The very notion of Oreos with Swedish Fish–flavored cream is so immediately ridiculous that there’s a whole Snopes article about it. Yes, the cookies exist. Nabisco launched the Swedish Fish Oreo last week, though the only place you can buy them is at Kroger grocery stores. Even if you don’t live by a Kroger, your nearest supermarket likely offers at least 12 different flavors of Oreo, and at least half of those flavors were probably launched in the past three years. Alas. The beloved Oreo cookie and its traditional recipe — two chocolate wafers sandwiching a sweet cream filling — is apparently now just a blank canvas for experimentation.
Nabisco has been launching Oreo variants since it introduced the Double Stuf Oreo in the 1970s. In half a century, remixes to the Oreo cookie have evolved from the relatively straightforward Double Stuf to a rainbow sprawl of flavors. “Fruit Punch,” “Candy Corn,” “Watermelon,” and “Pumpkin Spice” are just a few of the bratty Oreo variations that Nabisco has released since 2012. Nabisco now markets more than 60 different Oreo cookie-cream flavor permutations worldwide. To me, that’s too goddamn many.
Except here’s the thing: The classic Oreo cream doesn’t even taste very good. It tastes like what it is — before 1997, like lard, now like vegetable oil and preservatives — which is why adding more cream to the cookies (e.g., Double Stuf, White Fudge) only ever makes Oreos taste worse. So I’m generally receptive to attempted improvements on the original formula. I don’t need five dozen alternatives, but I do appreciate that Watermelon Oreos are an option. I know candy corn is a controversial confectionary, but I vouch for the Candy Corn Oreo, and also the Lemon Oreo, above all others.
New flavors are not all bad, but snack companies do need to relax with the pretentious recipes and eXtreme promo for these things. Nabisco slips into Jared Leto/Joker levels of Method marketing whenever it’s rolling out a new, wild-n-crazy Oreo flavor. For the launch of its Cupcake Oreo in February, Nabisco opened a Willy Wonka–ass “Oreo Wonder Vault” pop-up in Chelsea, where passersby could pull a lever and receive a cute little gift box full of Oreos. (The cookies were first produced at a Chelsea Market bakery in 1912.) Last year, Nabisco shaved 20 calories off the classic Oreo serving size and then had the nerve to market its “Oreo Thins” variant as a “sophisticated cookie.”
Nabisco’s big bet on Oreo flavor variants coincides with a popular proliferation of bourgie Oreo food porn. (See also: Pop Tarts.) There have always been ice cream cake adaptations and suburban household interpretations of the classic Oreo, but we’ve now reach elite Pinterest levels of Oreo artistry. Just now, I spent 10 minutes shopping online for an Oreo wedding cake and then swore off marriage entirely.
We’ve all lost something here. Can you even recall the taste of a classic Oreo? The standard, 2-millimeter-thick spread of white cream between two black, chocolate wafers? What does it mean for anything to “taste like an Oreo” when the classic cream-filling recipe is just one of 60 supermarket options (along with six choices of wafers)?
Such a crisis of consumer choice isn’t unique to Nabisco and its Oreo brand. In recent years, Lay’s — which has long offered modest, popular flavor variations of its classic potato chip — has gone on a similar spree of crowd-sourced, experimental flavors, including Reuben, truffle fries, and cappuccino chips. Humans no longer experience shame or digestive disgust, apparently. What if all this grotesque flavor science culminates with Lay’s-flavored Oreos?
I asked Nabisco’s parent company, Mondelez, why snack food brands inflict these dramatic flavor remixes upon us. “We know that consumers enjoy variety when it comes to snacking,” a Mondelez spokesperson told me. “On occasion, we create unexpected and unique flavor combinations that people may never have thought were possible.” I’m reminded of Xzibit and one of his Pimp My Ride sells: Yo, dawg, I heard you like Kool-Aid, so we put Kool-Aid in your Oreo so you can drink while you chew! If you say so.