:09:35.5 Speaker 10: It's just a prototype.
0:09:37.1 Speaker 11: It's perfect.
0:09:38.1 S3: And one final stab in the back.
0:09:40.7 Speaker 12: Are you sure you want to do this?
0:09:43.0 S3: Gives rise to the most popular cookie ever made.
0:09:53.6 LB: Amazing.
0:09:53.6 AV: If this is four hours long, I don't care. I need you all to hear that.
0:09:56.5 LB: That is perfect. The re-enactments are incredible.
0:10:00.6 AV: You guys, you gotta watch this. Okay. It looks like they shot it all in one day and paid non-union actors $300. That's what it looks like. There's all this stuff with closeups on cookies and they straight up just look like a platter of cookies. You got it Ralphs. But my favorite moment is there is a closeup when they're making the Hydrox, okay, like a montage of them trying different things for the Hydrox. And then there's this moment where they get the Hydrox right. And there's a closeup on their hands, but the prop that they used was an Oreo.
0:10:34.0 AV: An Oreo.
0:10:35.2 LB: Oh my... Cookie.
0:10:37.2 AV: The props people didn't even scrape off Oreo with their thumb. It just says Oreo.
0:10:42.6 LB: They couldn't get that budget to even do a little after effects.
0:10:47.4 AV: No. No one in the editing room caught that or they were like, "Don't worry about it, just go."
0:10:51.9 LB: Oreo, Hydrox.
0:10:54.5 AV: It is amazing. There's a lot of pensive guys invests pacing looking into soft lighting and I'm just, I hope that that set the tone for you all.
0:11:05.8 LB: This is like Gilded Age and Succession, mashed up together.
0:11:10.7 AV: Oh man. I wanna hear a mash up of those theme songs.
0:11:13.6 LB: Oh yeah.
0:11:14.5 AV: Somebody make that, listeners TikTok, go.
0:11:22.5 AV: So our story begins in the late 1800s with the very first food I ever talked about in a deep dish, crackers.
0:11:29.7 LB: Ah! Full circle moment.
0:11:31.6 AV: Full circle. Also known as biscuits.
0:11:35.7 LB: Crackers, biscuits.
0:11:36.8 AV: Crackers, biscuits, already making a connection. So as Lia talked about industrial production and packaging of foods combined with the new railway systems has started to create a national food economy and national brands for the first time, right? We completely take it for granted that we can get off a plane anywhere in the country and get a Diet Coke. Or in the world, you could probably get off a plane and get a Diet Coke most places. That was a new idea. So that is starting to build through canned goods, beverages, condiments, alcohol. We talked about Budweiser in the pretzels episode.
0:12:10.1 LB: Yeah.
0:12:11.0 AV: But there was one kind of food that lagged behind, baked goods.
0:12:14.7 LB: Ah, interesting.
0:12:15.9 AV: Yeah. So we talked about with pretzels, no one had figured out a way to keep them stable, fresh, not moldy and weird for the long haul. With pretzels, they literally had to make a stale version for it to travel, made hard pretzels. Not that they're not delicious. So baked goods all came from local bakeries, not grocery stores. And crackers also called biscuits, which we discussed in the very first episode was the most popular product after just loaves of bread, and crackers have been around four ages all over the world using different kinds of wheat or grain. It is a quick, compact, easy source of nutrition. So you could say that crackers were really the baking company's bread and butter.
0:13:00.1 AV: So the result was that every region had a million little baking companies, they were all competing against each other, underselling each other, cutting their prices, which kept the profits really low for baking companies. Now, let's meet The Loose Brothers and no, I'm not slut shaming them.
0:13:16.1 LB: The Loose Brothers.
0:13:17.3 AV: That is their name.
0:13:19.1 LB: Okay.
0:13:19.8 AV: Jacob and Joseph Loose ran a family baking company in Kansas City, Missouri in the late 1800s. They both loved baking, and Jacob especially had a head for business, he's had sort of a bigger, stronger personality. Joseph was sort of along for the ride. But the company was struggling to stay afloat amid all of that competition and so Jacob had an idea inspired by Mr. John D. Rockefeller, who a few decades earlier had introduced this idea of conglomeration, when he took all the little oil companies in the country and put them under one umbrella called Standard Oil and made himself a gazillionaire. He was the OG 1%, John D. Rockefeller.
0:14:04.3 LB: He was.
0:14:05.2 AV: And the point of doing this was to eliminate the competition, harness collective buying power of resources and to ease instability because then it's not like every little company out for themselves, it's kind of stabilizing it, right?
0:14:18.4 LB: Right.
0:14:19.0 AV: So this had been done in industries like steel, trains, but never food. There'd never been a food conglomerate, which is crazy to think of now because Nestle owns all things.
0:14:28.4 LB: Yeah.
0:14:30.3 AV: Like Mondelez.
0:14:30.9 LB: It all goes back to the same big yeah, food brands.
0:14:32.8 AV: Yeah. So Jacob thought, instead of all these biscuit companies competing, he convinces them to join forces.
0:14:40.8 LB: Okay.
0:14:41.7 AV: But he needed someone to guide them through the legal process of doing this, so he found an ambitious Harvard educated business lawyer named Adolphus Green, which is about the most Slytherin name, I could possibly imagine. Adolphus Green. That dude speaks Parseltongue. There is no way he's not related to the Malfoys. If you told me, "Oh, I'm gonna see my friend Adolphus Green", I'd be like, "Watch your back."
0:15:08.0 LB: Yeah. I mean, he's gonna get you.
0:15:12.4 AV: He's gonna get you. He's sneaky as hell. But apparently, they liked this guy, they didn't see the red flags of his name. So Adolphus Green agreed to oversee the merger and in 1890, 40 Midwestern baking companies formed the first ever food conglomerate called The American Biscuit Company or ABC. Jacob became president, Joseph, the chairman of the board, and Adolphus general counsel, even though Adolphus Green didn't know the first thing about baking or the food industry.
0:15:41.6 LB: Of course, he didn't.
0:15:43.6 AV: Of course not. But he was a bro.
0:15:45.7 LB: He was.
0:15:46.7 AV: So they were just dudes being bros, bros being dudes and American Biscuit Company thrived. But what happens to successful ideas? They get copied. So within a couple of years, 38 Southern baking companies create their own conglomerate then 23 East Coast bakeries do the same. So now, instead of eliminating the competition, there are three extremely powerful, extremely large baking conglomerates.
0:16:13.5 LB: Ooh. It backfired, I guess. They're doing so well, now they've created more competition, but not just more, very strong competitors in the space.
0:16:25.4 AV: Exactly, they've actually super-sized their own competition. There's fewer competitors, but they're all sort of transformers.
0:16:31.8 LB: Yeah. Do you think they were like, "Oops, Oopsies."
