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Small-town row over tiny Oreo

Who knew a tiny cookie could cause such major grumbling?

Oreo is finding itself in a cookie controversy after its campaign to promote its Oreo Minis has sparked a bit of a backlash.

Earlier this month, the Oreo division of Mondelez International (MDLZ) began mailing its Oreo Mini cookies to the residents of 50 tiny towns in America -- one town in each state. The idea, according to the company, was to recognize that it is the little things make life special.

"Oreo Mini Deliveries are our way of saying a little thanks to the people and places who help put a little bit of wonder into the big world every day," said Oreo executive Janda Lukin in a statement announcing the promotion.

Sounds like a cute stunt to promote the tiny cookies, right? But there was one problem: Each resident got just one cookie -- each about the size of a quarter. And that left some small-town residents a tiny bit miffed.

It was a nice gesture, wrote David Murray of the Great Falls Tribune in Montana, a state in which the Mini Oreos were delivered to the 50-person town of Neihart. But he noted that Mondelez International, which owns Oreo's Nabisco subsidiary, has $35 billion in annual sales worldwide.

"There seems to be some semblance of patronizing disconnect between the corporate executives at Nabisco and their small-town customers in rural America," Murray added. "It's sort of like receiving a letter from a major East Coast corporation saying, 'We're sorry you have to live in the middle of nowhere -- here have a cookie.'"

People in the small town of Mauckport, Indiana, also felt a little snubbed. The town has 81 residents, but only got 36 packages (one per household) containing one cookie each, The Indianapolis Star reports.

"This is the talk around town and, to us, this is just a big joke," Mauckport resident Debbie White told the newspaper. "Why in the world would they ship out one mini cookie is beyond me. Thanks, Oreo."

Oreo responded to the complaints by saying that it was planning to send a full-sized package of its new Oreo Mini Reese's Big Bags to each household in its 50 small towns later this month. Oreo spokesman Alan Keane, in an email to the newspaper, said the company "originally wanted the next phase to be a surprise for residents."

But that left some people wondering if that was always the plan, or if Oreo was just scrambling to do some damage control. "It makes you wonder," a public relations specialist in Indianapolis told the newspaper.

Twitter users had plenty to say in Oreo's defense this week. "Idiots are mad at @Oreo for sending them free cookies," wrote one user. "Looks like Oreo wasted their cool on a town of grumpy people," wrote another.

Kim Peterson

Kim Peterson is a financial journalist covering business and the economy. She has written for several online and print publications, including MSN Money and The Seattle Times.

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