Boomers Lament The Woes At Hostess Brands

Karlene Lukovitz neatly sums up the issue that has landed Hostess  Brands –- union labor, it says -- back in bankruptcy court in her story below. The financial troubles of the maker of such American classics as Twinkies, Ding Dongs, Hostess Cup Cakes and Wonder Bread (Builds Strong Bodies!) et al., has elicited emotional outpouring of grief and nostalgia across the net. What greater imprimatur could a product carry than an endorsement from Howdy Doody, Clarabell and Uncle Bob Smith for people of a certain age.

As Chapter 11 bankruptcies go, this is not on the quantitative scale of, say, General Motors, points out Mike Spector, the Wall Street Journal’s bankruptcy reporter to Evan Newmark, host of the WSJ’s “Mean Street” video show. Replies Newmark: “It’s not that big a bankruptcy but it has great meaning to those of us, like me, who have been lifelong fans of the Twinkie and the, uh, Ding Dong –- was that their’s also?”



Indeed it is. Along with other not-necessarily-good-for-you crowd pleasers. One glance at the logos on the company’s “Our Products” web page tells us that they would never pass muster at the Aesthetics Dept. at Whole Foods.

“But those with sweet-tooths across the country need not fret,” according to Ben Protess in the New York Times. “Hostess said its return to bankruptcy would not disrupt the company’s sale of baked goods.”

“With generations of loyal consumers, numerous iconic products and a talented and experienced work force, Hostess Brands has tremendous inherent strengths to build upon,” Hostess president and CEO Brian J. Driscoll says in a statement.

“Twinkies was the best darn-tootin’ idea I ever had,” once proclaimed Jimmy Dewar, who created it, Protess reports. You gotta a guy who uses “best darn-tootin’” to describe his brainchild, and assume that it is blessed with the kind of wholesomeness you can’t get from quinoa. Here’s the official version of how it happened:

“Seeing a need for an inexpensive product during the Depression, Dewar made use of shortcake pans that were only used during the strawberry season. Dewar's idea was to inject the shortcake with a banana crème filling to make them a year-round treat and sell them two for a nickel. Dewar's quest for a catchy name ended on his way to St. Louis to present his sweet invention. Driving down the highway he passed a billboard advertising “Twinkle Toe” shoes, and from this the Twinkies name evolved.”

With a Twinkie in his eye, IB Times’ Tom Dworetzky avers that the demise of the snack would lead to the very end of nerd-dom as we know it. Quoth an “old programmer” in his piece:

“Twinkies, the very life-blood of all real programmers, are going out of existence! The programmer universe is turning into a collapsing star and the yellow center of all energy is growing dim. We would have no software at all without the legendary Twinkie, that non-foodstuff that could never go bad, and which fueled all our multiday programming runs since the dawn of time.”

Dick Schindler, a retired supermarket executive who in his youth was a Twinkies taste-tester, writes on MSNBC’s that “the treat beloved by baby boomers has changed to something not as good.” All you really need to know is that today’s version has a shelf live of 14 days.

Personally, chocoholic that I am, I preferred Hostess Cup Cakes, with a similarly creamy treat inside and delectable squiggle of white frosting on top of the chocolate layer. And let us not forget Wonder Bread, which had a squishy, malleable texture to it unlike the coarser, but healthier, breads we are compelled to eat today that seem to have more varieties of whole grains than we knew existed in nature a few years back. And that lily-white sheen of Wonder Bread made a Skippy’s Peanut Butter and Welch’s Grape Jelly sandwich pop in a way that that sandpaper-colored bread is just not capable of doing.

I remember seeing a whole grain version of Wonder Bread a few years ago but I treated it with the wariness you feel for someone who has never paid back that $20 he borrowed despite his having become a successful Social Media Baron. There must be something deficient in its character, I thought.

In Ad Age, E.J. Schultz has a timeline story about “How the Twinkie Became an American Legend” replete with trivia such as "Twinkiegate." (That took place in 1986 when a grand jury indicted a  Minneapolis City Council candidate “for serving Twinkies to senior citizen groups in violation of a law prohibiting candidates from providing food, drink or entertainment to gain votes.”)

Some would say that Hostess Brands’ failure to adapt to changing tastes and values is responsible for its troubles. Others wonder how they could possibly fail, given the fact that many of us talk a healthy foods game but have a sweet a tooth as needy as the next hypocrite.

"You can't pick up a paper without reading about obesity in America," Adam Hanft, CEO of brand-strategy firm Hanft Projects tells the Los Angeles Times’ Walter Hamilton. "It seems like it's pretty bad management that they can't take advantage of a trend like obesity."

2 comments about "Boomers Lament The Woes At Hostess Brands".
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  1. Douglas Keeney from LD Keeney & Company, LLC, January 12, 2012 at 9:02 a.m.

    Really, this is misreported. This is yet another company loaded up by a private equity/lbo group. Ripplewood, this time. The product is great; the balance sheet is the story.

  2. Ted Biederman from MotorwayAmerica, January 12, 2012 at 12:03 p.m.

    That would be Buffalo Bob Smith...and you need to try a deep fried die for, and from.

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