The Possible Reason Hydrox Cookies Fell Out Of Favor

In the quest for world creme-filled chocolate sandwich cookie dominance, Oreo has the lock, per its manufacturer, Mondelez International. Nor is there anyone alive today who's old enough to remember it being any other way. But let the record reflect that Hydrox was the OG. Arguably, without Hydrox's lead, Oreo might never have come to be. Hydrox's launch in 1908 was huge. Four years later, the National Biscuit Company (aka Nabisco) paid it the highest compliment — i.e., imitation, when it came out with its knock-off, the Oreo, in 1912 (per Mondelez International).

The two sandwich cookies looked nearly identical, and, for the most part, tasted similar — albeit in the same way that, say, Coke and Pepsi do (via Gastro Obscura). But whereas Hydrox was sweet and made with no animal products, Oreo was even sweeter and made with lard (until 1997, Cornell Chronicle confirms). Both were crispy, but Hydrox, which was less likely to crumble when dunked, was even crispier, according to the WSJ

Clearly, Oreo fans are legion. But Hydrox fans may be more passionate — perhaps a matter of necessity, given that Hydrox may be notably harder to find in stores, per Grocery Dive. Moreover, Hydrox, after having been decommissioned in 2003, was resurrected in 2015 — thanks to the commitment of the brand's CEO, Ellia Kassoff, who told the LA Times he's a lifelong Hydrox person. Also, he thinks he knows why Hydrox fell out of favor. Hint: it's not because Oreo's a better product. 

Cookies by any other name ...

"What's in a name?" asked Juliet of Romeo. As it turned out, the answer was everything. While Oreo and Hydrox aren't exactly the Montagues and the Capulets (although 2018's $800 million lawsuit might suggest otherwise), their trajectories may be as much a product of branding as those of the star-crossed lovers. At least that's Leaf Brands' CEO's opinion, per the LA Times in 2015. More specifically, Ellias Kassoff believes Hydrox fell out of favor not because it's inferior, but because of some unfortunate marketing decisions. 

Kassoff didn't specify what those decisions were. But there's a decent chance they start with the one made in 1908 to name a cookie "Hydrox." A combination of "hydrogen" and "oxygen," "Hydrox" was intended to evoke "purity" (via the Wall Street Journal). Arguably, it does, albeit more in the context of an industrial-strength cleaning product, as the Hydrox Chemical Company successfully persuaded the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in 1912 (via the Official Gazette of the United States Patent Office). 

In addition, the WSJ points out that the Oreo marketing budget has always eclipsed that of Hydrox. Nor did it help that Hydrox abandoned its mascot, an animated splotch of cream, in 1991 after Pillsbury argued that "Drox" was a Doughboy rip-off. Perhaps even more notably, at least from a marketing perspective, Hydrox is dairy-free. Will Kassoff's plans for Hydrox usher the dark horse into a better place (from a product placement standpoint)? We'll keep you posted.