0:16:37.5 AV: They were like, "Damn it, that was going so well."
0:16:38.0 LB: Adolphus.
0:16:42.0 AV: "Adolphus, didn't you see this coming?" And he was like, "Ssssss."
0:16:44.3 LB: Exactly, that snake.
0:16:46.8 AV: And this competition started to tank the entire industry because that same thing that was happening with the little baking companies of under-selling each other, driving the prices down. Now, it's happening across the country. Baked goods prices crumbled, cracker prices alone dropped 40% in one year.
0:17:07.0 LB: Woah.
0:17:07.0 AV: And now all of a sudden, the American Baking Company that was killing it is in serious trouble, it might go under.
0:17:13.0 LB: Oh my gosh.
0:17:15.0 AV: This roller coaster was too much for Jacob Loose and the stress got to him. In 1897, he got very, very ill. He stepped down as president leaving brother Joseph, if you remember, not a good business dude, in charge. And he went to Europe to recover. Which I do not understand. Can someone explain this to me, they were in Missouri, okay? And the dude's sick. And so what's he gonna do? A 20-day train journey to New York to then get on a boat for two months to go to Europe to feel better. Like is the water in the Baltic Sea that much better?
0:17:50.6 LB: Did he really go to Europe or was he just like, "I'm going to Europe." Wink.
0:17:54.4 AV: Wink.
0:17:55.3 LB: It's like I can't do this anymore. I gotta go...
0:17:57.1 AV: I can't do this anymore. He went to Canada, he was just like, change to some... Got a cottage somewhere, I don't know. But I don't understand how a three-month journey to some sanitarium in Europe is gonna help you when you've got a stress-related illness. Anyway, moving on.
0:18:13.6 AV: So sneaky Adolphus Green sees this as an opportunity, and he puts a plan in motion.
0:18:19.8 LB: Oh no.
0:18:21.1 AV: One night, Joseph gets word in the middle of the night that there's an emergency board meeting, which really takes him by surprise since he's the chairman of the board. [laughter] But then when he shows up, all the other board members, except his brother, of course, were already there and Adolphus announces that he's already been in negotiations with the Southern and Eastern conglomerates to dissolve all their organizations and form one national super conglomerate that will dominate the entire American baking industry. His plan is to shift output to mass-producing bakery staples and shipping them coast to coast in the attempt to create one flagship baked good like they have in those other categories of food.
0:19:15.1 LB: Woah.
0:19:15.8 AV: And Joseph is like, "What the f*ck? This will never work. You're doing this behind our back, my brother's dying in Sweden or wherever the f*ck. You absolute psycho. You're gonna crater the company." He panics. He does the only thing that he can think of, he calls for a vote of no confidence in Adolphus, but it doesn't pass.
0:19:39.0 LB: Oh no.
0:19:39.3 AV: So Adolphus demands his resignation. And now the Loose Brothers are out.
0:19:45.8 LB: So they were cut loose?
0:19:50.9 AV: You could say they were cut loose. Yes. With the Loose brothers out of the way, Adolphus Green makes the deal and names himself chairman of this new behemoth, he calls the National Biscuit Company who you may know as Nabisco. I mean, Adolphus Green is his name.
0:20:11.9 LB: I'm not surprised that this happened.
0:20:14.1 AV: Right. He didn't choose that name, but he chose to keep that name.
0:20:16.9 LB: He did.
0:20:17.5 AV: So what did you think was going to happen? So here we are, Lia. Hearts have been broken, backs have been stabbed. A lawyer who's never baked a loaf of bread. Who's never cooked a meal by all accounts has never written a recipe.
0:20:31.3 LB: Yeah.
0:20:31.3 AV: Is now the head of the biggest food company in history. What could go wrong?
0:20:36.5 LB: Right.
0:20:39.1 AV: Nothing. We are learning that it never ends well for brothers who go into food. Okay. If you and your brother were to go into business, maybe pick tires. I don't know, but like we've got the Loose brothers, the McDonald's brothers, The Pollos Hermanos...
0:20:53.0 LB: Oh God, definitely not for the Pollos Hermanos.
0:20:57.3 AV: Sorry, everyone. I watched 'Better Call Saul' all weekend. The new season. It's so good. Anyway. So all this sets the stage for the world's favorite cookie to be born. We're getting there.
0:21:10.2 LB: Okay. Alright.
0:21:11.0 AV: Stay with me.
0:21:11.5 LB: I'm with you.
0:21:12.2 AV: You all right there, Lia?
0:21:13.3 LB: Yeah.
0:21:13.7 AV: You need a glass of water. Maybe some milk.
0:21:16.6 LB: Oh God, milk need cookies.
0:21:19.0 AV: Remember when we were kids and there was this whole campaign to drink milk.
0:21:22.1 LB: Yeah.
0:21:22.1 AV: And like, I drank milk at dinner every single night. And it was like, milk will save our souls. It's the most healthy thing ever. And now people are like, you drink...
0:21:28.1 LB: Don't drink milk.
0:21:29.4 AV: You drink mammal milk? Ugh. We don't have mammal milk. And I'm like, uhh. So to make this flagship national baked product, Adolphus Green has to do two things. He has to pick the right food, and he has to find a solution to this freshness and shipping problem. Okay?
0:21:51.6 LB: This guy who doesn't know anything about food...
0:21:52.2 AV: This dude who doesn't know anything...
0:21:53.5 LB: Is going to figure this out. Oh God.
0:21:55.7 AV: About food. Yep. He's gonna figure this out. He doesn't know food well enough to come up with something new. So he picked something already popular, super simple and emblematic of this new company, the National Biscuit Company, a soda cracker.
0:22:08.4 LB: Okay.
0:22:09.2 AV: Super simple. Something everybody knows, right?
0:22:10.9 LB: Yeah. Like, I can see that. That's a smart move.
0:22:14.0 AV: Yeah.
0:22:14.4 LB: Something that's proven, everybody eats it.
0:22:16.8 AV: Exactly.
0:22:17.5 LB: Okay.
0:22:17.8 AV: Yeah. It's got like three ingredients. He just revamped the recipe a little bit. Sprinkled salt on top. Gave it some branding. Okay, cool. We got our product. So how are we gonna ship it? Up until now, crackers came in barrels.
0:22:31.5 LB: What?
0:22:32.1 AV: As you heard in the dramatic intro, crackers came in barrels. So like the cracker barrel...
0:22:36.8 LB: Yeah.
0:22:37.1 AV: That is a real thing. And actually crackers are where the phrase bottom of the barrel comes from. And it is gross because crackers would come in barrels, but you'd eat them from the top.
0:22:49.8 LB: Yeah. I mean, that's the only way.
