Marketed as America’s favorite cookie, The Oreo Brand has become an American icon. Two chocolaty circular cookie wafers held together by a sweet vanilla crème filled center have become the perfect accompaniment for milk and an irresistible snack for young and old alike.
Then what could be wrong with making more to love? Introduced in 1984, the Oreo Big Stuf was a humongous cookie, about 10 times the size of a normal Oreo. Sold in a box of 10, each Big Stuf cookie was packaged individually, each containing 316 calories and 13 grams of fat. This cookie didn’t even make it to middle school – it was discontinued after nearly seven years (1991).
Where They Went Wrong
- 1. Gluttonous or Wasteful?
It would seem that giving the consumer more of what they love would make this product an instant and continuous success. But there the execution was flawed with regard to the consumer target. Oreo Brand is a family staple – but it seems like the huge size of the Oreo Big Stuf is designed more for adult-sized appetites rather than kids. Yes, I’m sure it was amazing to get a giant cookie in your lunchbox or as an after-school snack, but the truth is, most kids couldn’t finish it in just one sitting (at least without getting a tummy ache).
- 2. The Time Factor
Considering the large size of this cookie, someone should have determined the amount of time it would take to actually eat it. Reviewers said it takes 20 minutes to completely eat just one. With an average lunch time of just 30 minutes, kids are eager to get outside with their friends for recess, not sit inside eating a giant cookie. Even an adult with a monstrous appetite wouldn’t spend that much time to eat this snack.
- 3. The Forgotten Oreo Rituals
Either you twist your Oreo apart to enjoy the crème-filled center first, or you dunk the entire Oreo in milk, or you do a little bit of both, but with an Oreo this size, you can’t do either one easily. You now need to change your Oreo routine and eat a lot of it first so you can eventually pull it apart or get it small enough to fit in the glass for dunking. Did someone forget that old habits die hard?
- 4. New Dietary Guidelines and the Food Pyramid
Yes, a few cookies here and there can be considered a treat in moderation, but the Big Stuf contained 316 calories and 13 grams of fat! The USDA had just released new dietary guidelines in 1980 (4 years before the introduction) recommending moderating the intake of fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, and sodium as they were considered risk factors in certain chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease and certain cancers. Plus the Food Pyramid was released in 1984. Apparently no one at Nabisco took this information into consideration when developing this new product, or maybe consumers just were unaware of this information at the time when Nabisco was testing this concept.
Oreo Brand Big Stuf didn’t die immediately, so I wouldn’t say this was a totally disastrous product innovation, but we can still learn a few things in hindsight:
- 1) Execution
The insight was right, it was just the execution that seems a bit flawed. Giving the consumer more of what they love – that yummy crème-filled center – did work for other Oreo products, namely the Double Stuf and Triple Stuf Oreo products.
- 2) Do the Opposite
Sometimes an innovator needs to take a concept and prepare another one that represents the opposite approach. Had Nabisco done this by giving consumers a much smaller Oreo in contrast to the Oreo Big Stuf, they just may have stumbled upon the Oreo Mini product a little sooner than they actually did.
- 3) Watch the Trends
As the USDA was evaluating and linking dietary patterns to chronic disease states, nutritionists and R&D managers at Nabisco should have been watching this trend closely to understand how it would impact the Oreo business now and in the future.
Despite the demise of the Oreo Big Stuf, we can’t tell you how happy we are that the regular sized Oreo is alive and well and available for lots of dunking. In moderation, of course!
Sandstorm inc. is an innovation firm specializing in the upfront insights and innovation process. Sandie Glass and Laura Wolfram bring a combined 34 years of experience in helping countless Fortune 500 companies like Procter & Gamble, Disney, Nike, American Express, GlaxoSmithKline and M&M/Mars tap into their creativity to achieve remarkable business solutions for market success. Their strategic focus and extraordinary talents take the “blinders off” to unleash the opportunities necessary to connect with consumers who BUY.