Elections are all the rage these days. Citizens went to the polls to determine the next Iranian president and the next Massachusetts senator, among other widely covered races. Upcoming high-profile elections include the 11-candidate fight for New York City mayor and the dead-tie in Virginia for governor.
But there's one hot-button choice that needs more press: Are novelty Oreos better than the original? We got curious following the recent hubub over Oreo's newest summer flavor: Watermelon.
The Christian Science Monitor prides itself in thoughtful, fair reporting. We apply these standards to all of our journalistic endeavors, including an Oreo taste test recently conducted in the Monitor newsroom.
We purchased three novelty flavors of Oreos – Watermelon; Rainbow Shure, Bert!; and Neapolitan. For the purposes of this article, we'll call the Rainbow Shure, Bert! flavor – yes, that's how Oreo stylizes it – Sherbet.
The independent variable (this was conducted with scientific rigor, after all) was of course the original chocolate wafer, vanilla cream flavor. Milk was provided to cleanse the palate.
As the "Meet the Press" theme song looped in the background – who doesn't get excited about journalism after listening to David Gregory's walk-up song? – Monitor staffers from college interns to managing editors came to the voting area to sample the four Oreo flavors. Ballots were distributed.
Thirty-two people filled out ballots, although three of them had to be disqualified because they voted for two flavors instead of one. The instructions typed on the ballot were clearly stated: "you only vote once #YOVO." So for the purposes of this article, 29 people voted.
What were the results? Not surprisingly, the original flavor won by a landslide, capturing 23 out of 29 votes – or 79 percent. But what came as an even greater shock was how the six other people voted. Two voted for Watermelon, two voted for Sherbet, and two voted for Neapolitan.
We clearly see that the original flavor continued to reign king here in the newsroom. And with the votes evenly distributed for the three specialty flavors, how are we as intrepid Monitor journalists supposed to provide you with information about this pressing issue? With a trusty intern jotting down quotes, of course.
Here's what Monitor staffers had to say about the three novelty flavors:
The Watermelon flavor – limited edition – consists of vanilla wafers sandwiching a half-green, half-pink layer of cream. National news staff editor Judy Douglass said that she was "fascinated" with the colors. Business writer Schuyler Velasco agreed with Ms. Douglass, saying that "it's interesting to look at."
When prompted to try it, deputy online editor Pat Murphy said "I don't even want to try it," later pleading "No, no, no. Please, no." Books intern Casey Lee had the same sentiment, predicting beforehand that "it's one of those 'eat it quickly and chase it with milk' flavors."
Virtually all of our tasters said that the Watermelon Oreos did not, in fact, taste like their fruit counterparts. The Web team was especially vocal in this regard. Project manager David Javier called his tasting experience "disturbing," and analytics intern Colin Jamerson said that the Oreo he consumed "didn't go down well."
Several staffers said it tasted like a Jolly Rancher, one of them being business intern Akane Otani. But she was quick to add that "it's scary because of the chemicals." Food editor Kendra Nordin echoed Otani's concerns, saying that it "tastes weird and artificial, like Bonne Bell lipstick."
Others said it tasted like gum – the Bubblicious brand, to be specific.
National news intern Chelsea Sheasley – one of the kindest people in the newsroom – shocked us all by saying something negative for the first time in her life. Specifically, she thought that the Watermelon Oreo was "weird." Home Forum intern Ben Frederick also thought it tasted weird, but for a different reason: "The green [cream] doesn't taste like rind. That's false advertising."
Some staffers went beyond taste in their analysis of the Watermelon Oreo. "How many ways is watermelon not like a cookie? It has no business being an Oreo," design director John Kehe said. "It should be wet, cold, slurpy, and refreshing. It's none of those things as a cookie."
Deputy international editor Ben Arnoldy was a bit nicer to the Watermelon Oreo. Although he looked down on the Bubblicious taste of the cream, "there's still the yummy cookie."
Managing editor Marshall Ingwerson, a man who chooses his words wisely, said two words of the Watermelon Oreo: "doesn't work."
The Sherbet Oreo – also limited edition – looks suspiciously similar to the Watermelon Oreo: vanilla wafers, green-pink cream. This proved to be problematic for some of our tasters, despite the Oreo sleeves being clearly labeled. Norm Williams of content sales initially thought the Watermelon Oreo tasted like sherbet, but was later shocked to discover that there actually was a sherbet-flavored Oreo.