0:22:52.1 AV: But they would get weird, fast. And like barrels aren't airtight. So by the time you got down to the bottom, it was gonna be like all moldy and mildewy. And there's like maggots and ants and sh*t in there. So like, once you got down at the bottom of the barrel, there was like this nasty cracker bug soup.
0:23:13.4 LB: Ew.
0:23:14.5 AV: So basically what I'm saying is we have yet another reason to never trust barrels.
0:23:19.8 Speaker 13: That's a call back.
0:23:23.4 AV: They tried tin and cardboard, but it didn't keep the air or the moisture out. And they all kinda got crushed. They all like broke, right, in transport.
0:23:32.2 LB: Yeah.
0:23:32.5 AV: So they came up with something that is like, it's so simple. It's so small. And it changed the world. So Lia.
0:23:44.0 LB: Yes.
0:23:44.5 AV: Let's say you get a fresh box of your favorite cereal. What's your favorite cereal?
0:23:49.8 LB: Okay. Fruity Pebbles.
0:23:50.0 AV: Fruity Pebbles. Okay. You get a fresh box of Fruity Pebbles, respect. You open up the top. Is the cereal just sitting in the cardboard box?
0:24:00.9 LB: No. It is in a bag inside of the box.
0:24:03.0 AV: It's in a bag. Inside of the box. A wax paper bag.
0:24:07.8 LB: Yeah.
0:24:08.3 AV: Same thing. You pull out a sleeve of cookies. You open a box of crackers.
0:24:12.7 LB: There's a bag.
0:24:13.3 AV: There's an inner package. Wax paper that's sealed. What Adolphus Green did, or honestly, probably what his R&D team did and then he took credit for is they made a long rectangular package so that all the soda crackers would be lined up. Not in a pile so wouldn't get crushed. And then they lined the box with wax paper, which would keep the moisture out. And then they gathered the ends of the wax paper, folded it over and sealed it to keep the air out.
0:24:42.3 LB: Whoa.
0:24:42.7 AV: And Adolphus Green called this, the inner seal and patented it. And this simple idea is considered one of the most revolutionary advances in modern food, because it created an entirely new genre of products called packaged goods.
0:25:00.5 LB: Packaged Goods.
0:25:01.5 AV: Yes. This inner seal. Super, super simple. Something I've never even thought about. I mean, if you opened, let's say you opened a box of cheeses and there's like a huge tear in the wax in the bag, you'd be like, oh...
0:25:12.7 LB: Yeah.
0:25:13.2 AV: Gross. They're gonna be all staling weird. Right?
0:25:15.2 LB: Right.
0:25:16.0 AV: Totally revolutionized the way we eat.
0:25:19.3 LB: Whoa! I never thought about that. But yes, everything boxed up that way has that inner seal to keep it fresh.
0:25:26.5 AV: Right. So every time you buy something like that, Adolphus Green, the 28th gets a dollar, I guess. In 1905, he takes the soda cracker and the inner seal and he just bets the whole company on it. Man. He bets the firm. He shifts 70% of their factories to making the cracker and orders two million boxes in the first wave. He called it, the you need a cracker, which they later rebranded as the saltine.
0:25:53.6 LB: Ah, okay.
0:25:54.6 AV: And it was a runaway hit. In 1905, they sold 10 million saltines every month.
0:26:02.3 LB: That's a lot of saltines.
0:26:03.8 AV: There weren't that many people here. There were not 330 million people.
0:26:09.3 LB: Wow.
0:26:09.6 AV: It's incredible.
0:26:10.6 LB: 10 million saltines a month.
0:26:12.9 AV: 10 million saltines a month. It's really incredible. And he wants to build on it, but again, not creative, doesn't know food. So he just takes other simple classic bakery staples. And he does the same thing. Thin vanilla biscuits become Nilla Wafers.
0:26:27.2 LB: Oh.
0:26:27.5 AV: Tiny cakes filled with fig jam become Fig Newtons.
0:26:30.9 LB: Wow.
0:26:31.9 AV: He partnered with PT Barnum and turned animal shaped sweet biscuits into Barnum's animal crackers.
0:26:37.8 LB: Wow.
0:26:39.0 AV: So 50 points to Slytherin.
0:26:42.0 LB: He gets it. I mean, what can he repeat? What can he scale?
0:26:47.3 AV: Right.
0:26:47.6 LB: It is pretty smart. Fine Adolphus, fine.
0:26:50.2 AV: Fine.
0:26:50.7 LB: I'll let you have it.
0:26:51.7 AV: And you know what? He knows his limitations. He's not like, "I'm gonna make the greatest new food no one's ever heard of." He's like, "People like this. I'll make it better and make more." So a bit of respect.
0:27:02.7 LB: Yeah.
0:27:07.6 LB: And then, so he made the Oreo as another sort of step in the process, right? I mean, he's got Fig Newtons, Nilla wafer, animal crackers.
0:27:15.1 AV: Yeah. The Oreo was different.
0:27:16.4 LB: Ah. Okay.
0:27:17.9 AV: Similar in taking something successful and making it his own, but slightly different context. So let's check back in with the Loose brothers and those brothers must have loved dark chocolate 'cause they were bitter.
0:27:33.7 LB: Ooh.
0:27:34.5 AV: They watched Nabisco and Adolphus' success and they were absolutely seething, could not get over it. So they decide that they're gonna give Nabisco a run for their money. They're also going to create a national product, but they're not gonna go directly toe to toe with the biscuit. They're not gonna mess with saltines, okay. They're gonna do something else. They're gonna make the first nationally recognized and loved cookie.
0:27:56.6 LB: Ah.
0:27:58.0 AV: A revenge cookie, if you will. Cookies were not a normal thing to have at home yet, okay. Small cakes, cookies weren't really in bakeries. They were only something that you would have if you were very wealthy. So it was kind of a big risk...
0:28:15.2 LB: Yeah.
0:28:15.7 AV: To bet their farm on that. So they scraped together their pennies. They find a new business partner and they form the Loose-Wiles Baking Company.
0:28:23.2 LB: Ooh.
0:28:23.9 AV: As we will learn, they're not good at naming things.
0:28:26.7 LB: Loose-Wiles.
0:28:30.1 AV: The Loose-Wile. It does sound like you're slut-shaming the biscuits.
0:28:33.6 LB: I know.
0:28:36.4 AV: We've got some Loose-Wiles.
0:28:36.8 LB: Are those Loose-Wiles?
0:28:37.3 AV: Got some Loose-Wiles, don't hang out with them. And someone must have pointed this out to them 'cause they actually did business under Sunshine Biscuits.
0:28:43.9 LB: Okay.
0:28:44.7 AV: Yeah.
0:28:45.6 LB: That sounds better, it's catchy.
