If you want Oreo to stop releasing weird new flavors, stop buying them

Oreo has released a ton of novelty flavors over the last few years—more than 85 different flavors, believe it or not, ranging from Jelly Donut to Limeade to Buttered Popcorn to Swedish Fish and even getting as abstract as Firework and "Love." The most recent addition (edition?) is the Lady Gaga Oreo, a pinkish cookie with green filling that presumably tastes like bad romance, or maybe a meat suit, I don't know.

For the New York Times, Jonah Engel Bromwich decided to find out why the company keeps pumping out these weird imitations. If it ain't broke, don't fix it, right? And surely, most people can't be that interested in anything more exotic than a Double-Stuffed Oreo, right?

Well: yes, actually. That's exactly it.

According to Nielsen, sales of flavored, seasonal and other novelty Oreos were up over 12 percent over the last three years.

But the sales are not the point. Novelty Oreos, according to Mr. Parnell, play a much purer role: They help drive consumers back to milk's alleged favorite, the 108-year-old paterfamilias, the plain old Oreo. In other words, the new flavors function as advertisements for the original.

And it seems to work. In the time that sales were up 12 percent for novelty flavors, sales of the classic were up almost 22 percent, according to Nielsen.

There's a lot more to the article, of course, including some insight into the R&D process that leads to the cookie-flavored commercials that are, apparently, what novelty Oreos are all about. But it's that painfully obvious conclusion that really stood out to me, because of what it says about the weird beast of marketing that we've really perfected in this country. Someone at Nabisco figured out that it was actually worth the time and money to pay people to come up with things like Waffle-and-Syrup-flavored Oreos, because it was going to make them more money on something else.

And yet we keep buying them.

We Asked: Why Does Oreo Keep Releasing New Flavors? [Jonah Engel Bromwich / The New York Times]

Oreo Finds a Sweet Spot Between Novelty and Nostalgia. But How Does It Taste? [Tejal Rao / The New York Times]

+85 Oreo flavors — The complete list of all Oreo flavors. [Maximilian Schramm / Medium]

Image: Public Domain via PxHere

(Full disclosure: I also write for Wirecutter, which is part of the New York Times Company, which also owns the New York Times)