Newtons are a Nabisco trademarked version of the fig roll, a pastry (not a cookie) filled with fig paste. Their distinctive shape is a characteristic that has been adopted by many competitors including generic fig bars sold in many markets. They are produced by an extrusion process.
Until the late 19th century, many physicians believed that most illnesses were related to digestion problems, and recommended a daily intake of biscuits and fruit. Fig rolls were the ideal solution to this advice, although they remained a locally produced and handmade product. Philadelphia baker and fig lover Charles Roser invented and then patented a machine in 1891 which inserted fig paste into a thick pastry dough. Cambridgeport, Massachusetts–based Kennedy Biscuit Company purchased the Roser recipe and started mass production. The first Fig Newtons were baked at the F. A. Kennedy Steam Bakery in 1891. The product was named "Newton" after the city of Newton, Massachusetts.
The Kennedy Biscuit Company had recently become associated with the New York Biscuit Company, and the two merged to form Nabisco—after which, the fig rolls were ostensibly trademarked as "Fig Newtons."
As of 2012, Nabisco makes several varieties of the Newton, which in addition to the original fig filling, include versions filled with apple cinnamon, strawberry, raspberry, and mixed berry. The Fig Newton also is sold in a 100% whole-grain variety and a fat-free variety. Fig Newton Minis have also been introduced. The fig bar is the company's third best-selling product, with sales of more than a billion bars a year. In 2011, a crisp cookie was introduced in the United States named Newtons Fruit Thins, after being successfully marketed by Kraft in Canada as Lifestyle Selections, a variety of Peek Freans.
In the 1970s, Nabisco ran a popular advertising campaign for the Fig Newton. The TV commercials featured actor James (Jimmy) Harder as "Big Fig", dressed in a fig suit, who sings a song in praise of Fig Newtons. At the conclusion of the song, he struck the "Fig Newton Pose", leaning forward and balancing on his left foot, with arms spread and right leg raised behind him.
Since 2012, the "Fig" has been dropped from the product name.
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- A machine invented in 1891 made the mass production of Fig Newtons possible.
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