Wednesday, October 28, 2015

The Overwhelming Onslaught of Oreos

This isn't really a Halloween post.  But, then again, maybe it is.  Well, I guess the reason it got written was initially because of Halloween, but the topic mostly isn't about Halloween.  Confused?  I'm starting to get that way too.  Why don't we get to it and see how it all unfolds?

October 2015.  I realized that Halloween was rapidly approaching and we hadn't really done much to get into the spirit of the season.  One morning after dropping The Little Monsters off at school I was doing a little grocery shopping and it occurred to me that the Halloween Oreos must be out.  I decided that I should pick up a package.  Halloween Oreos seemed to be becoming a bit of a new tradition--I remembered getting a package last year--so I felt I should carry on the tradition by getting some this year (plus, I rather like Oreos).  In our household we don't get too many chances to eat a lot of junk food.  That's a good thing from a health standpoint, but not the most popular one for a couple of elementary-school-age Monsters like ours.  Well, to demonstrate just how infrequently The Monsters get to indulge in stuff like Oreos, I tried to find the photos I took of them enjoying their Halloween Oreos while watching the "Ship of Ghouls" episode of "The Love Boat" last year (the last time we had  Oreos).  Well, wouldn't you know, I couldn't find the photos for a long time because it had actually been TWO years since they were taken!

The Little Monsters enjoying their 2013 Halloween Oreos
while watching Vincent Price in "The Love Boat"

So, anyway, even though it wasn't really a hard and fast "tradition" I still wanted to get some of those yummy Halloween edition Oreos for The Monsters (and, yes, for myself as well).  Cruising down the grocery store aisle that contains the snacks, crackers and cookies I was dumbfounded.  I must have passed this section hundreds of times since the last Oreos purchase, but I hadn't really payed much attention to it while passing by looking for healthier fare.  I frankly couldn't believe how many varieties of Oreos there were.  They must have greatly expanded the selection since even that last time I picked up a package.

Holy Oreos, Batman!

I remember regular old Oreos as a kid.  They were a pretty standard and common (and tasty) snack food.  Of course there were also the Oreo rip-offs too: the Hydrox Cookies (which actually came out BEFORE Oreos, but still feel like the knockoff), and all the various store brand "sandwich cookies".  I have no idea just how many Oreo-like cookies are currently available, but even Paul Newman's Newman's Own brand has gotten into the act.

Hydrox Cookies (image from the web)


Back to the "old days".  Despite all the different companies putting out their own versions of Oreos, I always felt that the "real ones" were the best.  But at the same time an Oreo was an Oreo.  There wasn't much variety in the brand (and didn't need to be) until they introduced the "Double Stuf" Oreos, which were the same as the regular ones, except with twice the amount of creme filling (which was the best part of the cookie anyway, right?).

The classic, standard Oreos
Even regular Oreos come in a number of different packaging options,
like these boxes of handy six-packs

I don't recall there being many other choices if you wanted to get Oreos.  But that's not the case anymore.  Not by a long shot!  Check out some of the varieties I spotted in that Oreo section (and I have no idea if they even had ALL the varieties that might be available).  Some of these seem like great ideas, some seem kind of odd and some even seem like they might be kinda gross:

In addition to the regular and Double Stuf Oreos you can now also get Mega Stuff ones.  Or you can go in the opposite direction and get Oreo Thins.  Those varieties simply change the amount of creme, or "stuf", you get inside the cookie, but the bulk of the newer varieties I saw change the flavors of the creme, the cookies or both.  Here are some of the ones I saw:

  • Golden Oreos (probably one of the earliest varieties, along with "Double Stuf", this one replaces the chocolate cookies with "vanilla" ones--probably done to compete with all the "vanilla sandwich cookies" from various companies that had been available next to the chocolate ones for years)
  • Heads or Tails Oreos (where you get one chocolate and one vanilla cookie surrounding your creme)
  • Birthday Cake Oreos (in both regular and golden cookie versions)
  • Mint Oreos
  • Lemon Oreos
  • Berry Oreos
  • Brownie Batter Oreos
  • Peanut Butter Oreos
  • Reese's Peanut Butter Cup Oreos (for a little cross-branding)
  • Pumpkin Spice Oreos (to cash in on the Halloween/Thanksgiving fall season)
  • Caramel Apple Oreos (ditto)
  • Marshmallow Crispy Creme (think Rice Krispies treats)
  • Toasted Coconut Oreos (What?!?)
  • Reduced Fat Oreos

Even though Oreos are a snack food (read, junk food) I'm actually a bit surprised that, considering the sheer numbers of varieties that they produce, they don't make more "healthy" or "healthier" versions for people who might want to experience Oreos, but who don't want to die as soon as their cookie-chomping counterparts.  True, there are the "Reduced Fat Oreos" listed above (and Oreos seem to have joined the rest of modern society by getting rid of trans fats across the line), but where are the "Whole Grain Oreos", or the "Organic Oreos" (non-GMO guaranteed of course)?  "Artisinal Oreos"?  "Ancient Grains Oreos" (with Spelt and quinoa)?  And how about allergies?  There are Peanut Butter Oreos, but what about "Nut-Free Oreos" (guaranteed not to be made on equipment which may also make products containing peanuts and/or other nuts)?  And how about "Gluten-Free Oreos"?  "Sugar-Free Oreos" for diabetics?  Or "Vegan Oreos"?  Okay, I get the fact that they're not meant to be a healthy snack food.  And I suppose that I actually appreciate the fact that, other than offering Reduced Fat, Nabisco doesn't even pretend to be offering something healthy.

