Hydrox cookies — the anti-Oreos — make a proud return with the original recipe
Hydrox, the chocolate cookie sandwich that dueled for decades to win over more taste buds than Oreo, is back, thanks to a Newport Beach company that’s capitalizing on the niche market eager to munch on the sweet stuff once again.
For Ellia Kassoff, Leaf Brands president and CEO, his company’s move has revived a classic brand war that will keep both sides on their toes. Leaf Brands acquired the trademark last year.
“It was Oreo and Hydrox. It was Coke and Pepsi,” he said. “It’s kind of like bringing back Pepsi after some years.”
For the uninitiated, a Hydrox cookie, like an Oreo, is two chocolate cookies held together by a sweet, white creme filling. Hydrox debuted in 1908, four years before Oreo.
“It was the original sandwich cookie,” Kassoff said. “Oreo knocked off Hydrox.”
Hydrox cookies were first manufactured by Sunshine Biscuits. Keebler bought Sunshine Biscuits in 1996, and in 1999, Keebler replaced Hydrox with a similar but reformulated product named Droxies.
But Droxies were no Hydrox, according to Kassoff. Droxies lasted through 2003.
“They really just butchered the product and the loyalty of what was Hydrox,” he said.
Hydrox experienced a brief resurgence in 2008, the cookie’s 100th anniversary. Kellogg, which acquired Keebler in 2001, reintroduced the brand for a short time in response to petitions and pleas from dedicated fans.
“We’ve been touched by how many consumers describe their preference for Hydrox cookies as interwoven with their identity and family history,” Brad Davidson, Kellogg North America president, said in a 2008 press statement. “These Hydrox cookie loyalists can be proud to know they’ve been heard and have inspired this latest chapter in the story of the ‘little cookie that could.’”
Kassoff said the key to bringing back Hydrox has been making the nostalgia-filled cookies just the way people remember them. And with all those formula changes over the years, there were inherent problems in doing that, Kassoff said.
“It was a totally different product,” he said. “It wasn’t the distinctive Hydrox people had known for so many years.”
Hydrox were preferred to Oreos for a variety of reasons, Kassoff noted.
A few of them? The Hydrox white creme wasn’t as sweet, and the cookies had a darker chocolate flavor and were crispier — better for dunking in milk.
To revive that original flavor, Leaf Brands put real sugar back in while taking out things like high-fructose corn syrup and hydrogenated oils. The cookies are made in a bakery in Vernon.
“We wanted to roll back the formula to the way it was for 95 years,” Kassoff said.
Hydrox got a surprise mention by Stephen Colbert during his inaugural appearance Sept. 8 as host of “The Late Show.”
Colbert was responding to Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump’s announcement that he no longer wishes to eat Oreos because the cookie’s parent company, Mondel¿z International, was cutting jobs at its bakery near Chicago and upping Oreo production in Mexico instead.
Trump’s “anti-Oreo stance puts other Republicans in a tough spot here,” Colbert said. “He’s forcing them to decide between alienating Latino voters and eating a Hydrox.”
“That was unexpected,” Kassoff said of Colbert’s joke. “I had no idea.”
Hydrox cookies will be available in the coming weeks in major supermarkets. Until then, they’re pre-selling on Amazon: $22.81 for six packages. Shipping begins Sept. 25.