No one was more upset about the demise of Hostess Brands than I was. Except perhaps for this kid from Mississippi.
Three-year-old Lucas wailed when he learned that his favorite Hostess chocolate chip muffins would no longer be available. My own reaction upon hearing the news about Hostess’ demise did not include tears, but it was certainly heartfelt, since their snacks were once a staple of my own childhood lunchbox. I remember to this day the flavor and texture of those pink coconut-covered Sno Balls, my favorite sugar coma-inducing Hostess treat.
But is the death of the Twinkie really such a surprise? Their 82-year-old parent company Hostess Brands has been in and out of bankruptcy several times since 2004. In March of that year, Reuters reported that the company cited “declining sales, high food costs, excess capacity and worker benefit expenses.” Now in 2012, ongoing contract disputes, union difficulties, a highly-leveraged capital structure and, some say, management’s failure to cater to changing consumer tastes, were all factors contributing to the company’s eventual end.
It’s been suggested that customer gravitation away from high-calorie preservative-filled foods, otherwise good news considering the growing girth of the American waistline, was the beginning of the end for Hostess.
Certainly I, for one, cannot remember the last time that I bought a package of that “Golden Sponge Cake with Creamy Filling,” and I doubt that anyone’s taste buds tingle at the thought of ingesting cellulose gum, partially hydrogenated soybean oil, polysorbate 60 and red #40, which are just some of the 37 ingredients listed on a Twinkies nutritional label.
Low nutritional food value notwithstanding, a great many people found something inexplicably attractive about the little yellow snack cakes. After all, until the recent strike and union problems, Hostess was cranking out 1,000 a minute at its 33 bakeries. The Washington Post reported that Americans bought $47 million worth of Twinkies in 2004. You could buy them at your supermarket or your 7-Eleven, and a millions of little kids were still finding them in their school lunchboxes.
When news of Hostess’ potential liquidation first hit, there was an outpouring of grief across the Internet. Millions of baby boomers are currently mourning the passing of Ding Dongs and Ho Hos, and asking themselves, ‘if the supposedly indestructible Twinkies can vanish, then what can be next for me?’ Junk food or no, many will miss these iconic brands of their youth.
In reality, obituaries for Twinkies, et al may be a little premature, considering that there seem to be plenty of other companies eager to buy the brands and keep cranking them out for nostalgic consumers. This means that sweet treats like Twinkies, Sno Balls and the like may be back on store shelves sooner than expected. Whether the new products will exactly replicate the old ones, or be reformulated for healthier tastes and lifestyles remains to be seen.
However, this may not be such sweet news to the 18,500+ former Hostess employees who will most probably not find jobs waiting for them at any new buyers’ already fully-staffed plants. Sad to say, their future is a lot more uncertain than the fate of the snack treats they used to produce.