These are most of the varieties of what I'll call "traditional Oreos" (same sized cookies with different flavors and/or amounts of "Stuf"), and most of them seem to be found in different versions (like regular, Double Stuf and Mega Stuf).  But there are also other variants that go even further, like Fudge Cremes and Mint Fudge Cremes (which are standard Oreos covered with fudge to make them even less healthy!), as well as Oreo Minis and Oreo Minis Reese's Peanut Butter (which can be found in boxes, bags and little plastic snack cups).

Some of the different packaging for Oreo Minis

Have you had enough Oreo varieties?  Well, the above list covers most of what I found in just the cookie aisle of the grocery store.  But the Oreo brand and taste can of course be found in other places and products too.  A quick tour of the store showed a few other examples (and I'm sure there are many more than what I found).  A little further down the aisle where the cookies are found you encounter the cracker section.  Not surprisingly, there is a bit of a gray area between what is considered a "cookie" and what is considered a "cracker".  For example, graham crackers have the word "cracker" in their name, but I think a good argument could be made that they are actually more of a cookie.  Well, you can add Oreos to the confusion between cracker and cookie classifications.  First off, the Oreo Thins portray themselves as being "Thin & Crispy", which (despite the cookie and creme factor) sounds kind of cracker-like.  And remember the classic "Handi Snacks", the little packages with crackers on one side and a separate part with cheese spread that you'd put onto the crackers with a little red plastic spreader?  Years ago they added newer versions of Handi Snacks that had cracker sticks or pretzel sticks that you could dip into the cheese instead of having to actually spread cheese on the crackers.  Well now they even have an Oreo version--where you dip your rectangular Oreo cookie into a cup of Oreo creme.  While I wouldn't really consider this to be a "cracker" product, I DID find them nestled into the cracker section among the regular Handi Snacks.

And the range of products with the name Oreo attached gets even wider.  While it's now discontinued, there used to be an Oreo-O's cereal.  And I kind of miss the Oreos Cakesters "Soft Snack Cakes" which also seem to be discontinued (they reminded me of little whoopie pies!).  In the ice cream aisle I found two different ice cream products that featured Oreos: Klondike Sandwiches (which actually look like giant Oreos) and Breyers Blasts Oreo Cookies & Creme Chocolate.  And of course this doesn't even include all the generic "Cookies and Creme" or "Cookies & Cream" products all over the grocery store that don't have the license or permission to use the Oreo name.  I was a bit surprised when I saw the Pop Tarts selection (which rivaled the Oreos for sheer number of varieties) and didn't find Oreo Pop Tarts.  Well, I think that there WOULD be an Oreo version if it weren't for competing brands.  You see, Oreos are made by Nabisco, while Pop Tarts are made by Kellogg's.  So, naturally, there is a generic Frosted Cookies & Creme Pop Tarts variety instead!

The Pop Tart selection
(nearly as overwhelming as the Oreos!)
Kellogg's (non-Oreo) Cookies & Creme Pop-Tarts

I'm sure that many more Oreos products, flavor combinations, variants and knock-offs can be found, but it's time to wrap this post up.  Remember my original reason for perusing the Oreos section of the cookie aisle?  It was to pick up a package of Halloween Oreos.  Well, even with all that stuff in the big, overwhelming Oreos section of the cookie aisle...I didn't find ANY Halloween ones!  But luckily they were in their own cardboard display box at the end of another aisle.

Now, that's what I was looking for!

I picked up my package and headed home to contemplate everything I had just witnessed.  The funny thing is that Halloween Oreos aren't a new or different flavor.  They are simply standard Oreos with the traditional white creme switched out for an orange one (making for a perfect orange and black Halloween color combination).  But they DO give you five different cookie designs to make them even more fun.  Not only that, but I noticed that the designs used in this year's package were different than the ones in the 2013 package I bought earlier.  Can't say what happened in 2014, as we missed out on our little "tradition" last year.  Oh well, now I can't wait to see what Nabisco has in store for us for NEXT year's Halloween Oreos!

2013 Halloween Oreos
2015 Halloween Oreos

A couple happy Little Monsters!

And here's the five different designs
(they all have the same Oreo back seen in the middle)

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