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Last of the Twinkies: Hostess files for bankruptcy (Updated)

posted at 10:51 am on January 11, 2012 by

UPDATE (1/11/12, 1:57 ET): The good news for those who read the article that follows and lamented the disappearance forever of Hostess Twinkies is that my report of the snack cake’s demise was greatly exaggerated. A spokesman for Sitrick and Company, which represents Hostess Brands, Inc., has informed me that

[d]uring the Chapter 11 proceeding, the Company will continue operating its bakeries, outlet stores and distribution centers and delivering its products to its customers across the country. The Company does not anticipate any disruptions in the manufacturing and delivery of any of its bread or cake products. The Company’s brands, including Wonder®, Merita® and Butternut® breads; Drake’s®, Twinkies® and Hostess® cakes, will still be available and on store shelves everywhere.

My apologies to all parties for my error.

*     *     *

They are an American icon, much like the Oldsmobile. And, like the Oldsmobile, which was phased out in 2004, the Hostess Twinkie is about to become extinct.

Hostess Brands, Inc., the maker of Twinkies and Wonder Bread, has announced that it will permanently hang up its oven mitts as early as this week. The baker, which has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection for the second time, joins the ranks of 60 other companies that have followed suit in the last four years, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Since its initial filing in 2004, Hostess has struggled to stay in the black, but its ingredients and labor costs have risen while its sales have declined. The Journal reports that Hostess Brands sold 36 million packages of Twinkies last year, a 2% drop from the previous year. The falloff is attributed to the migration of consumers away from “empty-calorie” snacks and toward more healthful eating.

The Twinkie traces its origins to Schiller Park, Illinois, where it was invented in 1930 by James Alexander Dewar. A baker for the Continental Baking Company, Dewar dreamed up the cream-filled sponge cake snack after noticing that machines used to make strawberry shortcake sat idle when strawberries were out of season.

Originally Twinkies were filled with banana-flavored cream. The company switched over to vanilla during World War II, when bananas were rationed.

Twinkies remained a favorite school lunchbox and afterschool snack through the turn of twenty-first century. In recent years, the food police got on the snack cake’s case over its listed ingredients, which includes high-fructose corn syrup, partially hydrogenated oil, beef fat, and an assortment of artificial dyes and flavors.

Twinkies made headlines in 1979, in the trial of Dan White for the murders of San Francisco city supervisor Harvey Milk and mayor George Moscone. White’s defense—that he was depressed after changing his diet from health food to Twinkies and similar sugary foods—became known as the the “Twinkie defense.”

The Twinkie was in the news again in 2010 when a nutrition professor at Kansas State University lost 27 pounds while on a diet of Twinkies and little else.

Meanwhile, the demise of Hostess Brands is good news and bad news if your name is Obama. If your first name is Michelle, the disappearance of the snack food is another notch on your weapon in the war to change the way Americans eat. If your name is Barack, the closing of the Irving, Texas, plant and the attendant loss of 19,000 jobs can’t be good when you are running for reelection.

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If it’s Chapter 11, it means they expect to keep operating.

Steven Den Beste on January 11, 2012 at 11:04 AM

If it’s Chapter 11, it means they expect to keep operating.

Not necessarily.

Howard Portnoy on January 11, 2012 at 11:09 AM

NOOOOOOOOO!!!!!

Hostess chocolate cupcakes have been my favorite since I was a schoolkid. I really, really hope the company can continue operating in some fashion.

Dominion on January 11, 2012 at 11:51 AM

You know who this helps. Little Debbie Snacks.

Kissmygrits on January 11, 2012 at 12:07 PM

Debbie Snacks

Also good.

Howard Portnoy on January 11, 2012 at 12:24 PM

Aw man. The pseudo-twinkies the other companies make just aren’t as good.