0:28:46.9 AV: Yeah. So they started their little process. They tried a bunch of cookies, but there was nothing that exciting, nothing that was gonna take down Nabisco, right. And they were mostly like little lemon flavored things, little vanilla things. But there was this new fad.
0:29:01.7 LB: Oh.
0:29:02.2 AV: That everyone had been talking about ever since a certain gentleman in the Pennsylvania snack belt had figured out how to make affordable bars of it in the year 1900 as something that a few decades later, Miss Ruth Wakefield would also integrate into her recipes.
0:29:20.1 LB: Oh, yeah.
0:29:21.4 AV: What do you think that was?
0:29:22.8 LB: Could this guy be Mr. Hershey from Pennsylvania?
0:29:27.3 AV: Mr. Milton Hershey had made consumer chocolate. So before that, it was something real fancy, real expensive, and not that good. Hershey figured out the sugar to cocoa balance right, before that...
0:29:40.9 LB: Yeah.
0:29:41.1 AV: It was just like... When you were a kid, did you ever like sneak in the pantry and eat the Baker's chocolate, not realizing that it was like not to eat?
0:29:47.6 LB: Oh, yeah. You only do that once. You're like, "Wait a minute. This is a trick."
0:29:51.8 AV: Oh, God.
0:29:52.8 LB: "I need more wax and sugar please."
0:29:56.0 AV: So they're like, "Let's go with this chocolate fad." This was 1907-1908. So...
0:30:00.9 LB: Okay.
0:30:01.2 AV: Chocolate was still pretty new and people were pretty excited about it. But this is important, they didn't use Hershey's cocoa.
0:30:07.8 LB: Oh, okay.
0:30:08.7 AV: They couldn't afford to use Hershey's brand cocoa. They used something more generic cocoa powder. So it was a little...
0:30:14.5 LB: Okay.
0:30:14.9 AV: More bitter, a little less rich, fudgy than real name brand Hershey's cocoa. So basically, they just took a regular biscuit recipe and loaded it with cocoa powder and sugar, to see what would happen. They baked it up and they were like, "Ugh. Okay. As a chocolate biscuit, it's fine. It's not what we need to take down Nabisco." And legend has it that as they were discussing this, one of the brothers was eating a sandwich.
0:30:39.2 LB: Oh.
0:30:42.7 AV: And they got inspired. So they took those two meh chocolate biscuits and they put vanilla cream frosting in between, put them together. And the sandwich cookie was born.
0:31:06.5 LB: I can see the clouds parting.
0:31:08.8 AV: Absolutely.
0:31:09.6 LB: The rays of light coming through a choir of angels.
0:31:11.3 AV: The timpani is crashing in the background. Yes. Just wait till you see how they show this moment in the History Channel rendering.
0:31:22.1 LB: Oh.
0:31:23.1 AV: And they also wanna make it very high class. So they make a very delicate print on it. They emboss it. There's little flowers, Laurel Reeds on it. It's a pretty shape.
0:31:32.8 LB: Yeah.
0:31:33.9 AV: And they called it Hydrox. A cookie that you were gonna eat with your mouth.
0:31:40.5 LB: Oof. No, no, no.
0:31:42.5 AV: Hydrox.
0:31:42.9 LB: This sounds like some kind of crazy cleaning product.
0:31:47.1 AV: Oh, absolutely.
0:31:47.7 LB: Get your floor shiny with...
0:31:49.5 AV: With Hydrox. It's definitely like, "Kills 99.9% of bacteria, Hydrox."
0:31:54.1 LB: Right.
0:31:54.9 AV: It is a chemical name. It's the beginning of hydrogen and oxygen, Hydrox.
0:32:00.6 LB: Okay. Yeah.
0:32:00.6 AV: This had sort of two meanings. One was, it was supposed to symbolize purity and pure ingredients because they always prided themselves on having very simple, very pure ingredients. They were also always Kosher, which we'll talk about in a little bit later. The Kosher is very, very important. This was pre-Ruth Desmond. So there was a lot of crap in packaged foods and mass produced foods. There was saw dust and all kinds of weird stuff. So they prided themselves on it being pure. The other one, was this first bit of petty shade that I love.
0:32:32.1 LB: Oh, ooh, ooh.
0:32:32.9 AV: It's so good. So the Nabisco icon, the logo?
0:32:37.1 LB: Yeah.
0:32:37.2 AV: So it's like the triangle in the corner, the red one. And then it's got this weird... It looks... It always looked to me like an antenna.
0:32:44.0 LB: Yeah. I could see that.
0:32:44.9 AV: The cross thing, right.
0:32:46.2 LB: The little cross.
0:32:46.3 AV: So that's actually called a Lorraine cross, which was carried by the Knight's Templar in the 11th...
0:32:52.7 LB: What?
0:32:53.1 AV: Century. So it came to symbolize quality and purity.
0:32:57.9 LB: Cool.
0:33:00.8 AV: So the Nabisco emblem was supposed to convey quality and purity. So these clowns over at Sunshine, pick a name that's supposed to represent the purest thing of water and its purest elements.
0:33:14.5 LB: Hydrogen and oxygen.
0:33:16.8 AV: So that's a little bit of shade that kind of backfires 'cause it's a terrible name. But despite that, Hydrox were a hit and did what they were meant to do, eat into Nabisco's profits. Nabisco was still the king. In 1912, it made $45 million to Sunshine Biscuits about $12 million, but that was still enough to get attention. That was still enough to piss off Adolphus, right?
0:33:42.6 LB: Well, the personal relationship, now you've got Hydrox catching up.
0:33:47.0 AV: Exactly. He thought he was done with these brothers.
0:33:50.3 AV: What are they doing? Send another cookie. It's their whole thing.
0:33:53.1 AV: Using the inner seal? How dare you. But the brothers kept pushing it. Nabisco opens the world's biggest and most sophisticated baking facility in Chelsea, New York City, you can still... There's a stretch of 9th Avenue called Oreo Way.
0:34:08.1 LB: I used to do work up in there.
0:34:09.5 AV: Yes. So the Loose brothers built an even bigger, fancier factory across the river in New Jersey facing the Nabisco factory. Nabisco had its name on one side of the factory, so Sunshine Biscuits had its name on all four sides of the building. They came to play, they were pushing it and Adolphus noticed. He did not see competition as just a natural part of business. Right? He saw it as a personal attack.
0:34:37.7 LB: Oh, okay.
0:34:39.5 AV: So he wanted to hit right back. He was petty and unoriginal, so he decided to do with Hydrox, exactly what he'd done with every other product that had come out of Nabisco, make a copy, but better.
0:34:53.6 LB: Wow.
0:34:54.6 AV: Right?
0:34:55.7 LB: I mean, it's been working for him. Why wouldn't he?
