Menu 

The bankruptcy of Twinkie the Kid

The snack cake business is cutthroat. It’s a business that most analysts agree is running over capacity while enduring withering attacks from health advocates.

When Hostess Brands officially applied to liquidate all assets this week, I pictured mascot “Twinkie the Kid” doubled over in an alley as Little Debbie wiped off a shiv and threw it in a Dumpster. The Kid wouldn’t last long; technically, he had three holes in him already.

The idea of losing Twinkies forever seems impossible. It is the prototypical American food: a mass-manufactured imitation of cake that is portable, cheap, and will last far beyond the zombie apocalypse. Twinkie the Kid is a cowboy, for crying out loud. What’s next? Country music? Air?

The Kid is not alone. I shudder to think of a life without Ring Dings, Devil Dogs, Yankee Doodles or Funny Bones. Even Zingers, those red-headed stepchildren of Twinkies and Sno Balls, will be mourned during those late-night trips to the convenience store. The citizens of Washington and Colorado will now have legalized marijuana, but they’ll be left with only Swiss Rolls and TastyKakes to fight off the munchies.

The Kid has been resilient through the years — when’s the last time you had a stale Twinkie? Unlike a fruit pie, even a squished Twinkie at the bottom of a lunch bag can be salvaged.

Still, Hostess Brands is guilty of mistakes, the most egregious of which revolves around their bread. Wonder Bread is the Mitt Romney of the sandwich bread family; it couldn’t get any whiter if you painted golf clubs on it and taught it to square dance. It’s a bad sign when my entire generation deified mothers who took the time to cut the crusts off their bread before packing our school lunches. When you make something taste better by taking some of it away, you have a problem!

It’s also a problem to saddle your product with a weird name, like “Beefsteak” rye bread. Beefsteak? The name alone makes me throw up in my mouth a little. What, “hearty” was already taken?

They won’t keep Twinkie the Kid down for long, however. Rivals that couldn’t corral the Kid the last time Hostess filed for bankruptcy in 2004 will snap up most of its iconic brands. Last year Barnes & Noble paid $13.9 million to acquire (former) rival Borders’ Internet domain names, websites and trademarks. The Detroit Free Press reported that annual Hostess revenues are still at $2.5 billion, with Twinkies alone bringing in $68 million in revenue so far this year. These American branded products become very attractive in developing markets, where a Russian “Twinksty” might have a whole new life cycle. Like the Twinkie itself, these Hostess brands won’t die easily.

Unfortunately, even a revived Twinkie won’t necessarily bring back the 18,500 jobs lost if liquidation is approved through the bankruptcy court (just ask those 11,000 Borders employees who lost their jobs last year). All kidding aside, this is the real tragedy. Regardless of who bears the blame for failing to keep these factories baking, we’ve lost a part of our cultural history as the Kid rides into the sunset.

Hostess chose to shut down its website on Monday morning with a note that read like a treehouse sign: “Hostess Brands is Closed.” It was as simplistic and child-like as the products that made it famous. As a result, future deliveries will be made through eBay rather than grocery stores.

Little Debbie better watch her back.

 

You can read more at RobertFWalsh.net and contact him at rob@RobertFWalsh.net or follow him on Twitter @RobertFWalsh.

About author

By participating in the comments section of this site you are agreeing to our Privacy Policy and User Agreement

© Hersam Acorn. All rights reserved. Fairfield Sun, 1000 Bridgeport Avenue, Shelton, CT 06484

Designed by WPSHOWER

Powered by WordPress