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Oreos suddenly tasted like s—t. Next I found PissedConsumer. The closing followed nearly a year of rumors about whether it was happening. All of this sparked lawsuits, union-led protests, angry statements from Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders and a call for an Oreo boycott from Donald Trump.

In the end, Mondelez laid off around workers and cut nine production lines in Chicago to create four new production lines at their plants in Salinas and Monterrey, Mexico. But yes, some Oreos are made in Mexico. I think I asked about The closing of the Chicago plant came the following summer. And in November, cookie lovers in the United Kingdom lost their minds when Mondelez increased the gap between the triangular segments on the iconic Toblerone chocolate bar.

Mondelez released a statement saying that yes, they made smaller triangles on just two bars in the UK, and confirmed to MailOnline that it was because the price of cocoa increased. The taste system is inherently complicated. What we like and why is wholly unique to each individual, and shaped by our personal experiences.

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Just like our opinions on music or hairstyles or whether Ross and Rachel were actually on a break, our tastes change and evolve throughout our lives. This could explain why some of my co-workers preferred the Mexican-made Oreos. This would also mean that, yes, something in the recipe changed. Production variation is another possible explanation. A former food industry researcher told me how a popular cereal company once moved production from a year-old factory to a new facility in California. Lastly, I spoke with Howard Moskowitz, a psychotherapist credited with reinventing spaghetti sauce in the s.

So why do Mexican Oreos taste like dirt to some people? The answer is D , All of the above. Could Mondelez have changed the recipe without telling anyone? Could they have not changed anything at all? Also yes. Could customers be reacting to the outsourcing of jobs by trashing the taste? For sure.

Could newer machines simply bake a different product than year-old machines? Marram, who was running the grocery operation. McKnight will find the territory familiar; he ran the division from to , before switching with Rogers. At the corporate level Carbonell recently moved for the third time in a year. He explains: ''Ross and I hadn't seen each other for a week.

We were on our way to California, and he said, 'I've been thinking.

We've done the job in Atlanta, we restructured the corporate staff, we're well established. I don't need you anymore. So far, Del Monte has moved headquarters from San Francisco to Miami and cut its 1,person staff in half. The tobacco business was particularly top heavy. Horrigan Jr. In the reorganization, Johnson sent members of the corporate staff down to the operating company to fend for themselves. Then he pulled the company out of Winston-Salem. The operating people were so glad to see him go, Johnson says, ''they would have paid our way to Atlanta. He shocked his minions by eliminating weekly status reports and staff meetings.

Says he: ''Some of them continued to report to me weekly for several months. Now everyone's fallen into line, and we simply have more time for things that are going to benefit the business. Each of unit managers prepares a monthly report that is forwarded up the chain. Division presidents like Von Arx get a green book with information on his area; the board of directors a blue one with a corporate summary; and Johnson a more detailed red one that outlines the problem areas in each reporting unit. The reports, developed by Johnson at Standard Brands, are used to track such balance sheet items as receivables, inventories, and cash flow -- critical indicators on the state of the business.

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Newcomers welcome the books about as much as a tax audit. They won't even look at next year's programs until this fall and won't present them to corporate until next January -- essentially too late to change them for the first quarter. The alarm clanged recently when Kellogg invaded the part of the adult cereal market dominated by Nabisco's Shredded Wheat brand. When Kellogg launched its major assault, replete with coupons worth 75 cents, half the price of its new entry, Nutri Grain Biscuits, Nabisco counterattacked with coupons of its own.

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Nabisco has temporarily shredded Shredded Wheat's profits, but is holding its share. Welch, vice chairman of RJR Nabisco. We weren't out to stop them, we were out to crush them,'' he says. The case is tied up in pretrial maneuvering. Says McKnight: ''I believe to this day that had it not been for that merger, the cookie wars may very well have come out in a much different way. The company's top managers say that the sales force is too good to let them screw up the business.

Nabisco's cookies are store-door items: delivered directly to supermarkets and other outlets by combination driver-salespersons who make sure that Nabisco gets every inch of shelf space it can. Last summer the company launched 18 new products in a single promotional blitz. The horses pulling that wagon have such familiar names as Oreo and Ritz. Nabisco's use of line extensions rather than new products has earned it a reputation for being unimaginative. The company denies the charge, naturally. We have a very clear idea.

The typical line extension, he says, gives consumers an either-or choice -- Coke or Cherry Coke -- but doesn't add much to a company's incremental sales. Nabisco's franchise extensions go after additional sales by trying to match eating patterns. For example, the original Oreo, two fudge wafers held together by a cream center, is an eat-at-home cookie, while Big Stuff, an oversize version, is positioned as a snack, munched on the go.

The individually wrapped single-serve product is sold in convenience stores and vending machines, where packaged cookies haven't done as well. The latest version, fudge-covered Oreos, are designed to entice grownups with a sinfully rich treat. The company says adult women go on, admit it are the biggest candy consumers. A miniversion of the original, the coin-size wafer is described by executives as a hand-to- mouth snack cracker, as opposed to regular Ritz, whose mission is to act as a platform for pate and other toppers.

