When just vanilla won’t do … how about blue­berry pie Oreo?

The Hamilton Spectator - - BUSINESS - MAYA SALAM

Some­one once said: If it isn’t broke, don’t fix it. That per­son does not work for Oreo.

Oreo makes a lot of cook­ies — 40 bil­lion of them in 18 coun­tries each year — enough to make it the world’s best­selling cookie. Most of them are the fa­mil­iar sand­wich that’s over 100 years old: white cream nes­tled be­tween two choco­late wafers. But the com­pany has in­creas­ingly been ex­per­i­ment­ing with lim­ited-edi­tion flavours that seemed de­signed as much for an In­sta­gram feed as they are to be eaten.

“Ev­ery­one loves the clas­sic Oreo,” said Made­line Vin­cent, a brand man­ager for Oreo, pro­duced by Nabisco. “We don’t mess with that.”

But out­side that clas­sic Oreo? Oh, there is much mess­ing about. This year, the com­pany re­leased lim­ited-edi­tion flavours like Jelly Donut, Mis­sis­sippi Mud Pie and Fire­work. They joined a packed shelf that has re­cently in­cluded flavours like Cookie Dough, Birth­day Cake, Mint, S’mores and Red Vel­vet, which proved so pop­u­lar as a lim­ited edi­tion that the com­pany up­graded it to ev­ery­day flavour sta­tus.

The lim­ited-edi­tion flavours are scarce by de­sign, ap­pear­ing on shelves for eight to 10 weeks. Some are avail­able only in cer­tain mar­kets or cer­tain stores.

“We con­sider a va­ri­ety of fac­tors to de­ter­mine the right flavours for the right mar­kets and part­ners, such as cus­tomer feed­back and con­sumer pref­er­ence,” Vin­cent said, adding that there is no spe­cific tem­plate for which flavour goes to which re­tailer. “It is de­cided on a case-by-case ba­sis.”

But there are cer­tain flavours that even fewer peo­ple will get to try: those that re­sult from a so­cial me­dia con­test that will earn one Oreo fan $500,000. The com­pany is us­ing the hash­tag #MyOre­oCreation to col­lect sug­gested flavours. The top flavours, as de­ter­mined by Oreo, will be pro­duced and avail­able in the U.S. next year for the public to vote on.

Some con­tenders be­ing teat-mar­keted so far have in­cluded English Break­fast Tea (it tastes like tea), Peach Melba (has the flavour of a gummi peach), Mer­maid (a sort of lime cream), and at least three dough­nut-ad­ja­cent flavours to com­ple­ment the Jelly Donut al­ready in mass pro­duc­tion: Rasp­berry Dan­ish, Cof­fee and Dough­nut, and Beignet.

Dar­ren Seifer, an in­dus­try an­a­lyst at the NPD Group, a mar­ket re­search com­pany, said com­pa­nies need to be cau­tious when of­fer­ing con­sumers a new prod­uct that’s too sim­i­lar to the orig­i­nal.

“Any time you have a line ex­ten­sion, your main con­cern should be whether or not it’s go­ing to be can­ni­bal­iz­ing your main­line prod­uct,” he said.

Oreo’s so­cial me­dia push, he added, could be in­ter­preted as an ef­fort to save on mar­ket re­search funds — which other com­pa­nies cer­tainly have done, he said.

TONY CENICOLA, NEW YORK TIMES

Mis­sis­sippi Mud Pie is one of the new flavours Nabisco has tried in the South­ern U.S.

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