Donald Trump says he’s “never eating another Oreo again” because its parent company is “closing a factory in Chicago and they’re moving to Mexico.” Some Oreo production is moving to Mexico, but a downsized Chicago plant will remain. And there will still be three plants in the U.S. making Oreos.
Trump also has overstated the number of job losses in Chicago. The parent company projects 600 employees in Chicago will be laid off, not 1,200, as Trump has said.
As he seeks the Republican presidential nomination, Trump, who once appeared in a commercial for Oreo Golden Double Stuf cookies, talks often about trade imbalances with other countries. And he has frequently used Oreo as a prime example of American companies that have been shifting their operations overseas. But his claims about Oreos go too far.
The latest iteration of Trump’s claim came during the Sunshine Summit on Nov. 13, when Trump said, “With Mexico, we have an imbalance of $45 billion and growing all the time, because Ford is moving there. Nabisco, they make Oreos. They’re moving to Mexico. I’m never eating another Oreo again. I am telling you. Never.” (Side note: Trump also has falsely claimed that Ford decided not to build new plants in Mexico because of him.)
Trump’s boycott of Oreo is a frequent campaign staple.
Trump in New Hampshire, Aug. 14: Did you know that Nabisco, Nabisco. Did you see it yesterday? Nabisco is closing a factory in Chicago, and they’re moving to Mexico. This big factory. And taking many jobs. I think they’re about 1,200 jobs going to be lost in Chicago. No more Oreos. They make Oreos, don’t they, right? No more Oreos. I don’t like Oreos anymore. (At the 21:46 mark.)
Trump in Alabama, Aug. 21: The other day, Nabisco, Nabisco, Oreos, right? Oreos! I love Oreos; I’ll never eat them again. I’ll never eat them again. No, Nabisco closes a plant, they just announced, a couple of days ago, in Chicago, and they’re moving the plant to Mexico. Now, why? Why? Why? (At the 59-second mark.)
Trump in Iowa, Aug. 25: Nabisco. I have holdings in Chicago; I have a great building in Chicago. Nabisco, they have a factory, a big factory; they make Oreos; I’m never eating Oreos again. Ever. Ever. Eh, maybe. Maybe if I can find some made in the United States, I will. But they’re closing their big plant in Chicago, and they’re moving it to Mexico. What’s going on? (At the 19:11 mark.)
Trump in New Hampshire, Sept. 17: Do you like Oreos? The cookies right? I’m not eating Oreos anymore. Nabisco is closing their plant, a big plant in Chicago, and they’re moving it to Mexico. (At the 20:59 mark.)
Trump in Virginia, Oct. 14: Nabisco. Oreos. Right, Nabisco? Right? Oreos! They’re closing their big plant in Chicago. They’re moving it to Mexico. I’ll never eat another Oreo again. Ever. Ever! So I’m going to talk to them. I don’t want their cookies made and sold there. I just don’t want it. It’s unfair to us. Chicago is losing this large plant. It’s going to another country. (At the 43:39 mark.)
Let’s start with the crumbs of truth in this claim. Mondelez International, the Illinois-based parent company that makes Oreo cookies, announced in July that it plans to invest $130 million in four state-of-the-art manufacturing lines that will make Nabisco cookies and crackers — including Oreos — at an existing production facility in Salinas, Mexico. Those lines will replace nine older manufacturing lines at a facility in Chicago, causing the loss of jobs for about half of the Chicago plant’s 1,200 workers. So 600 jobs will be lost at the Chicago plant, not 1,200, as Trump has said.
But contrary to Trump’s assertions, the Chicago plant will not be closing. It will continue operating, but with a smaller workforce. The plant will continue to produce a variety of Nabisco cookies and crackers — though not Oreos — and according to company officials, it will remain one of the company’s largest manufacturing facilities in North America (as measured by employees).
“The Chicago plant has been and will continue to be an important part of the company’s North American biscuit footprint, producing a variety of beloved consumer products,” said Olivier Bouret, vice president, North America Integrated Supply Chain, Biscuits, in the July press release.
Laurie Guzzinati, senior director of corporate and government affairs for Mondelez, told us in a phone interview that even if the investment in the new production lines had been made at the Chicago plant, there would still have been layoffs, due to the efficiency of new equipment. In August, Guzzinati told the Chicago Tribune that it would have cost the company $46 million more a year to keep the production in Chicago, and that even if the new lines were put in Chicago, there still would have been 300 jobs lost.
Oreo cookies will continue to be made at three other U.S. manufacturing facilities in Fair Lawn, New Jersey; Richmond, Virginia; and Portland, Oregon. In February 2014, Mondelez announced that it was investing $130 million to modernize its cookie and cracker bakeries in Fair Lawn and Richmond.
So to Trump’s point, Guzzinati said, the company “continues to make Oreos right here in the U.S.” We asked how much of the Oreos sold in the U.S. would still be produced in the U.S., and Guzzinati responded via email (emphasis is hers): “Even once the new investment (which we announced in late July) is fully completed in Mexico (by mid-2016), we will still have significant Oreo production in the US, spanning our three biscuit plants in NJ, VA and OR, with dedicated lines in these facilities focused on Oreo production for the US market.”
As of the end of 2014, Mondelez International employed 104,000 people worldwide (down from 127,000 in 2010), with about 13,000 of them in the U.S.
Oreo “biscuits” originated in New York in 1912, and they are now made at facilities in 18 countries and sold to consumers in more than 100 countries worldwide.
— Robert Farley and Chloe Nurik