Hydrox cookies are officially back. I just got back from the tasting and unveiling. The cookies, I'm happy to report, are quite delicious and creamy tasting.
More than anything, the return of Hydrox represents the wish fulfillment of thousands of customers. Hydrox came up with the chocolate sandwich cookie idea in 1908 (predating Oreos by four years), but was made redundant by a series of corporate mergers. For a while they went by the name Droxies, but then Kellogg Company shut the brand down in 2003. Who needed another sandwich cookie, anyway -- especially one that people eternally mistake for a knock-off?
Well, thousands of people, it turns out. Kim Burton, a Wichita engineer, started a website dedicated to Hydrox in 2000, back in their "Droxie" phase. When the cookies disappeared, she said, the site morphed from whimsy to mourning. Hundreds of people posted messages yearning for the old cookies. For a while she feared Kellogg would make her take it down. "It's all fun and games until a cease and desist letter comes in the mail," she says. Instead, Kellogg ended up honoring her at the event. The lanky, freckle-faced 28-year-old deftly posed eating, dunking, displaying the product.This January Christopher Rhoads did a story for the Wall Street Journal "The Hydrox Cookie is Dead and Fans Won't Get Over It." For many fans that story was the first official confirmation of their dark suspicion that the cookie that was always hard to find was really gone. The story pushed Hydrox mavens to push Kellogg's and for the company to consider their plea.
"We were interested in listening to customers," says Aleta Chase, senior brand manager for Kellogg Cookies. So, it brought the cookie back for its 100th anniversary. The official story is that it's for a limited time, but everyone at the '50s diner where it was unveiled today was thinking about something more permanent. They've already sold one-quarter of their supply because stores were asking for the cookies.
They no longer had the mold for the elaborate floral design, which says Hydrox on one side and Sunshine on the other. They had to recreate it using a paperweight-like model they found in the archives, Chase says.
The big question is why are people so loyal to this brand? Some say it has a superior taste and texture to Oreo. But mostly the loyalty is wrapped up in either nostalgia for a childhood cookie or somehow feeling like you're sticking it to the man by not going with Oreos. (Not that Kellogg is local bakery.)
The cookies did taste better to me. But I can't tell if it was because I wanted them to, because they were probably fresh, or because they actually are superior.
Aleta says that the company worried people had built up their expectations so long that they would be disappointed. But everyone at the diner seemed satisfied. The challenge will be how the generations that have never seen Hydrox react.
Either way, the return has made Burton the hero of the Hydrox world and something of an internet champion, too. Her little hobby website, which she says she hasn't really worked on that much, ended up changing a company's product. Granted it's not like someone got Microsoft to bring back Windows XP or persuaded a manufacturer to make something more safe. But the Hydrox return is a fun story of fans getting a company to rethink their product. "It means the internet is real," Burton says.
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