The Fig Newtons Lie You Should Stop Believing

Fig Newtons have had a flavorful journey from their creators' imagination to becoming one of the most popular American snacks. However, many Americans are under a false impression when it comes to these fruit-filled cookies. It's a strange but true fact that might shock fans of the iconic snack.

The surprising truth has nothing to do with being named after famed scientist Sir Isaac Newton, although a more deserving inspiration for the baked good there could not be. According to ThoughtCo., a town in Massachusetts is the actual namesake for the cookies. The big secret also has nothing to do with the fruity filling.

ThoughtCo. also says that while manufacturer Nabisco isn't divulging the recipe, the likely culprit is dried mission figs (something The Washington Post has also suggested). TasteAtlas shares how those are among the most common varieties of figs, so that checks out and shouldn't shock most people. No, it turns out, the huge reveal is all about how you've probably referred to them over the past decade.

The fib is all about the fig

The Newtons fact that will shock you is even more astonishing than the strange history of Hydrox and Oreo cookies. As it turns out, you should have dropped the "Fig" in the name from your daily vernacular back in 2012. The Takeout explains that's when Nabisco rebranded the cookies to simply "Newtons." It made sense for the company's marketing purposes, as HuffPost noted in 2015.

Nabisco wanted to draw attention to the fact that it also sold Newtons in other flavors, such as strawberry and raspberry — not just fig. Dropping "Fig" from the name was also part of an effort to modernize the snack food. And according to HuffPost, this wasn't the first rebrand for the cookies, either. Some consumers today might remember when Nabisco marketed them as "fruit and cake" instead of cookies prior to the 1980s. But if you believe that you've seen packages bearing the name "Fig Newton" since 2012, that was a pure fig-ment of your imagination.

It also turns that there's something to Nabisco once marketing Newtons as "fruit and cake."

The fruity forerunner of Newtons

As ThoughtCo points out, the likely inspiration for creator Charles M. Roser's Newtons was the classic British fig rolls. ThoughtCo explains that British immigrants in the United States made the fig rolls as homemade treats. Fig rolls are a simple food composed of a pastry with a preserve-like fig filling. (Think of it as a British take on the Swiss roll.)

The homemade version of the treats remains popular in the United Kingdom today. In fact, "The Great British Bake Off" offers up judge Paul Hollywood's recipe for the pastries. If you ever want to get a taste for the work Roser put into creating Newtons, checking out Hollywood's recipe would be a great place to start.

Roser gets the credit, though, for creating the specific recipe for Newtons then selling his recipe to the Kennedy Biscuit Company (per ThoughtCo). Enjoying a fig roll or a Newton isn't among the ways you've been eating figs wrong. It does represent a bit of American history, however.

How Newtons became a national phenomenon

If you've shopped a cookie or cracker aisle at a store recently, you might have noticed all of the products bearing the Nabisco brand name. That's the result of a popular business strategy that not only brought Newtons under the Nabisco umbrella but also put significant marketing resources behind the cookies.

Company Histories relates the story of how the National Biscuit Company was created in 1898 through a merger of two bakeries. The New York Biscuit Company and the American Biscuit Company were, at the time, conglomerations themselves. According to Company Histories, one of the products they acquired in that process was Newtons. The new conglomerate controlled much of the bakery market, and it wasn't afraid to spend on advertising. In fact, through its first decade of operation, it spent an unheard-of amount of $7 million on marketing its products such as Newtons nationwide (per Company Histories). Thus, Newtons went from a take on British fig rolls to a household name. 

No one is probably going to blame you if you continue to call these cookies Fig Newtons, though, and Nabisco likely doesn't care what you call them as long as you buy them. But now you can impress your friends with your Newtons knowledge — and, who knows, maybe these facts will come up in the next trivia game you play.