"It tastes like sherbet. Kind of," Latin America editor Whitney Eulich said of the Sherbet Oreo.
Ms. Velasco, a woman with high standards, thought that there was "not enough sherbet-y tang." But several of us thought the opposite. Mr. Jamerson said that it was "too sweet," and Ms. Douglass said it "definitely has more 'pow'" than its Watermelon counterpart. Mr. Williams described this overwhelming taste as having "pop."
Middle East editor Ariel Zirulnick seemed to pinpoint what exactly this strong taste was: "dish soap, or how I think dish soap would taste." The ever-discerning Mr. Ingwerson said that "there's a weird chemical taste, maybe even a little vinyl, in there."
Innovation intern Katherine Jacobsen looked genuinely afraid when saying that she could "taste the dyes."
Ms. Otani didn't even consider the sherbet-flavored cookie to be an Oreo: "It's awkward. It's aspiring to be an Oreo." Mr. Javier disagreed, saying that "although it's a little creepy, I can still detect its essential Oreo-ness."
With regards to Javier's comment, Ms. Lee asked: "Wait, did you make note that this flavor is evil?"
Interestingly enough, two of us thought of alternate ways to consume Sherbet Oreos. "If you froze these, it'd be the closest thing to sherbet," magazine cover story intern Andrew Averill said. Mr. Arnoldy agreed, saying "I like my sherbet cold."
Sarah Oakes, the Monitor's bubbly marketing associate, said "I actually kind of like it." But Mr. Murphy, now infamous in the newsroom for his "no, no, no" comment, invalidated Oakes' praise with a thumbs-down gesture.
The Neapolitan slightly departs from its Watermelon and Sherbet counterparts in appearance. Although it has vanilla wafers, it is actually what Oreo describes as a "triple double." It has three wafers and two cream layers, one chocolate and one strawberry. Ms. Nordin said that it "looks like a Big Mac" in terms of its layering, and social media coordinator Laura Edwins said "the double stack is cool."
Since the Neapolitan Oreo is physically larger than a regular-sized Oreo, there were fewer cookies in its sleeve than the number of Watermelon and Sherbet cookies. Thus, the Neapolitan ones ran out more quickly, so we didn't get a full range of opinions on them.
Nonetheless, those who did taste the Neapolitan had mixed reviews. Staffers discussing the three flavors amongst each other agreed that the Neapolitan was better than Watermelon and Sherbet, although all three of them tied in the votes. "At least the Neapolitans were decent," said Ms. Lee, who was never too keen on trying any of the three flavors. "The Neapolitans were stupid, but decent."
Despite some positivity – Ms. Edwins thought it actually tasted like ice cream – our tasters didn't let the Neapolitan get off easy. "The strawberry tastes like strawberry-flavored taffy," senior editor Clara Germani said. Ms. Velasco agreed, saying that "the chocolate doesn't taste like chocolate. It's not very tasty."
Oreo claims to be "America's favorite cookie." And the company makes an even more boastful statement when saying it's "milk's favorite cookie." Well, all of this seems to be true, at least in the Monitor newsroom.
"The original flavor is in our DNA," Mr. Murphy said. "How can you reject the original?" Mr. Kehe agrees, saying it's "the best cookie ever. They're tough to beat. These gimmicky pretenders don't come close."
Ms. Germani, always asking deeper questions in her job as editor for the magazine cover stories, asked what the choice of selling specialty flavors does for the Oreo brand. Ms. Velasco, drawing on her expert business reporting knowledge, made the following hypothesis: "It seems like they had a surplus of vanilla cookies and wanted to sell them. They're all the same wafer color; it's silly."
Speaking generally about the three flavors, international news intern Jeremy Ravinsky said "it's not that they're bad. They just taste like warm, dry ice cream."
Asia editor Jenna Fisher believes that "you have to pretend that they're not Oreos."
Mr. Frederick felt that "cream filling doesn't lend itself to fruit flavors." Mr. Averill showed more sympathy, saying that the cream is "all about 'mouth-feel'" and not necessarily taste.
What's the verdict? It seems as if we at The Christian Science Monitor are not particular fans of the Watermelon, Sherbet, or Neapolitan Oreos.
"Nothing's going to change our love of original Oreos," Ms. Douglass said.
Normally reserved copy editor Casey Fedde made a simple but profound statement regarding the specialty flavors that sums it up: "These are not milk's favorite cookies."