Hydrox cookies come back

Feverish cookie fans have convinced Kellogg's to bring back Hydrox, the older and better version of the Oreo. At least for a little while. Responding to online petitions and 1,300 phone calls, Kellogg's is releasing a limited Hydrox 100th anniversary in late August or September .

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Hydrox cookies were one of the classic victims of conglomeration. As Paul Lukas described in this Fortune story, Sunshine Biscuits created Hydrox and the chocolate sandwich cookie in 1908 -- four years before copycat Oreo came out. Later Oreo so monopolized the market, Hydrox was widely and erroneously regarded as a bargain imitator. The name Hydrox carried such little credibility that when Keebler bought Sunshine Baker in 1996, it relaunched the 88-year-old brand as Droxies. Then Kellogg bought Keebler in 2001 and two years later quietly killed off Hydrox-known-as-Droxie.

The cookie always had a loyal following. Some said Hydrox had a crunchier texture or smoother taste. Others were Orthodox Jews or vegans, avoiding the lard in Oreos. They found common ground in their fidelity to Hydrox and their willingness to search it out in stores, which was always hard. When it was gone there was no news flash, so they just became a little harder to find, maybe a little dustier on the shelf.

Five years after the disappearance of Hydrox cookies, a January 2008 Wall Street Journal report awakened Hydrox fans to the awful truth: the Hydrox was long gone. More joined the movement to revive Hydrox with a petition and an online tribute. We listed Hydrox as one of 25 Things We'd Like to See Make a Comeback. Kellogg's also launched http://www.hydroxcookie.com/ and plans some contest in June for Hydrox fans. Winners get to taste the first new Hydrox (same recipe, but without the trans fats) in New York. They say it will be in regular retailers and grocery stores.

Kellogg holds out some hope that it may bring Hydrox back if it does well enough, in today's Wall Street Journal story. I think the Hydrox will do well -- and not just because eBay entrepreneurs will be picking it up by the case. We're in an era where people cling to their connoisseur tastes. In a world where eaters revel in their taste for Himalayan salt, I think there's plenty of room for Hydrox cookies.

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