When It’s Okay to be a Rip-Off

posted in: Uncategorized | 8

October 31, 2012



You may recognize the cookies in the above photo, but probably not. If you’ve guessed Oreos, then I’m pleased to announce that you are wrong. The cookies are called Hydrox, created in 1908, predating the Oreo by four years.


Stealing and thievery have bad reputations. But sometimes, it’s okay to be a rip-off. Case in point: Oreos. Inspired by the Hydrox cookies, Oreos were created with a slightly different flavor, and within a few years they held the popular public image of being the original cookie, giving Hydrox the unfortunate label of an imitator. If you’re curious how they taste, you may be out of luck. Oreo was so successful it is rip-off that it caused the demise of Hydrox. And so Hydrox has been on the chopping block, and apparently is only offered in some cookies and crime ice creams. (You can however enjoy this well-developed blog post comparing the cookies.)


Oreos weren’t an original idea, but it was distinct development on something that already existed. And considering that it has been the best selling cookie in the US for the past 100 years, it seems a fitting example of when it’s okay to be a rip-off.


“its not where you take things from, its where you take them to” — Jean-Luc Godard 



For more on this theme, check out the works of Austin Kleon’s Steal Like an Artist.

8 Responses

  1. Another great point about Oreo’s! They are vegan. I wonder if the Hydrox brand was. I can tell you their first problem. The name hydrox sounds like they are putting a deadly chemical in their products. I like this. I think our creativity is stemmed from others ideas in motion and I think that is a great thing.

    • Oreos were not always vegan, they were once made with animal lard while Hydrox never was.

  2. Interesting! I thought for sure it was the other way around that Hydrox copied Oreo. I kind of feel sorry for them, but I do agree with Meg that is may have been in the name. Good Job, Dave!

  3. Hydrox sounds like an acne cream, so maybe it was for the best.

  4. Have you read my blog? It’s called “Not Quite Bohemian” 🙂

  5. When are you going to be in South America? I want to meet you, and bring you lots of money. 🙂

  6. John Anderson

    Actually, Oreos isn’t really better than Hydrox. The reason why Oreos beat Hydrox is because National Biscuit (the company which make Oreos, later known as Nabisco) is superior to Sunshine Biscuits (Hydrox’s creator) in everything from distribution channels to advertising budgets. As a result, it was no contest — Hydrox never had a chance.
    (Source: http://money.cnn.com/magazines/fortune/fortune_archive/1999/03/15/256478/index.htm)

  7. John Smith

    Oreos squashed hydrox by being the big guy with established market connections and having a lot of $$ to continuously pump up their image via mass advertising. To say its ok to steal because you’re bigger than them will discourage innovation and creativity and create a world where bullying, backstabbing, conniving, and thieving run amok. So yeah, watch what you say.

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