Hydrox (left) vs. Oreo (right)

Hydrox vs. Oreo Cookies – What’s the Difference?

When entering the cookie isle in most large American supermarkets you will probably run into this large blue section, full of similar packages. Full of Oreo cookies. It’s one of the biggest cookie brands in the US and has claimed even more shelf life by creating tons of variations on that same cookie. There’s red velvet Oreo’s, mint, chocolate, peanut butter, cinnamon roll, birthday cake, etc. If you’re looking for cookies they’re almost impossible to miss.

But, did you know that at a time there was another Oreo-type cookie? It was called Hydrox, as I learned during a Planet Money podcast. Apparently, there still are quite a lot of Hydrox fans who just don’t like the Oreo cookie. Both look very similar, the basic version is round, not too large, has very dark brown to black cookies with a white filling in between. But, they’re not the same, how different will depend on whom you ask, but they’re not identical.

So, when we saw that box of Hydrox cookies in a supermarket, a light blue bag hidden in between all the dark blue Oreo’s, we had to try it out!


In the food industry brands are often vital for selling a product. Recognizing a product, liking the brand will help consumers to buy products again and again. Since brands can be so valuable, companies will want to protect these brands, they wouldn’t want everyone to be able to call their black and white cookie an Oreo cookie. This protection is done through trademarks. Trademarks will give a company the exclusive right to use a certain brand for their products. It’s often product type related, Oreo can use their brand on cookies, however, you might well still be able to develop a sweet pink soap bar with the name oreo.

The story of Hydrox

Hydrox is also such a trademark and was introduced more than a 100 years ago. Even though most (including myself) might think Oreo was the original round black and white cookie, Hydrox actually was there first. However, over time, Oreo became more popular than Hydrox over time. Why that was the case can have a lot of causes, all contributing to the success of a food product, to name just a few:

  • Better taste and texture – but honestly, this really is only part of the story
  • Better marketing – more people might have known about Oreo than about Hydrox
  • Higher marketing budgets
  • Better & more attractive packaging

Which was the reason for Oreo’s success and Hydrox’ ‘failure’? I wouldn’t know, there’s probably a variety of reasons for it working out good. But in the end it didn’t succeed and Oreo grew and grew and made more and more varieties.

The return of Hydrox

Hydrox did come back though in 2015. How? Trademarks do not have infinite protection. If you’re not using your trademark for a certain moment of time, the trademark will become available for others to use again. This is what happened to Hydrox. The trademark hadn’t be used for a certain amount of time and it was possible for Hydrox fans to get a hold of the trademark (listen to the podcast to find out more details)!

Just a trademark though, doesn’t bring you a product. When you get a trademark for a cookie, you don’t get the recipe with it, nor the process of how to make it. So even if you get an existing trademark, you’ll have to re-invent the cookie and make sure it’s up to current standards and costs. Also, you don’t immediately get all the varieties of cookies that Oreo has built up over the past year. That said, if you’re good enough, you can gain some market share. Which is what Hydrox is doing. Which gives us the chance to taste Hydrox vs. Oreo. Is there really such a big difference?

hydrox cookies
Hydrox cookies

Oreo vs. Hydrox

As you will see in the photos, the two cookies look very very similar. They’re the same size and shape, about the same thickness and even their colour is almost identical. That said though, they don’t taste the same, which was kind of a surprise. The Oreo cookie is a little more bitter than the Hydrox. What’s more, it tastes less like chocolate (to us that is) than the Hydrox cookie. This though, may be a very personal perception, as we discussed before when discussing why an Oreo cookie is black as well as when discussing the types of cocoa powders. If you’re used to a different type of chocolate or cocoa powder, you might find an Oreo taste more like chocolate instead of the Hydrox!

Apart from the cookie flavor, the filling of a Hydrox cookie is slightly different. The filling seems somewhat sweeter, but the overall balance for me is better in a Hydrox than in an Oreo cookie, it’s less sweet overall. Also, the crunchiness of a Hydrox is somewhat better than that of an Oreo. Even though differences are small, they clearly taste very different in a blind taste test.

oreo cookies
Oreo cookies

Comparing labels

When reading the ingredient list of the two cookies it might seem that the Hydrox cookie contains more sugar, since it’s first ingredient is sugar. However, an Oreo contains both sugar and corn syrup, which is why the overall sugar content (as you can find in the nutritional information on the labels) is higher (14g in an Oreo vs. 12g). The ingredient list apart from this is actually very very similar. They contain almost identical ingredients in almost the same order. Which makes sense, since they look and taste very similar, the difference is nuanced.

Cookies can tell you a lot of stories, one on trademark, recipe development, process development (Hydrox had to figure out how to get such a nice detailed design on their cooking that wasn’t lost during baking for instance).


