Dan Smith: Twinkies back, so forget dieting and enjoy them

Jul. 09, 2013 @ 11:21 PM

Next Monday we’re all in for a tasty treat. July 15 is when the world will be able to buy that old and reliable cream and yellow cake junk food known as the Twinkie.

Have you missed them since they went out of business? Of course they weren’t out of business very long, about eight or nine months.

Hostess had filed for Chapter 11 in January 2012. In November, they announced they would be shutting down. They had lost around $1.1 billion by then due to bankruptcy filings.

You’ll remember that Hostess also made Ho Ho’s, Sno Balls and Ding Dongs.

So why did they have to shut down? People were still eating the stuff; it’s not like everyone decided to go healthy on them. Sales had only declined about 2 percent.

Hostess was employing around 19,000 people, but was carrying a debt of $860 million. They were in a cash squeeze coupled with high labor costs and rising prices for sugar, floor and some of the other ingredients. This was not their first time in Chapter 11, having gone through it in 2004 to 2009, while continuing to make their cakes.

While in production, Hostess put out 500 million Twinkies a year of the 150-calorie snack. Did you know that they could last more years than you would believe before they went bad? Some history facts on how they were invented indicate they were created by accident or because of down time at the Continental Baking Co. in Illinois with their shortbread pans.

They needed to find something to do with the pans year round when strawberry season ended. A worker by the name of James A. Dewar (another brilliant Scot) came up with the idea of using the oblong pans to bake spongecakes, which he then filled with banana cream.

They always had a stock of bananas around. So you see, Twinkies once contained real fruit. During World War II, the fruit had to be rationed, so they filled the Twinkies with vanilla cream instead.

With no dairy products in the Twinkie, they had a very long shelf life and caught on with the American public. They were filled with cream — yeah, right. Twinkies became sponsors for shows like “Howdy Doody” in the ’50s. The snack with a snack in the middle.

Remember some of the commercials with the cowboy Twinkie lassoing a kid to get him to eat the Twinkie? They were even being deep fried at state fairs. They made appearences in movies like “Ghostbusters” and “Die Hard.”

Somewhere along the line, Americans started eating healthy and exercising. This didn’t bode well for junk food. So what was it: labor cost or people wanting to take better care of their health? Maybe both. For whatever reason, Hostess said goodbye.

Most analyists thought the Twinkie would be back. The company which brought back the Twinkie is Apollo Global Management LLC. They own Pabst Blue Ribbon and Vlasic pickles. They bought the 183-year-old company for $410 million, and renamed it Hostess Brands LLC.

They will have bakeries in Columbus, Ga., Emporia, Kan., Schiller Park, Ill., and Indianapolis. They may open another one in Los Angeles.

The new company plans to spend $60 million and hire 1,500 workers by September. The workers, though, will not be unionized. They have discharged the union contracts in bankruptcy. At the time of the annoucements about possible loss of jobs and loss of the complete company, I wondered why the unions would not want to bargin a little bit more dilligently to keep the factory opened. If they would have done that and compromised, they might still have their jobs.

Twinkies may be back, but not all of the Hostess brands will. In selling off assets, other companies bought Wonder Bread, like Flowers Foods. McKee Foods took Drakes Cakes.

I expect that Twinkies will do well with the Apollo Company because of other failing businesses they bought up in the past like Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s. With a trimmed down Hostress Brands, they will have a far less operating structure.

I haven’t had a Twinkie in over 30 years, but I think I’ll have one on Monday just to go back in time and reminisce about not having a strict diet and not caring what I ate or how much. It’s true, you know: the foods that taste so good are never good for you.

— Dan M. Smith is a Cincinnati native and Gatlinburg resident. He is the author of two novels. His son is serving in the Air Force. E-mail to dan0729@yahoo.com.