Can The Twinkie Be Saved?

The lamentations have begun anew for Twinkies, Ding Dongs, Drakes Cakes, Wonder Bread, Ho-Hos and  -- my personal favorite -– Hostess Cupcakes with a squiggly line of sugar on top of chocolate icing and cake with mushy cream in the middle. Everyone, it seems, has a favorite Hostess small pleasure –- including some brands in this Daily Beast photo gallery that have never have registered consciously before but that you’ve probably eaten. (Hostess Donettes? Not a delicacy on my radar but Baltimore pitching prospect Kevin Gausman makes a ritual out of them.)

“Requiem for the Twinkie? Hostess Brands goes Ding Dong dead, leaps into the Dumpster,” read the heds on a Chicago Tribune editorial. “Let Us NOT Eat Cake: Goodbye Hostess & Drake’s” cries the CelebStoner.com. “Let's face it, we're talking munchie heaven here,” writes Steve Bloom. “Like the snacks themselves, reports of Twinkies' demise are hard to stomach,” points out the Chicago Sun-Times’ Richard Roeper. How can this be?

Hostess Brands, as has been its wont over the years, blames unions for its looming shutdown and fire sale, particularly the currently striking Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers & Grain Millers International Union (BCTGM). Not surprisingly, the Wall Street Journal takes the corporation’s POV in an editorial Saturday carrying the hed “The Twinkie, A Suicide” and the subhed “Unions kill an American classic, and 18,500 of their own jobs.” 

On the other side of the public relations war, BCTGM president Frank Hurt says “Hostess failed because its six management teams over the last eight years were unable to make it a profitable, successful business enterprise.” A release also claims that its “top ten executives … were rewarding themselves with lavish compensation increases,” as bankruptcy loomed and that union members feel that any concessions it makes “would go straight to Wall Street investors” and not be reinvested in the company.

The union still “Clings To Hope” that a buyer will emerge and save the bulk of its members' jobs, Rachel Feintzeig and Mike Spector report in this morning’s Wall Street Journal. But, in the meantime, the hoarding has begun.

"My wife ran out and bought a box of Twinkies and a box of Ding Dongs, because there are warm memories," Brant Ward, tells Bloomberg’s Jeff Green and Cotten Timberlake. Ward runs a website on the history of the original Ward Baking Co., which was founded by his great-great-grandfather.

“Business was so brisk” at the Hostess Bakery Thrift Shop in Sacramento, Calif., “that the store's manager was forced to shut the doors temporarily at 1:30 p.m. so employees could restock empty shelves,” reports the Sacramento Bee’s Edward Ortiz. A “crestfallen” John Harvey, who was turned away at the door, tells Ortiz he was shopping for his children. “I grew up eating Twinkies, Ho-Hos and Sno Balls –- all the standard stuff," quoth Harvey. "It will be a loss. We've all grown up with the Twinkie."

But if we don’t see Hostess Cupcakes, Twinkies and Wonder Bread on a shelf near us in the foresee able future, why I’ll eat my 15-grain whole wheat slice of bread –- hold the margarine, please, and make that jam organic. But, in fact, I’ll eat that anyway, as will many others who have nothing but the fondest memories of the bread that “Builds Strong Bodies (somewhere between 8 to 12) Ways” and it’s sugary brethren. The brands have been done in more by the march of time than of organized labor.

Time’s Josh Sanburn explores the underlying reasons for Hostess’ demise, beyond all the labor and management strife. “The Way We Eat Has Changed,” the hed declares. Indeed, there are a plethora of options for breakfast (particularly yogurt), dinner and snack time. Then, “to a lesser extent, we’ve also become much more health-conscious,” he writes.

Throw in the facts that “Hostess appears to have gotten stuck somewhere in the ’60s and never really recovered. It failed to innovate. It rarely advertised. It didn’t successfully market itself. And it didn’t contemporize its products” and you have the perfect recipe for a sock hop featuring Wonder Bread fondue on the buffet table.

But the brand names are magic. And the sweets are addictive.

“I think we’ll find buyers,” CEO Gregory F. Rayburn told ABC News on Sunday. ”A few have surfaced already since Friday expressing interest in the brand to acquire them.”

That’s good news to most, no doubt, but perhaps not for the person who has a box of Twinkies for sale on eBay this morning for “$15,000,000.00 or Best Offer.” Shipping is free.

Tags: food
Recommend (3) Print RSS