Hostess with the leastest
Dying for one last Hostess Twinkie? Don’t be in too big a rush, if you can find any, to blame the stubborn workers who struck, rather than accept significant wage and benefit concessions unilaterally imposed by their bosses. Company management, which had been in bankruptcy for eight of the last 11 years, seems as much to blame for standing by a product line that was about three decades behind the times.
The fast-buck artists who snapped up the last Twinkies on store shelves and are now trying to unload them on eBay for $10 apiece may get stuck with them — much in the manner that speculators who bought cases of Billy Beer did when Jimmy Carter was president.
Not that there’s much chance the cakes will ever grow stale — too many preservatives for that. But there are already reported to be buyers lining up to acquire the rights for the company’s iconic products — Twinkies, cupcakes and Wonder Bread. So there may be a happy ending, of sorts, to the story: jobs for many of the 18,500 workers who have now lost theirs, many of them after agreeing to concessions that the company’s 5,600 bakers resisted.
But it would be surprising — and foolish, really — if some company does buys Hostess and continues to bank on the kinds of products it hung its hat on long after Americans’ snacking tastes had changed. Preservatives were only part of the unhealthy elements of those cakes and breads: too much processed white flour, refined sugar, sodium and saturated fat. To some extent, Americans have been eating less of those and more whole grains and unsaturated fats, such as are found in foods like granola or nuts.
Even competitors that still make the former types of snacks — like Kraft, Sara Lee and Nabisco — are making them healthier these days, or at least offering healthier versions of them for consumers to try. And they’re marketing them so consumers know to look for them. Hostess dropped the ball on both counts (but kept right on making those cloyingly sweet snowballs).
There’s been quite a bit of nostalgia generated by the Hostess liquidation story of the past week, including the aforementioned run on Twinkies, but even if a new baker steps forward to make them, we doubt that within a few months’ time — after all the hoopla has died down — much demand for these products will remain. Why else did it keep going bankrupt?