  1. I haven’t been able to find any of the new Hydrox cookies, but it doesn’t sound to me like they are following the old (original) recipe. The Hydrox I remember was a little smaller than Oreos and had less filling. They were noticeably less sweet and the cookie was noticeably more crisp. In short, there was a noticeably distinct difference between Hydrox and Oreos.

    • I grew up having Hydrox Cookies for a snack after school and having a Hydrox with vanilla ice cream for desert. My children enjoyed them and when they fazed them and brought something else in we were very disappointed. Bring back Hydrox!

    • Leaf Brands has found a family member, who has the original Hydrox recipe, and Leaf Brands has gone to a natural ingredients product, using the Sunshine information. Vienna Fingers doesn’t have the same cookie as the original, so I have stopped consuming those, as well as the Oreo configuration. Since the “Mexican” oreo is hiding the Hydrox packages, maybe the Sherman Anti-Trust Act of 1890, should be considered against the makers of the oreo packagers.

      • Bill,
        I just checked Amazon and no dice. I have written to the president of Leaf Brands to find out the status of the Hydox cookie. I will post his answer as soon as I receive one.

    • You can find Hydrox on Amazon. They are very close to what I remember eating as a child. Far superior to Oreo.

  2. I purchased a box of Hydrox on Amazon last week. The Leaf Brands company is the direct supplier for the ones I purchased. The cost is around $28.00. The order includes 6 -13 ounce packages. The price per package is ~$4.60. The flavor is exactly what I remember them to be from years ago. Leaf Brands is using the original formula that was changed during various owners of the brand.
    The CEO of Leaf Brands, Mr. Ellia Kassoff, responding to my email, wrote that Leaf Brands is trying to get them back into the supermarkets but need the store brand buyers to order them. He provided contacts at a couple store chains so that I could make the requests. Neither have yet answered my email. I also wrote to a local Meijers manager asking him to stock Hydrox. He answered and wrote that they always consider new products to offer. I mentioned that over 300 people had left favorable reviews on Amazon.

  3. The name was the real stinker. When thinking of Hydrox, what comes to mind first? Perhaps something you’d find in the vitamin supplement section. Or maybe you’re thinking a product with an alcohol, oil, or water base. Or you might find it in the household cleaning section. Whatever the case, the Oreo marketing team didn’t make that error, and the original eventually became… a skeleton.

    • Spot on. Oreo’s are loaded with fat, and as you mentioned high fructose corn syrup – cheap,sweet,and defines junk food – I’m trying to find the Hydrox ingredients on the labels. People that read the labels know this but many don’t . The ingredients listed are in the order of volume in any given product eg. If first thing you see is sugar in any form like hfcs you are buying an unhealthy, and cheap sweetener above all else . I’m going to find Hydrox labels . I’ll be back.
      Ps. As someone mentioned – I was in product development, and marketing in the publishing industry – Hydrox is hands down the worst branding of ANY foodstuff I could ever imagine …

  4. I am 64 years old, I grew up loving Hydrox cookies. I was devastated when they stopped selling Hydrox. I have never been a fan of Oreo cookies, I did’nt like the taste of the filling, the cookie was’nt like Hydrox. I would like Hydrox to have a blind taste test in the grocery stores, I would be a spokesperson…my age group would absolutely love to see Hydrox back on the grocery shelfs.

    • I too would like to have Hydrox available again. Everytime I buy a box of Oreos, it’s just not quite the taste I’m after.

  5. There’s a video on YouTube explaining the why and how of Hydrox and Oreo cookies that I just watched last night, and it’s quite informative. Then I found your artical, so I thought if anyone is interested in the history, here’s the link for that video. Enjoy. It is very eye opening for me.

  6. Oreos taste like they have lard in the filling. They leave a greasy feel in your mouth. Double stuff??=double gag!
    Amazon here I come!

  7. Really liked Hydrox as a kid. Found out about their return
    We have done some taste offs with hydrox vs Oreos. So far 12 for hyfrox, 0 for oreos…although some close
    Jim and Lynne—hydrox won 2-zip
    perada street coffee group- 6 for hydox, 0 for oreos
    ups office- three for hyrox , none for oreos
    church office test running now

  8. Hydrox cookies are available in all Menards stores. I have to say that I snagged the last three packages on the shelf. Eating them with milk like I did as a kid just brought me back to the good ole days. I may be only 38 but I remember them as a kid being so much better than Oreo. Thank you Leaf Brand and keep them American made.

  9. Hydrox is also available at Cracker Barrel stores. Just wish they would bring back the original Devil’s Food cookie cakes. (not the snackwell version)

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