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Oreo celebrates centennial with Market Square bash

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By Chris Ramirez

Published: Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Shirley Van Heusen had her first taste of an Oreo when she was 3 growing up in Mt. Lebanon.

She got to be a kid again for lunch on Tuesday, the popular cookie's 100th birthday.

Multicolored ribbons shot into the air in Market Square at the stroke of noon as a 6-foot Oreo emerged from a giant gift box to ring in the best-selling cookie's centennial. Four dozen flash mobbers sang "Happy Birthday," then burst into a 3-minute dance routine as Downtown business people stared.

Some had twist-and-lick races, trying to see who could down the most cookies in a single sitting.

"They've always been my favorite," says Van Heusen, 45 of New Kensington. She grew curious about the box as she looked onto the Square throughout the morning from her office in the nearby Three PPG Place. "I've bought my share over the years. We never run out of them at home."

Similar cookie celebrations took place in Los Angeles, New York City, Miami, Phoenix, Chicago, Salt Lake City and East Harmony, N.J.

Created on March 6, 1912, in a National Biscuit Co. bakery in Manhattan, the Oreo has come a long way from its first sale to a grocer named S.C. Thuesen in Hoboken, N.J.

It's estimated that 500 billion Oreos have been sold since then, and that more than 95 million cookies are sold each day, Mary K. Smith, a spokeswoman for Kraft, says. Oreos can be bought in more than 100 countries, generating roughly in $1.5 billion in global annual revenues.

Kim Gobrish has bought her share over the years, for holidays and simple noshing on lazy weekends.

She was on her way to lunch when she was drawn to signs that tempted her to "release your inner kid."

"Double-stuffed is the best," says Gobrish, who lives in Crafton. "This was awesome because I was thinking of a flash mob for my husband's 40th birthday. Now, he's in for it."

Fun with Oreos

• The first Oreo cookie was sold in Hoboken, N.J., where Oreos were originally packaged in bulk tins and sold by weight. Back then, grocers paid 30 cents a pound.

• Oreo has a street in New York City named after it -- Oreo Wa -- formerly known as W. 15th Street, between Ninth and 10th avenues. The first Oreo cookie was made New York City at the original Nabisco bakery.

• The first Oreo cookie was embossed with a thin wreath on the outer edge, with the Oreo name on the plain surface in the middle.Today it consists of 12 flowers, 12 dots and 12 dashes on each side. Each cookie has 90 ridges and takes 59 minutes to make.

• Kraft Foods Inc. in Northfield, Ill., the world's largest biscuit baker, owns the Oreo brand. Oreos are made at 21 bakeries worldwide and can be found on store shelves in more than 100 countries, including China, Venezuela, Indonesia and Mexico. Annual sales are roughly $2 billion.

• Oreo has a Facebook community of more than 25 million Oreo lovers around the globe, representing 200-plus countries and dozens of different languages. Oreo ranks among the top-five brand Facebook pages in the world!

Source: Kraft Foods Inc.

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