Sweet Victory: Hot Cocoa Oreos Lead Holiday Flavor Rankings

Not long ago I proclaimed to the world that The Reign of Pumpkin Spice Everything is Over; that there’s a new king when it comes to fall flavors.  

Fast-forward and we’re now into the winter/holiday season and I am now ready to name a new favorite treat among consumers. Before I tell you what it is, a hint: Every year 60 billion of these are sold around the world, including 20 billion in the US alone.  

You probably already know the answer: The Oreo. Or in this particular case, Hot Cocoa Oreos, which achieved the highest Star Rating (5.9) in a survey from System1’s Test Your Idea platform. Oreo beat out six other holiday flavored food products in a consumer test that measured each innovation’s sales potential. All products were new, with the exception of Hot Cocoa Oreos, which have been missing from shelves for five years.  

Coming in a very close second was Toasty Vanilla M&Ms (5.5-Stars), while Pillsbury’s Funfetti Peppermint Cookie Mix rounds out the top three with 3.1-Stars.  

With 5-Star scores, both Hot Cocoa Oreos and Toasty Vanilla M&Ms have achieved what only a rare 5% of ideas tested by System1 manage to accomplish. This extraordinary rating not only indicates an overwhelmingly positive reception from consumers but also positions these delectable treats as highly profitable ventures with a sales potential index of 2.6x. The anticipation and excitement around these limited-time holiday releases are palpable, creating a buzz that is sure to translate into booming sales.

The Magic of the Oreo

Hot Cocoa Oreos go beyond merely satisfying our taste buds; they evoke a sense of nostalgia that is synonymous with holiday traditions. The familiar twist-and-lick ritual becomes a heartwarming moment of connection with childhood memories and the joy of the season. Whether enjoyed with a glass of milk, shared with loved ones, or savored in solitude, they’re sure to delight.

Part of the allure of Hot Cocoa Oreos lies in their limited-edition status. Just like the holiday season itself, these cookies are a fleeting delight, available for a short time before they disappear from shelves. The exclusivity adds an element of anticipation and excitement, turning each box into a precious holiday treasure that fans eagerly seek out.

Though a 5.9-Star result may have Mondelez rethinking how long they keep these Oreos in the vault again – five years is too long when consumers are clamoring for them. They deserve a permanent spot in the holiday lineup.

The Winning Formula: 80% Familiar, 20% Innovative

The key to innovation success, as determined by System1’s long history of ideas testing, lies in the delicate balance of familiarity and innovation. This past September, we tested 15 products from Season 14 of Shark Tank that won investment. Most of the products scored poorly, mainly because they did not adhere to the 80/20 rule, which advises that a new product or service feels 80% familiar and 20% novel.

Both Hot Cocoa Oreos and Toasty Vanilla M&Ms embody this winning formula. Hot cocoa is a popular winter beverage so it feels familiar. The newness comes from incorporating the beverage’s flavor into a food.

Meanwhile, vanilla has been a top selling ice-cream flavor for years and white chocolate is also popular. M&Ms bring white chocolate together with vanilla and warm spice flavors to create a new treat. The 80/20 combination resonates with consumers, offering a taste of the traditional while surprising them with a hint of something new.

Peppermint is also popular during the holidays. Tilllamook Peppermint Ice Cream manages 3-Stars, putting it a full Star above the country average. And Funfetti’s peppermint cookie mix gets a nearly identical score. There are some people who are put off by the minty flavor, but there are also plenty who endorse the idea.

Meanwhile, egg nog, maple syrup and gingerbread are flavors that are used less commonly within foods. Sure egg nog is a staple holiday beverage. But it’s also quite caloric and sweet. Maple syrup tends to only be paired with breakfast foods, not snacks (unless you’re Buddy the Elf!). And gingerbread is another fairly particular flavor that can divide people’s tastebuds.

Thus, the treats featuring these flavors scored under the country average. When taking a closer look at the emotions they elicited from survey participants, it becomes clearer why they didn’t reach the heights of Oreo and M&Ms. These ideas elicited less happiness (often driven by the familiar) and surprise (driven by the novel), more neutrality and higher levels of disgust.

It doesn’t mean they’re doomed to fail – some ideas don’t have as much mass appeal as others. And many ideas that initially score lower on the Star Rating scale can be improved with Guidance from System1’s research experts and end up with a higher score upon retesting.

Remember, the 80/20 rule should be applied to any new product or service. If you’re considering launching something new, it would be wise to take this advice to heart, and to pre-test to understand the sales potential of your prototype at the various stages in its development.

With Test Your Idea, you can test flavors, packaging, taglines and more so that you can make the most informed product development and marketing decisions.