“Down twinkies”

DrAllecon on January 11, 2012 at 12:25 PM

You mean we’ll NEVER be able to find twinkies anywhere in Zombieland? The horror!!!!

dentarthurdent on January 11, 2012 at 12:28 PM

Is Romney involved with Little Debbie in any way? Some evil capitalist over there must be responsible for putting Hostess out of business. /s

dentarthurdent on January 11, 2012 at 12:31 PM

The pseudo-twinkies the other companies make just aren’t as good.

I agree. I can point you toward recipes for homemade Twinkies (such as this one), but I can’t promise they’re as good.

Howard Portnoy on January 11, 2012 at 12:33 PM

Based on a quick read of the WSJ piece, a few things that didn’t get said:

1) This is their second run through Chapter 11, they’ve only been out since 2009.

2) Like many old-line industrial concerns with plants scattered throughout the country, they deal with a lot of different unions and a lot of different locals of those unions.

3) They are paying into (I think) several underfunded multi-employer union pension funds.

4) They’re privately owned, the private-equity funds that own them have put in a fair bit of money in recent years.

Summary:

1) They’re not in Chapter 11 to liquidate but it is a possible outcome.

2) There’s probably a fair bit of criticism to be made of their product-development and marketing/merchandising efforts but fixing that alone won’t get them out of their hole

3) The immediate consideration appears to be (as so often the case) the union contracts.

3)

JEM on January 11, 2012 at 12:36 PM

Well, then I guess we can say goodbye (thankfully) to that luscious treat that has been so much the rage at fairs – the battered, deep fried Twinkie.

Ugh.

Never did like Twinkies, although I did like the chocolate cupcakes. I always dug out the center though…the “cream” filling was just too greasy.

sage0925 on January 11, 2012 at 1:12 PM

I’ve been a T1 diabetic for about 40 years. In my younger years(mid 20′s to 40′s) I couldn’t wait for my blood sugar to be low so I could have a twinkie or chocolate cupcake. I’ve since gone on to other sugary treats for emergencies, but will always have a soft spot in the middle of my chest (metaphor intended) for twinkies.

NOMOBO on January 11, 2012 at 2:08 PM

You what’s really tasty? Deep fried Twinkies. A nice restaurant I go to makes them, and they are surprisingly good. I don’t even like regular Twinkies, although I was raised on Hostess cupcakes and DingDongs. Mmmm, and Sarah Lee cakes.

juliesa on January 11, 2012 at 2:54 PM

A favorite professor from the antediluvian days had a low opinion of the nutritional value of most institutional snack foods, frequently assuring us that “Mold won’t grow on Twinkies, and neither will you.”

AesopFan on January 11, 2012 at 4:39 PM

Howard Portnoy on January 11, 2012 at 12:33 PM

I’ll have to give that a shot anyway just to see.

And yay on the update!

“Up twinkies”

DrAllecon on January 11, 2012 at 5:13 PM

The good thing about Twinkies is they never go bad. Stock up!

qestout on January 11, 2012 at 5:29 PM

You what’s really tasty? Deep fried Twinkies. A nice restaurant I go to makes them, and they are surprisingly good. I don’t even like regular Twinkies, although I was raised on Hostess cupcakes and DingDongs. Mmmm, and Sarah Lee cakes.

juliesa on January 11, 2012 at 2:54 PM

You are a sick puppy. :)

The good thing about Twinkies is they never go bad. Stock up!

qestout on January 11, 2012 at 5:29 PM

That’s a GOOD thing? Are you kidding me? Preservative Central, Skippy. If bugs won’t eat it, I won’t either.

sage0925 on January 12, 2012 at 1:49 AM

“Look for the Union label…”
Just what is going to happen to our form jurisprudence without the “Twinkies®” defense?

mediamime on January 12, 2012 at 10:19 AM

That’s a GOOD thing? Are you kidding me? Preservative Central, Skippy. If bugs won’t eat it, I won’t either.

sage0925 on January 12, 2012 at 1:49 AM

But that may be all that’s left after the zombie apocalypse – they never go bad…. (see Zombieland)

dentarthurdent on January 12, 2012 at 11:24 AM