WashU Expert: The skinny on today’s new Oreo​​​​

​Many of us grew up twisting, dunking, and munching the much-loved and iconic Oreo. Whether you like yours with milk, enjoy scraping up the stuffing, or prefer them just plain, the cookies have been an American dessert standard for more than 100 years.

OreoPerhaps that’s why food bloggers and social media buzzed when Oreo announced its newest version of the cookie, Oreo Thins, which hit store shelves today. Some are downright angry that the cookie has slimmed down: Billed as lighter and crispier than the classic Oreo, four thins contain 140 calories, while three of its original counterparts are 160 calories (that’s a 34 percent reduction for those who don’t like to do math).

So why downsize the O-R-E-O? According to Joseph Goodman, PhD, associate professor of marketing at Olin Business School at Washington University in St. Louis, it’s a matter of matching tastes to the market.

“This definitely makes sense in our more health-conscious world of today,” Goodman said. “Many of the big food companies have been having a hard time trying to navigate changing consumer tastes. They are still mostly making processed foods when the small upstarts are focusing on organic and natural ingredients, and less focus on calorie content.

“Though, cutting about 30 percent of the calories probably is not enough to get many non-Oreo people to eat them for health reasons. My guess is that it is targeted toward existing Oreo consumers who want to consume more, but don’t because of the calories.”

Goodman also points out that while this latest Oreo cookie has been much discussed, it’s certainly not the first time the brand has expanded to include new items.

“What’s interesting to me, from my research, is the proliferation of products,” Goodman said. “Remember when Oreos just had one flavor and one size? Well, probably most people don’t remember, but it did exist. Now, there are probably 20-plus different Oreo types to choose from.

“Their website lists 62 different Oreo products. And they already have 100-calorie baked Oreo Thin Crisps to compete with as well. Even if I wanted to buy Oreos, I’m not sure I would be able to decide.

“Instead I might just decide not buy any cookies at all. I think I’ll just have an apple instead.”