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Oreo cookie gets a Chinese makeover

In the United States, the Oreo cookie is a classic. Millions of American children have enjoyed dunking the sweet treat -- white cream sandwiched between two round, crisp, chocolate cookies -- in milk as an afternoon snack.

Kraft Foods, makers of the Oreo, introduced the cookie to China in 1996. But the Chinese didn't exactly take to them. So starting in 2005, the Wall Street Journal reports, Kraft engaged in a classic case of adapting a product to suit local tastes. The Chinese found the cookies too sweet, so Kraft reduced the sugar in them. China was developing a thirst for milk -- a product that traditionally hasn't been a Chinese dietary staple -- so Kraft launched a campaign, complete with Oreo ambassadors, to "educate" the Chinese on how to dunk the cookies in milk.

The most radical change was in the shape. Noticing that sales of wafer cookies were increasing faster than those of traditional biscuit-like cookies, a new version of the Oreo was created: a long, narrow, layered stack of crispy wafers and vanilla and chocolate cream, all coated with chocolate. Whoever said Oreos have to be round?

Of course, amid rising food prices and increased demand for chocolate (whose consumption in China has nearly doubled in the past five years), the success of the Chinese Oreo brings to mind the broader question of "Can the World Afford a Middle Class?," a topic recently addressed in FP and one that fans the flames of Chinese frustrations with the West.

(Meanwhile, Oreos have been trying to colonize British biscuit tins, the BBC reports.)

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