Fig Newtons are the delicious little snack filled with jam everyone was eating in the early 2000s. The iconic cookie has had an extensive legacy in the country, spanning more than 100 years. The physical Fig Newton was introduced in 1891 and is still manufactured by the Nabisco company to this day. Though everyone can recognize a Fig Newton, apparently they are operating under a different name these days.
In 2021, the renowned cookie brand covertly changed its name from Fig Newtons to just Newtons. Why the sudden drop of the fruit’s name that defines this snack? Newtons has actually had a history of reinventing itself over the past decades.
The physical cookie has been repackaged and renamed as far back as the cookie has circulated on grocery store shelves. For the longest time, the Fig Newton was known as a cake, and many buyers referred to the cookie as, at the very least, cake adjacent. It wasn’t until the 1980s that this depiction of the Fig Newton started to change. The 1980s ushered in the “chewy cookie” branding for the well-known treat, which is mostly how it is described today.
According to a New York Times article published ten years ago, the Fig Newton name change has to do with pragmatic marketing and a change to its recipe. Now, many iterations of the Newton cookie exist, with fillings composed of different fruits and jams. Flavors like apple and cinnamon, wild berry, apricot, and peach are now available, making the decision to drop the Fig from Fig Newton’s more understandable.
Fig Newton also changed the name because it was having trouble marketing fig fruit to those who’d never tasted one. For many, strawberries, peaches, raspberries, and blueberries are known pastry fruit and are ubiquitous among bakeries and grocery stores that sell cookies. Though these cookies are not an unpopular snack, the brand had trouble marketing to new audiences. If younger audiences didn’t know what a fig was, the snack could easily be disregarded unfairly.
Gary Ofschin, a former executive at Kraft, reiterated this statement by saying how difficult it was to keep advancing the snack with “the baggage of the fig.” Though Fig Newtons are delicious and figs themselves are an unbeatable treat, they aren’t the most used additive to cookies, cakes, and snacks in the United States. This prompted the company to remove “Fig” from the name, striving for a more palatable design and campaign. Sadly, the company felt pressured to change, even though the cookie’s fig filling makes it a unique snack on the market.
Fig Newton has received some unusual press this last week from a surprising source. After Oreo displayed an ad celebrating pride month, the month where LGBTQ history is celebrated, conservative television host Greg Kelly took to Twitter to air his grievances. The advertisement angered him so intensely that he urged followers to ditch Oreos and buy the fig cookies instead. Kelly received instant backlash, ridiculing his unprofessional, bigoted behavior.
Don’t be shocked by the name change if you see a box of Fig Newtons in the store. It’s still the same cookie that you know and love, but now there are many different fruit-filled Newtons to enjoy alongside the iconic fig ones.