0:34:58.6 AV: Right. They probably could have made something better. They probably could have made something original that would've topped this or at least stopped the Hydrox in its tracks. It was absolutely intentional to copy what they made.
0:35:09.2 LB: Yeah.
0:35:09.2 AV: So he had his team study the Hydrox and to up-level the recipe, he did two things, he called up his buddy, Milton Hershey...
0:35:16.5 LB: Oh, they're friends.
0:35:17.5 AV: And he struck a deal with him to use the premium Hershey brand cocoa, which was richer, fudgier, had the better cocoa to sweetness ratio than what Sunshine used, and to even increase the richness in the cream, he used rendered pig fat, also known as lard.
0:35:39.6 LB: Oh, if lard's in it, you know it's gonna be rich.
0:35:41.5 AV: Right, exactly. It wasn't just like whipped egg whites and sugar. It was like the real thing. As we know from many of our episodes, that is where the taste is.
0:35:51.6 LB: Yes.
0:35:52.2 AV: But they didn't stop there. They mimicked the look with the packaging. They mimicked the look with the embossed cookies, added flowers and the Nabisco symbol, the Lorraine cross, and the name Oreo. So they just copied the entire thing. But my favorite part is the name. There's been questions about where the name came from, all kinds of weird theories...
0:36:15.2 LB: Yeah.
0:36:15.6 AV: For the last century. Some people think it has to do with gold ore, right? Some people think that it's like some weird code, so like the two O's are the two biscuits and then the RE comes from cream, 'cause there's cream in the middle, whatever. But Stella Parks from seriouseats.com, I think she cracked this code and it is such petty f*ckery, I love it. Okay.
0:36:37.7 LB: Okay.
0:36:39.3 AV: The Hydrox came out in 1908. The Oreo is being made in 1912.
0:36:42.7 LB: Okay.
0:36:43.0 AV: Just for context. Here's what she writes: "Consider the roster of Nabisco's fancy biscuits in 1913: Avena, Lotus, Helicon, Zephyrette, Zaytona, Anola, Ramona, and Oreo. It seems like a random collection of exotic names, but I noticed a pattern. Avena is Latin for oats, and we all know the famous lotus blossom. Helicon comes from Heliconia, a genus of flower native to Florida. Zephyrette matches Zephyranthes, the genus of tropical lily. Zaytona is Arabic for olive, Anola was shortened from canola, one of its defining ingredients, and Ramona is in the buttercup family, buttercups dotted the boxes. Someone at Nabisco clearly had a thing for botany, and to understand Oreo, you don't have to look any further than the mountain laurel flower embossed on every Hydrox, the Oreodaphne flower."
0:37:39.8 LB: Yeah, I think Stella's got it right. Knowing Adolphus, knowing the names of all the other fancy biscuits, knowing the shade...
0:37:46.5 AV: Oh my God, the dynamic, the Easter egg of f*ckery...
0:37:52.5 LB: Yes.
0:37:53.0 AV: I absolutely buy this and I love it. They weren't even trying to hide that they were copying them. They put it in the damn name and embossed it on every cookie, okay.
0:38:02.0 LB: Yeah.
0:38:02.7 AV: So this shade, I'm sorry, it's exquisite.
0:38:05.4 LB: It is.
0:38:06.5 AV: I just can't get over that, Lia, like seriously. The name of the cookie comes from the flower that they put on the other cookie...
0:38:13.4 LB: Yeah.
0:38:13.5 AV: Just to f*ck with them. I mean, it's just amazing. At first, the Hydrox does fine, 'cause like everyone knows that everyone loves it, like why switch over?
0:38:21.2 LB: Yeah.
0:38:21.5 AV: But in the 1920s, Nabisco leans into its not-so-secret weapon, advertising. It started in 1923, as I said a little earlier, the first ad for the Oreo Twist appears on trolleys in New York City. And there's all these great ads from the 1920s. They're really active. They're really playful. There's one I love that says, "If you wanna keep everyone happy, serve Oreos sold in packages or by the pound." By the pound.
0:38:47.9 LB: Hold up. By the pound like...
0:38:51.7 AV: Wait a minute.
0:38:52.9 LB: Can we do that today, please? That would be like way easier for me to just buy them by the pound.
0:39:00.8 AV: Yeah. I mean, you don't know how many are in a package, but I know how many I can carry...
0:39:03.0 LB: Yeah.
0:39:03.4 AV: In pounds. I don't know why we got rid of that.
0:39:06.2 LB: I think we need to start a petition...
0:39:08.5 AV: Change.org.
0:39:09.2 LB: And say we need to bring back bulk Oreos.
0:39:11.5 AV: I agree. I think that the greatest metric is volume...
0:39:15.2 LB: Yeah.
0:39:16.2 AV: Of Oreo. Okay, we'll put that on our list...
0:39:19.7 LB: Okay, yes.
0:39:20.2 AV: Everyone keep an eye out for our hashtag #OreosBythePound.
0:39:22.7 LB: Oreos by the pound, please.
0:39:24.0 AV: There's another one I love which is a woman using a telephone, which was like very chic, very new, the hot new item, a telephone, and she's very dramatically looking into the telephone and saying, "Hello, I must have Oreo sandwich for dessert."
0:39:40.1 LB: Operator.
0:39:43.4 AV: "Hello, is anyone there? I must have Oreos." Hydrox not only just couldn't compete with this, besides having a terrible name, their advertising was awful. It's kind of astounding. Their bitterness at being copied has been their one and only marketing strategy for over 100 years. Their only angle is that they were the original. That's it. They were the original.
0:40:09.5 LB: Wow.
0:40:09.8 AV: So some of their ads say things like "Don't be fooled by lookalikes. Only Sunshine makes Hydrox, the original cream-filled chocolate cookie, the finest ever made, or the original finest ever made. No other cookie has even come close to matching the distinctive fresh chocolate flavor of Sunshine Hydrox," on and on... This is their one message and it is...
0:40:29.4 LB: Wow.
0:40:31.8 AV: Like, girl...
0:40:32.6 LB: Come on.
0:40:32.9 AV: Get over it. It has such a vibe to me of high school and being like, I started wearing lace chokers, and then she started wearing lace chokers, and then everybody was like, "Oh my God, did you see how cool she is with her lace chokers? But I started the whole lace choker thing." Sorry, I'm a millennial, so I think in terms of lace chokers in high school. But you know what I mean?
0:40:52.3 LB: Yeah, no, it's very whiny. And then can you really say you taste that much better if Oreo got their hands on Hershey cocoa powder and lard?
0:41:00.9 AV: Right, right. They're not talking about what a great cookie is, because if you're a consumer, who cares which was the first? You're just gonna eat the one...
0:41:10.1 LB: You could be the first, if you want, I want the one that tastes better.
