Sour Patch Kid Oreos Are the Latest in a Long Line of Wacky Flavors

Photo Illustration by Luis G. Rendon/The Daily Beast/Mondelez International
Photo Illustration by Luis G. Rendon/The Daily Beast/Mondelez International

Is there even a reason to eat a classic Oreo anymore? For the flavor-curious, the taste connoisseurs, the palatally adventurous, it’s hard to argue that the standard-edition black-and-white cookie is worth the purchase these days. Buying a regular pack of Oreos seems like a waste when you can sample an Oreo that tastes like coffee, toffee, lemon, tiramisu, or Dirt Cake—a somewhat meta-flavor, considering the ingredients of the beloved dessert.

But these flavors also prompt an interesting, almost existential question: What defines an Oreo, anyway? With the brand’s latest and perhaps strangest limited-edition flavor now on shelves, considering the makeup of that classic Oreo becomes all the more intriguing. Because, as buyers will soon learn for themselves, ensuring an Oreo still tastes like an Oreo when it’s also Sour Patch Kids-flavored—yes, the newest Oreo is supposed to taste like the fan-favorite, deliriously sour gummies—is a tall order.

Mondelez International, the parent company of America’s most popular cookie, has pumped out the flavor varieties in increasing succession over the last 15 years. Starting in 2012, in tandem with the brand’s 100th birthday, Oreos have dabbled in all matters of flavors multiple times a year. There have been more than 80 flavors released since then, and in 2024, there will be about 11 different flavors of Oreo released, as both permanent introductions to the selection and for a limited time only. And that’s not even including the other varieties, like Golden, Double (or Mega) Stuf, Thins, Oreo minis, Oreo Cakesters, fudge-dipped Oreos…the list is miles long.

A photo of the Sour Patch Kids Oreos packaging

The new limited edition Sour Patch Kids Oreos.

Photo Illustration by Luis G. Rendon/The Daily Beast/Mondelez International

The limited-edition flavor boom is a phenomenon that’s generated major media interest and, crucially for Mondelez, consumer dollars. So prevalent is the new flavor that it’s inspired arguments, parodies, and investigations. There’s something uniquely buzzy and, to the open-minded or obsessive Oreo fan, fun about this novelty endeavor. Perhaps it’s because of its cadence and its implied scarcity; it’s almost as if Oreo has manufactured the snack world’s own mythic Disney Vault. But there’s also the pure delight in trying out a cookie whose baseline flavor is as iconic and identifiable a flavor as Oreo in costume as something else—whether it’s carrot cake or a donut or Neapolitan ice cream.

Today, a limited-edition Oreo drop typically happens about every six weeks. It’s a diverse deluge that compels the snack buyer to keep an eye out for the new Oreo to try out, especially when the chance to do so is, well, limited. As a result, Oreo lovers hold dear their most beloved flavors, both to mourn when they never return (oh, how I miss you, 2014’s Marshmallow Crisp!) and celebrate upon their grand comeback. After a five-year absence, for instance, the beloved Pumpkin Spice Oreo generated many excited tweets and articles upon its reappearance in fall 2022—such is the sway of the special Oreo flavor.

What’s most fascinating about these special Oreo flavors is their inherent experimentation. The highest-selling limited-edition flavors in recent years, according to the brand’s own metrics, include Gingerbread, S’moreo, and Salted Caramel Brownie—all cookies based on other cookies or similar desserts. But Oreo hardly limits itself to easily replicable flavors. In the past, there have been Fruity Crisp Oreos, which tasted like fruity cereal (not good!); Swedish Fish Oreos, meant to evoke the classic candy (would not recommend); and Kettle Corn Oreos (snack reviewers said they were pretty good!). The newest Oreo, in fact, is one of the most surprising and unique in years: Sour Patch Kids-flavored.

Maintaining the integrity of an Oreo cookie while infusing it with a flavor profile meant to recognizably recall a sour gummy candy is almost an existential process—what is an Oreo, exactly? And what is a Sour Patch Kid? And how does one mash them up without completely losing the pleasures of both?

Kristen Braun, a senior manager of the Oreo Innovation team that ideates on these wacky cookie flavors, walked us through the lengthy, years-long process of bringing Sour Patch Kids Oreos to life. “It’s like putting a puzzle together with every new launch,” she said of the dreamy, tasty work that goes into reinventing the Oreo.

