Oreo turns 100

The cookie had a humble beginning in 1912, and now people eat 70 million a day.

By Kim Peterson Mar 5, 2012 5:48PM

The Oreo cookie turns 100 this week, and Kraft Foods (KFT) is throwing a party.

On store shelves, there will be limited-edition Birthday Cake Oreos with sprinkles in the filling. On the Oreo birthday website, people can send each other video birthday messages and pay $3.99 to send friends a smartphone coupon for a free package of the cookies.

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The Oreo has come a long way from that day in March 1912, when it was reportedly first sold to a grocer in Hoboken, N.J. Since then, the sandwich cookie has spun off into all kinds of forms. There's an Oreo cookie straw for drinking milk. Japan has green tea Oreos. You can get Oreo pie crust in grocery stores, Oreo cheesecake at The Cheesecake Factory and Oreo blizzards at Dairy Queen.

Oreo is the No. 1 selling cookie in the U.S., which is by far its largest market. About 25 billion Oreos are eaten each year, according to Kraft, or 70 million a day.

Kraft will divide into two companies later this year, and Oreo will become a key brand for one of them, The New York Times reports. Oreo and Cadbury will be part of a global snacks company, while Maxwell House and Oscar Meyer will become part of a smaller grocery products company. Kraft sold $2 billion worth of Oreos last year alone.

Interestingly, one of the countries where Oreo didn't do well at first is China. Kraft almost pulled the Oreo out of China when sales didn't take off after the 1996 launch there, NPR reports. Instead, the company researched why the cookie didn't sell well. Turns out the Chinese thought the filling was too sweet and the cookie too bitter. So Kraft re-engineered an Oreo with more balance and ran a bunch of advertising showing the distinctly American habits of twisting open the cookie and dunking it into milk.

Oreo is now the best-selling cookie in China.

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