0:41:12.3 AV: Right. You're gonna eat the one that you like. So not only was it, one note, kind of negative, this one angle, they were also kind of disturbing.
0:41:20.7 LB: Oh no.
0:41:22.0 AV: So there's one ad I saw and the caption says, "Nothing on Earth beats Hydrox," and it's this demonic-looking kid in an astronaut suit. I'm gonna assume this was peak space race maybe late '50s, early '60s. So there's a kid in old-school astronaut outfit, but he's just floating in space, like someone shot the kid into space.
0:41:46.3 LB: Oh, Hydrox, well, they are so bad. They're so bad at this.
0:41:49.6 AV: He's trying to eat the Hydrox through his helmet. It's just, the whole thing is like not okay.
0:41:53.5 LB: No.
0:41:54.0 AV: Another one was a teddy bear and the teddy bear is sobbing, like open-mouthed, tears going everywhere, and it says "Somebody's been eating my Hydrox."
0:42:06.7 AV: Hydrox? No, these are really sad and dark.
0:42:09.6 AV: Just as an example, listen to this commercial from 1966.
0:42:14.1 Speaker 14: These are cookies. Cookies are good to eat. Do you like cookies?
0:42:17.9 Speaker 15: I like cookies.
0:42:19.3 Anna Van Valin: Do you like this cookie?
0:42:20.9 AV: I like this cookie.
0:42:22.4 AV: This cookie is the perfect combination of delicious chocolate with just the right amount of vanilla filling. Do you know its name?
0:42:28.8 AV: Sunshine Hydrox.
0:42:30.3 AV: Which cookie is perfect as dessert or with your favorite desserts?
0:42:34.0 AV: Sunshine Hydrox.
0:42:35.5 AV: And which cookie is the original cream-filled chocolate cookie?
0:42:40.5 AV: Sunshine Hydrox.
0:42:41.2 AV: Anybody knows that.
0:42:45.1 LB: Wow. It sounds so bad too, 'cause it's like, "Say it children, say it, say Hydrox."
0:42:52.6 AV: "Do you like cookies?" "I like cookies."
0:42:54.8 LB: "Yes, I love them."
0:42:55.3 AV: "Do you like this cookie?" "I like this cookie."
0:42:57.4 LB: "I love Sunshine Hydrox."
0:43:00.5 AV: It's just not great.
0:43:02.3 LB: No.
0:43:03.3 AV: It's just not great. Whereas Oreo's ads were fun. They're fun, right? So one of their big campaigns in the '40s was just, "Oh, oh Oreo." It's like, "Oh, oh, it's Oreo," and it's just people who look like they're having a great time with Oreos. No one's quizzing children. No one's making teddy bears cry. And I watched a ton of them. I looked at a ton of them while I was doing this research and one thing they all have is that they're very active. They're very playful. They're like, "We want you to participate in the eating of the Oreos and have your own style, your own way, really make it your own." So there's the twist. There's the dunk.
0:43:43.9 LB: Yeah.
0:43:44.1 AV: There's the twist and lick, that there were all these commercials encouraging you to eat them with a friend. There's that sweet commercial from, I think, the '80s or the '90s where the dad is teaching his kid. He's like, "You're almost a man now, so I'm gonna teach you how to eat an Oreo." That's emotional. That's fun. That's playful. Have a look at this one from 1980.
0:44:04.4 Speaker 16: Oh, oh, oh bright ideas in an Oreo cookie, it's a bright idea to dunk it or to crunch it or unscrew it or to lick it or to trick it, but no matter what you do, it's true, it's fun to munch a creamy crunchy chocolate O-R-E-O, goes great with imagination, puts the yum in your creation.
0:44:26.2 Speaker 17: Oreo and Oreo Double Stuf cookies.
0:44:31.4 LB: Yes, way more fun.
0:44:32.5 AV: So much fun. I also love that at this point, they're like, "We don't need to say Nabisco. You know who we f*cking are."
0:44:38.4 LB: Yeah.
0:44:41.3 AV: Just three notes.
0:44:42.3 LB: That's right.
0:44:43.6 AV: You got it.
0:44:45.9 LB: Oh yeah, that one is so fun. And you're right, it's all... They're so active and they're playing and you eat and you have fun with your food.
0:44:53.5 AV: Right. So in the commercial, all these kids are playing with their toys, there's like a Connect set and there's Lincoln logs and there's all these things, and the Oreos are part of it. And then you see them having a great time eating the Oreos as well.
0:45:05.3 LB: Yeah.
0:45:06.8 AV: And then some of them were very sensual.
0:45:10.7 LB: Mm-hmm.
0:45:11.7 AV: The whole, "Open up and give it a lick."
0:45:12.1 LB: Woah, Oreo.
0:45:13.2 AV: Lots of licking. I saw an ad for fudge-covered Oreos where they're dropping the Oreo into whatever, a pit of fudge, and the way the fudge is like folding, it looks like bedsheets.
0:45:25.8 LB: Like silk sheets on the Oreo.
0:45:27.9 AV: Yes, it looks like silk sheets, but it's fudged. And then the caption just says "Ore-Ohhh... "
0:45:34.4 AV: So needless to say, Oreo very quickly starts blowing Hydrox out of the water, and Hydrox gets kind of desperate. It doesn't make their advertising any better. And then we get to this commercial from 1988. Lia, just watch it.
0:45:48.4 LB: All right.
0:45:49.6 Speaker 18: I'm a Hydrox cookie. Hydrox, Hydrox. Some kids have trouble remembering my name. I don't understand why. I mean, you like a creamy center. Here's a creamy center. Thick, delicious, creamy. Creamy! And you like a dark crunchy chocolate cookie. Well, here it is. But you gotta remember my name. Hydrox. Hydrox. Don't forget. Hydrox. Remember Hydrox. Hydrox. Hydrox. Hydrox.
0:46:14.1 Speaker 19: Hydrox from the Sunshine baker man.
0:46:18.3 LB: Oh, it's so desperate.
0:46:21.2 AV: So desperate. And so misguided after all those wholesome Oreo commercials that we've just watched. I'll just describe this Hydrox commercial to you. Very briefly will link to it. A weird dude. Middle-aged dude comes out wearing a full body Hydrox suit, and you heard him say, does anybody know Hydrox? He opens up the front cookie, like a flasher and like gyrates his cream at the camera. And then two cops come out nowhere. And arrest him and drag him back into the Hydrox box, which I guess is a prison cell.
0:46:53.6 LB: I know, it's confusing because it seems like this could be an Oreo commercial about...
0:47:00.5 AV: Totally.
0:47:00.6 LB: Locking up this crazy creepy Hydrox man.
0:47:04.3 AV: Oreo could just run that commercial and then at the very end go Oreo.
0:47:09.1 LB: Yeah.