The company already has that honor by virtue of its buying power in commodities.

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Most huge commercial cookie companies must rely on actual bakers. Quaint as that may sound, old-fashioned techniques make for greater variation in quality and less efficiency in production. Each baking line in the new plant will produce one product. Only Nabisco has so much volume that it can dedicate one line to Premium Crackers, for instance, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. In most process industries, changing from one product line to another is the most time-consuming, least efficient part of production. While the food business is stable, the tobacco business is under a cloud.

Powerful antismoking groups and the U. Surgeon General have turned smokers into pariahs, relegated to their own sections of restaurants, forbidden their ; pleasures on airline flights of two hours or less. The jury found that the Liggett Group wrongly implied cigarettes were safe in advertising before , the year warning labels were required by law. The landmark case is likely to encourage more suits, but the tobacco companies doubt these claims will interfere with their profitability.

The size of the Cipollone award was small, and the court dismissed charges that tobacco companies had conspired to suppress evidence that smoking was dangerous. Even if the decision leads to more federal legislation -- a total ban on airline smoking, for example, or the end of cigarette advertising in print media -- the tobacco industry is sanguine. Smokers would light up after a flight, and an end to magazine and newspaper advertising would mean lower costs and hence more profit. Later this year RJR will introduce a nearly smokeless cigarette, which goes by the code name Spa.

The company has not announced the official brand name, and rival Lorillard owns the trademark for cigarettes called Spa. A smoker lights RJR's new cigarette just like any other. But a carbon heat source at the tip of the cigarette, not the tobacco, burns. The heat generates warm air that passes through the tobacco and then through a capsule that contains tobacco extract, glycerin, water, and flavorings. RJR says that the smoke looks and tastes like ordinary cigarette smoke as it is inhaled. But since it is a vapor, it disappears into the air as it is exhaled.

Spa produces almost no sidestream smoke to offend -- some say endanger -- nonsmokers nearby. The new cigarette has about the same levels of tar and nicotine 0. Reynolds Tobacco Co.

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The smokeless wonder promises to be the biggest cigarette launch ever. Advertising, promotion, inventory, and distribution costs will easily treble that figure. Johnson sounds optimistic: ''It's a risk, but we look at it as a contained risk. So you've got a billion dollars. And let's say it's an Armageddon, and aside from the article saying Johnson is an asshole, we can say, 'Okay, by '92 if it hits what we think it's going to hit, we really will have semi-revolutionized the business.

RJR hopes Spa will keep the Marlboro man, who represents the world's best-selling cigarette, from galloping away with more business. Although RJR is cagey about its goals, Johnson has visions of Spa gaining a five-point market share in a business where a new product is considered a success with one point. The hope is that lots of curious smokers, nonsmokers, and more significantly ex- smokers will try the product. But how many will use it more than once?

Says Johnson: ''If I had nine people who hated it and one that loved it, we're dancing, eh? The company's general counsel Harold L. Henderson dismisses the idea: ''This product wasn't something that somebody said, 'Gee, there's something we could have done 30 years ago and now we're going to do it. The FDA will probably not rule for six months or so, but an agency spokesman points out that the FDA by law has no authority over tobacco products unless manufacturers make health claims.

In its traditional cigarette businesses, RJR is turning its marketing guns toward young, blue-collar adult smokers. Now six of ten new smokers try Marlboro first, a figure RJR would like to alter, and only half of them switch later to a different brand. RJR wants to rope in the strays with new images. The Winston version is ''real people'': painters and telephone linemen, who are portrayed in dramatic closeups. Camel's year-old symbol, a dromedary known as Old Joe, is being rejuvenated into a hip cartoon character for such magazines as Rolling Stone.

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To keep smokers loyal to RJR brands, the company - is running a million-dollar sweepstakes that gives buyers a better chance of winning with each pack of Winston, Salem, or Camel they buy. The sweeps have brought in over , entries a week, twice the predicted number. Even though the U. With cigarette sales in the U. With the drop in the dollar, the company is exporting like mad. Last year the international business turned in the highest operating profits in the company.

Can any chief executive be in a more difficult position than one whose company sells a product considered to be deadly to persons possessing lungs and hearts?

That's what you're paid to take,'' says Johnson. In handling the smoking issue, Johnson says, ''I think we really have come to the best conclusion that we could come to on Spa. Along with a few other food industry executives, notably Anthony O'Reilly of H. Heinz, who happens to hail from Ireland, he has been shoving the noses of his managers up against the window of the future. In the process these executives are learning to advertise, distribute, manufacture, promote, and extend ancient brands in a way that turns nostalgia into an advanced weapon. This is an industry where!

Maintaining the status quo gets you zilch, but not maintaining it gets you killed. A dedicated food man like Ross Johnson might one day sell the tobacco business. But only after he has used its fantastic profits to build an even mightier food giant. In the short term most financial analysts expect a big acquisition. The company has looked over Tropicana and other Beatrice companies, but passed them up because Johnson refuses to pay the high prices food companies now command.