Oreo is under fire—and we’re not talking about their limited-edition Firework sandwich cookies.
After the company launched a #MyOREOCreation contest in 2017 in which fans were asked to submit their own flavor ideas for America’s next sandwich cookie, a Colorado woman claimed she created one of the winning flavor combinations and never received her prize money. For months, Lauren Young tweeted at the cookie company, with each of her tweets acting as an entry into the contest. She suggested various flavor ideas ranging from Astronaut Ice Cream to Moscow Mule. But one of her ideas, a Cherry Cola flavored cookie, actually hit the shelves in April as one of the contest’s three winning flavors, in addition to Pina Colada and Kettle Corn.
According to the contest’s rules, the creators of the three winning flavors that were made into products will receive $25,000 each and the winning flavor of those three will receive a grand prize of $500,000 and a trip to Oreo’s New York City headquarters. Voting for the three flavors is still open, so no winner has yet been announced.
However, Young claims she was never notified that her submission was even in the running, and according to Munchies, Oreo credits Eden F. from Winnetka, California for creating the Cherry Cola flavor. After submitting her flavor, Young received a package made out directly to her, which contained a sample of Cherry Cola cookies. “Thanks for sending us your idea. We thought it was so delicious, we turned it into this one-of-a-kind creation just for you. Straight from the wonder vault. Enjoy!” the note inside read.
However, Young tells ABC 7 that following that package, months went by and when the flavor hit the shelves, she saw them in the store and was never notified. “I reached out to them and I said, ‘So I’m seeing that my cookie won?’” she says. But, according to Young, Oreo said that Cherry Cola was already in development in their lab, and wouldn’t credit her with the idea.
A representative for Oreo claims that although Young did submit the flavor idea on Twitter, they received nearly 700,000 contest entries, resulting in multiple suggestions for Cherry Cola.
“As expected, many consumers submitted the same flavor suggestions, including ‘cherry cola,’ but did so in different and creative ways,” the company tells PEOPLE. “Knowing that this would happen, the winning submission was based on more than just identifying the flavor (as this Denver Colorado entrant has done), but also on the creative way in which the entrant presented the flavor along with other details about the flavor creation, as outlined in the official rules.”
The representative also confirmed that they did create more than 300 samples to “surprise and delight fans” who entered the contest.
“This was separate from the finalist selection and intended simply to surprise and thank some of our fans for participating (as stated in the contest rules), and did not indicate that they were a winner. In fact, several fans received ‘cherry cola’ samples following their submission of that flavor.”
After speaking with multiple news outlets, Young has since released a statement on Twitter congratulating the finalists, and acknowledging that being a winner “wasn’t what she was seeking,” and that she only wanted the truth.
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“I do still find it a little fishy that neither Oreo, Nabisco, Mondelez, nor HelloWorld were able to provide me with answers better than: ‘we had planned to release [the flavor] prior to the launch of the My OREO Creation Contest’ or ‘based on the criteria outlined within the My Oreo Creation Contest Official Rules, the finalists and their winning flavors: Cherry Cola, Kettle Corn and Pina Colada, were selected based on taste appeal (40%), creativity (30%) and originality (30%),'” she writes.