0:47:09.2 AV: Just, and that would be enough.
0:47:11.0 LB: That would be like yep. Got it. This is a great Oreo commercial.
0:47:12.8 AV: So I don't know if Hydrox was trying to say the official cookie of sex offenders.
0:47:18.2 LB: Right? I know it seems like Hydrox should not be within 500 feet of any school.
0:47:24.4 AV: Meanwhile, the kids are over here with their like connect four.
0:47:28.1 LB: Right.
0:47:28.9 AV: And their Oreo. Anyway, misguided, the thing that actually put Oreo over the edge was a big, big risk in the 1950s, they jacked up the price.
0:47:39.6 LB: Oh, okay.
0:47:40.6 AV: Yeah. So they'd always been selling Oreo for cheaper than Hydrox thinking that that would be a draw. But what that did was kind of play into Hydrox's story that they were a cheap knockoff.
0:47:49.7 LB: Oh.
0:47:50.8 AV: So counterintuitively, Oreo hiked up the price so that it was more expensive than Hydrox and suddenly they looked like the premium brand and Hydrox looked like the cheap knockoff, which is what I thought.
0:48:02.2 LB: That's what I thought too.
0:48:05.0 AV: And their sales skyrocketed. So we get to the 1980s and the 1990s, you've heard some of those commercials. And you would think like Adolphus is long dead. The Loose brothers are long dead and they were all rich. It all turned out okay.
0:48:16.8 LB: Yeah. I'm sure. Every single one of them was just fine.
0:48:19.6 AV: Yeah. Sunshine Biscuits also makes Cheez-Its. They also make Vienna Fingers. They also make Hi Ho like they were fine. They were fine. Okay.
0:48:26.5 LB: Yeah.
0:48:27.5 AV: But no, this rivalry between companies somehow continues. That's how bad the bad blood was.
0:48:35.0 LB: Wow.
0:48:36.8 AV: In the 1980s, Hydrox thinks it has an ace in the hole that they can use. Okay.
0:48:40.1 LB: Okay.
0:48:40.6 AV: What have we talked about, Lia? Why did they change the recipe for McDonald's French fries? Why do we have bacon on our sandwiches?
0:48:49.5 LB: Oh, well, people were getting scared about being fat. [laughter]
0:48:55.1 AV: Yes. Fat phobia. People started worrying about their cholesterol. They started caring about trans fats. There was a movement against fat, and Oreo never claimed to be a health food kid. Never claimed it.
0:49:07.0 LB: It's got lard!
0:49:09.4 AV: It's got lard in it.
0:49:09.5 LB: It has lard.
0:49:09.5 AV: It's on the box. When you want a healthy treat, Oreos are not what you go for. Now that was starting to be an issue and Sunshine Biscuits thought maybe they could sweep in. Because like we said, they'd always been kosher. They'd always had lighter ingredients that made it not taste as good. So they tried to get an edge in the market. Here's a Sunshine cookies commercial from 1989 that honestly feels like a bit of a hail Mary.
0:49:33.2 Speaker 20: Wanna give yourself a treat? Wanna taste that can't be beat have a little Sunshine. Sunshine. Have a bunch. You can have it all. They have no cholesterol. Have a little Sunshine.
0:49:45.2 Speaker 21: Sunshine.
0:49:46.5 Speaker 22: Just about every cookie and cracker Sunshine makes has absolutely no cholesterol. Now what could be better than Sunshine?
0:49:55.5 Speaker 22: Have a little Sunshine. Have a little sunshine.
0:49:58.3 LB: Have a little sunshine.
0:50:00.6 AV: I love it that they wrote a whole song about cholesterol.
0:50:03.7 LB: Yeah. No cholesterol.
0:50:06.7 AV: No cholesterol. I mean, it's better than the flasher cookie from the year before.
0:50:11.0 LB: Yeah.
0:50:12.7 AV: But it does feel a little desperate. Right? The only thing they have to say for themselves is no cholesterol, so the commercial is a girl getting dressed on her... A girl who looks like she's 12, getting dressed on her wedding day.
0:50:22.0 LB: Yeah. That was confusing to me. I was like, is this a first communion? Right? Oh no.
0:50:26.7 AV: Oh no.
0:50:27.7 LB: She was very young.
0:50:29.6 LB: And then also it's like it's your wedding day. You need to eat cookies that have no cholesterol.
0:50:35.8 AV: She's just been told about what's gonna happen on her wedding night. So she needs to mush down on those Hydrox.
0:50:43.1 LB: Yeah.
0:50:43.3 AV: Fuel up on the Hydrox.
0:50:45.4 LB: Nice try Sunshine Biscuits, Oreo is still top cookie. And just like McDonald's did in 1990, Nabisco caved to fat phobia, changed the recipe to replace the lard to pig fat with partially hydrogenated vegetable oil. They stayed on top and in 2004, they went completely to vegetable oil and got rid of all trans fats. So I wonder if there are people who remember the original Oreo recipe and think it tastes better like they did with French fries.
0:51:12.5 LB: Oh, I bet they do.
0:51:14.4 AV: Yeah. So now Hydrox is like, damn it.
0:51:17.2 LB: They got us again.
0:51:19.3 AV: We thought the cholesterol song would do it.
0:51:22.5 AV: And then Oreo made a decision, a big, risky, expensive decision that would turn out to be the fatal blow to Hydrox.
0:51:31.0 LB: Woah.
0:51:31.8 AV: So as I said a little bit earlier, one thing that made Hydrox special was that they were kosher. In 1924, they partnered with the union of Orthodox Jewish congregations of America to create the first kosher certification process. And Hydrox is one of the first foods to get approved and certified being kosher.
0:51:51.0 LB: Very interesting. Okay.
0:51:51.9 AV: So they were always a favorite in the Jewish community. And I actually asked on social media, if any of our Jewish fam had fond memories of Hydrox and one person said they reminded him of snack time at his Jewish daycare.
0:52:06.3 AV: And another said that they always serve them at kiddush or sacred meals. So she kind of associates them with being depressed, which I don't think is what Hydrox was going for, but is on brand for much of their marketing.
0:52:15.9 LB: Yeah.
0:52:17.6 AV: So now that Oreo had gotten rid of the animal fat, it was almost kosher, but there were still made in factories that could be cross contaminated. So for something to be certified kosher, everything that is made, where they are made has to be kosher as well. And like for a company as big as Nabisco...
0:52:33.3 LB: Yeah.
0:52:35.1 AV: For like all the factories, like all the kitchens to kosherize them, which is a word, it would've been a long, massive, expensive undertaking, you know...
0:52:43.7 LB: Right.
0:52:45.5 AV: With very little benefits. Since the, the global population who keeps kosher is tiny. It's like, it's like a few million people, right. It's not actually gonna help them. But they decided to do it.