Unsurprisingly, the Oreo Innovation team works “several years out,” said Braun. “Right now, we’re already thinking about what’s going to go into the market in 2026 and beyond.” Determining which flavors to pursue is a multi-step process. It begins with an ideation session at the top of the year, she explained. There are several central questions: “What are those flavors and those profiles we’re going after? What are the flavors that are really early in the inception curve, so that by the time we launch them, they’ll be a little bit more mainstream? What are the trends that we want to go after? What are the ingredients we’re really excited about?”

In an attempt to answer all these questions, there are upward of 100 pitches for new flavors a year, whittled down into just 11 or 12 new SKUs annually. Culling that list then requires in-depth research into flavor and culinary trends and consumer appetite, as well as what kinds of technologies and ingredients will be available to use from suppliers, in order to “put together a blueprint of what the future years could look like.”

Once those are decided upon, “our [Research and Design team] are in the lab prototyping day in and day out to try to really hit the authenticity of these flavors,” she explained. This takes upward of five months of prototyping—Braun called it the “eating cookies window.” This involves the truly arduous task of trying out a lot of different Oreos. But to get to the point of having those Oreos to try, the R&D team must define what that Oreo is supposed to taste like in the first place.

“If we have a particular flavor profile, like a Sour Patch Kid, they’ll think about what the core tenets that make up a Sour Patch Kid are and how we can deliver it,” said Braunch. “We’ll look at different iterations of that—more sour, less sour, different types of inclusions [the inflections of color or other textures within the cookie or cream]. … We’ll test constantly with consumers at a concept level to make sure the flavor we’re proposing resonates with them, can tie back to Oreo, and can be believable as an Oreo.”

A photo of the inside of a Sour Patch Kids Oreo

The Sour Patch Kids Oreos are flecked with red, blue, and green.

Photo Illustration by Luis G. Rendon/The Daily Beast/Mondelez International

The key parts of an Oreo, said Braun, are that it must be a sandwich cookie with that “Oreo texture,” the just-right amount of cream filling, and “you have to be able to twist, lick, and dunk” it. (I personally am opposed to these steps, but to each their own.)

With those structural tenets in place, the Innovation team can then get as creative as possible. In fact, they’re fun for the designers in the same way that they’re fun for the consumers: “We can push the bounds” of the Oreo with the limited-edition flavors, said Braun. “We have a lot of permissions to play in the limited-edition space.”

But the Sour Patch Kids Oreo presented unique challenges, in that it was a brand crossover. While Sour Patch Kids and Oreo share a parent company, they are inherently different products: a soft gummy vs. a crispy cookie sandwich, each with a specific and dependable taste. The gummies also come with core tenets—and R&D and marketing teams—of their own that the Innovation team had to take into consideration. The mandates they were given, said Braun, is that Sour Patch Kids are “sour, then sweet.”

“We started looking at what else made up a Sour Patch Kid” from there, she explained. “It’s colorful. It’s fun. It has that sugar crunch to it.” It is also, of course, very gummy—a part that Braun admits eluded the team.

“Not everything is directly translatable,” she said. “A gummy texture is not something that works well in a cookie. We actually tried it in earlier iterations, and consumers didn’t want that. They wanted their Oreo to be a true Oreo with the cream and the crunch.”

As innovative as a gummy Oreo would be, the team smartly backed off the idea. Instead, the final product is a standard golden Oreo with red, blue, and green flecks throughout the cookie and cream. The key unique ingredient is citric acid, which lends the cookie a sour-yet-sugary taste and strong smell reminiscent of the candy.

As for how it tastes? The answer depends on your tolerance for Sour Patch Kids. This writer despises both the candy and sour-flavored food. I suffered my way through a single Sour Patch Kid Oreo, and even one was too much for me; it was shockingly sour and then hyper-sweet in a way I’m not used to with an Oreo. But if you’re a fan of Sour Patch Kids, you will definitely like them more than I did—because it is impossible to like them any less.

It’s foolish to expect every limited-edition flavor to be a slam dunk. There are so many one-and-done iterations, as well as flavors that return to the drawing board, only to return years later better than ever. And staying attuned to the market necessitates trial and error, especially as taste preferences evolve. But regardless of the success of the individual flavors, the enterprise is an overall successful one for Oreo; the brand reports that limited-edition flavors are crucial to its continued growth.

At 110 years old, that the cookie is still trying new things without alienating its consumers is remarkable, no matter what. And if nothing else, a Sour Patch Kid Oreo is a whole lot more interesting than a standard-issue one—and you can’t fault your snacks for wanting to have a little fun.

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