Sweet news for chocoholics: America's favorite cookie is setting up the ultimate (slam) dunk — the new Chocolate Creme Oreo.
At the same time, the new cookie's manufacturer is preparing for another kind of debut: a listing on the New York Stock Exchange.
Plans for the initial public offering by Kraft Foods, the Northfield, Ill.-based parent company of Oreo's cookie-cutter Nabisco, are expected to be completed by the end of the second quarter of 2001.
Timing for the IPO may be ideal, coming when the Oreo brand is tasting considerable financial success. While some cookie companies posted flat sales growth in the past quarter, Oreo's volume rose 15 percent — defending its reign as the nation's best-selling cookie. That translates to $571 million in retail sales for the 52-week period ending March 25.
And as Kraft has been busy filing papers with the Securities and Exchange Commission, the company has also managed to find time to quietly introduce its first new version of the Oreo in years.
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Addition to the Family
The new cocoa-flavored creme version of the classic vanilla-filled cookie, has been available in select supermarkets for the past two weeks, and Kraft plans full distribution soon. "The cookies will be on store shelves nationwide by June," said spokeswoman Elizabeth Wenner.
Oreos quickly became best-sellers after their introduction nearly 90 years ago. And the classic snack has never before changed its flavor, at least not permanently. In fact, it has not changed much at all through the years, only adding variations of the cookie a handful of times.
"The cocoa-filled Oreos are the first change in over a decade," says Wenner. And unlike some previous seasonal recipes, such as a mint version and a Halloween themed biscuit, "these are a permanent addition to the Oreo line, so people shouldn't worry that they'll only be around for a limited time."
At a suggested retail price of $3.69 per package, "chocoholics can now have a shortcut to chocolate heaven," says Matt Cooper, senior brand manager for Nabisco. "For the first time, Chocolate Creme Oreo provides an all-chocolate Oreo experience."
Vote: Your favorite — chocolate or vanilla Oreo?
More Cookie, More Fat
But chocolate lovers should be know that with a more chocolaty experience comes a bittersweet price. The chocolate version will have 50 percent more filling — and 50 percent more fat. That's partially because the cookies will be a little bigger than their vanilla-filled siblings which now measure 1.75 inches across.
For the weight-conscious cookie crowd, the company still sells a reduced fat line along with its other permanent fixtures: Mini Oreos — which debuted only last summer — a double stuffed cookie, fudge-covered Oreos, an extra large cookie and a cereal version made by Post.
So how will Kraft officially welcome the new snack to its cookie jar? The company is keeping its promotion plans under wraps, providing just a morsel of information: new national TV advertisements will air within a week.