0:52:55.7 LB: Wow.
0:52:57.3 AV: In 1994, they pulled the trigger and ostensibly, they claimed that it was because they wanted to partner with other brands like ice cream brands who were kosher. That was what they said, but...
0:53:07.2 LB: That's what they said. We know why.
0:53:08.1 AV: That's what they said, but the ghost of Adolphus Green said finish them.
0:53:16.4 AV: Allegedly. It is understood that Oreo realized that if they went kosher, which was the one thing Hydrox had going for them, that they could knock it out for good. And that is exactly what happened.
0:53:31.0 LB: Wow.
0:53:31.3 AV: In 1998, Oreos were declared kosher and in 2003, Kellogg who now owned Sunshine Biscuits, discontinued Hydrox.
0:53:40.6 LB: Woah.
0:53:43.1 AV: That's not exactly the end. In 2010, Leaf Food brands bought the rights to Hydrox and started making them in very small batches like kind of as a novelty, you could buy them on Amazon. You could buy them in some grocery stores. They're most often... This is kinda sad. They're most often bought in bulk as crumbles to put in like cookies and cream flavored things because it's cheaper than buying smashed up Oreos.
0:54:09.8 LB: Oh yeah. I'd probably do that too if I was trying to make, you know, some kind of a cake or other thing where I was... Crumbling a lot...
0:54:15.6 AV: Yeah. If you were like practicing a recipe or something, sorry guys. But here's the thing, they are still obsessed with being the original. And it is like, oh my God, stop you guys. Did you not learn your lessons?
0:54:30.4 LB: Right.
0:54:31.3 AV: So here's their Twitter bio, America's original sandwich cookie is back, stop eating the Oreo knockoff sandwich cookie. Look for Hydrox on Amazon and your local grocery store and all they do on their Twitter is retweet bad press about Nabisco and its parent company Mondelez. That's all they do. It is literally just a hate...
0:54:52.3 AV: A hate Twitter.
0:54:54.5 LB: Oh my gosh. They just hate to eat, even. [laughter]
0:54:56.7 AV: Yeah. They have some fans, somebody's buying this stuff. Right? So they'll retweet people who take selfies with the Hydrox that they get it like kind of as a joke, but mostly it's just retweeting sh*t.
0:55:07.1 AV: You guys, you have to stop.
0:55:09.4 LB: They're like little trolls.
0:55:11.3 AV: But again, Oreo Nabisco, even though they don't need to do it, like they have won this war is petty as hell and keeps messing with them to the point that in 2015 Leaf Brands filed an $800 million lawsuit against Mondelez because of apparently what is the most cutthroat politics in all of this country? The cookie shelves.
0:55:34.4 LB: Ooh.
0:55:35.3 AV: Yeah. So listen to this clip from food theory where they explain Cookie Captains.
0:55:42.0 Food Theory: I mean, it sounds crazy, but since 2015, Leaf Brands have found example after example of Hydrox being hidden behind Oreo packages, being turned sideways on the shelf, being shoved to the back of the shelves, moved to the top shelves pretty much anywhere except for where the consumer could easily see them. Why would that have anything to do with Mondelez International or Oreo brand? Because Mondelez is literally in charge of product placement on cookie shelves. That's right. These days, big companies like Mondelez International who spend a lot of money on in-store marketing can actually become, what's known as category captains for their aisles. This means that they decide how the shelves are laid out, not just for themselves, but also strangely enough for their competitors, which is just like the most monopolistic thing out there. It is so insane. It'd be like letting Babe Ruth umpire a Yankees game.
0:56:33.3 Food Theory: It's like letting a defendant judge his own trial. It's like letting Food Theory choose your suggested video feed. Okay. Maybe that one isn't so bad. Furthermore, Mondelez has the resources to do direct store distribution, meaning they send their own people to physically place the products on shelves rather than letting the store handle it. So when a certain product is regularly found hidden or out of place or in an inconvenient position, there's a good chance either the category captain or the person stocking the shelves is to blame. And in Hydrox's case, Mondelez is often both.
0:57:07.7 LB: Wow.
0:57:09.5 AV: That is one of the longest, most intense food rivalries I think we found, and like food stories are people stories and these food stories are some petty b*tchy people stories.
0:57:20.9 LB: They are. Who knew that that rivalry was so intense and that it lasted that long.
0:57:27.4 AV: Yeah. And so creative, like they just used every little lever, every little place they could to mess with each other.
0:57:35.3 LB: There are so many things too. I didn't, I didn't realize like, I didn't know that Hydrox came first. I just thought it was like, like the cheap version.
0:57:42.8 AV: Right?
0:57:43.2 LB: Because I hate Hydrox.
0:57:44.9 AV: Yeah. They just like became part of the story that it was the cheap knockoff version, which it totally wasn't.
0:57:51.0 LB: And the Oreo name. Ooh, chef's kiss. Like how clever that is.
0:57:57.1 AV: I love that. And it's one of those things that it's like, it's not a fair fight. There's a big guy and a little guy.
0:58:02.6 LB: Yeah.
0:58:03.3 AV: But like the little guy keeps poking the big guy.
0:58:05.9 LB: He does.
0:58:06.9 AV: Stop poking the big guy.
0:58:08.3 LB: Also like just, just be happy.
0:58:11.5 AV: Just love yourself.
0:58:12.6 LB: You know. Love yourself. You're right. Because all of those commercials, they were like, look for me. I was first.
0:58:20.2 AV: Yeah. Me.
0:58:20.7 LB: How can you expect others to love you if you don't love yourself?
0:58:24.0 AV: Hydrox.
0:58:25.5 LB: Oh Anna. That was awesome.
0:58:28.0 AV: Thank you. I hope I, if anybody's still around...
0:58:32.4 LB: Oh, they're still around. We all love these like petty salty stories.
0:58:43.1 AV: Go dunk them Oreos people or twist, lick it, break it in half, share it.
0:58:49.2 LB: Yeah.
0:58:50.4 AV: Crumble it. Just put it in that glass of milk and let it dissolve.
0:59:03.5 LB: Thank you for joining us for this episode of every day is a food day. Be sure to follow the show and catch up on past episodes wherever you get your podcast. Connect with us on social media @fooddaypod, join our mailing list through our website, yumday.co/podcast. And don't forget to leave us that rating and review.
0:59:20.5 AV: The clips you heard today were the History channel's Foods That Made America. Food Theory's YouTube video, The Dark Secret of Oreo. The Hallelujah Chorus from Handel's Messiah performed by the English concert choir.
0:59:32.1 LB: Every Day is a Food Day is a production of Van Valin Productions and YumDay. It is produced and hosted by us: Lia Ballentine and Anna Van Valin.