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Is it goodbye forever, Twinkies?

STEVE LEWIS/Durango Herald

Twinkies and other Hostess Brands products have been flying off store shelves at south City Market since the company announced Friday that it was going out of business.

By Robert Galin
Herald Staff Writer

Some people believe the Mayan calendar predicts the end of the world this coming Dec. 21. For fanatics of products such as Twinkies, Ding Dongs and Ho Hos, the apocalypse already is here with the immediate closure of Hostess Cakes Inc.

“All the Twinkies are gone,” said Lynn Hackler, manager of City Market south in Town Plaza.

She said once the store sells out of Hostess products, there won’t be any more.

Not all customers were hunting Twinkies; Hackler said one woman came in Saturday morning looking for Ding Dongs.

By about 11:30 a.m. Saturday, the shelves where the Ding Dongs and Twinkies had been just hours before were occupied by Little Debbie products.

There still were some Hostess products on the shelves, including Wonder Bread and the Donettes miniature doughnuts.

Hostess blamed the closure and liquidation on a continuing conflict with the bakers’ union. The company was seeking to substantially reduce wages and benefits, as it had successfully negotiated with the drivers’ union.

However, management missteps and a declining market share also led to financial problems, according to market sources. Part of the problem was lower demand for such unhealthy, fattening snacks, as well as the inability of Hostess to get younger consumers on the Hostess bandwagon, business analysts said in published reports.

In addition to the iconic brands listed above, Hostess also was responsible for Dolly Madison cakes and pastries, Nature’s Pride breads, Ho Hos and a number of well-known regional brands.

Because Hostess is a privately held company, some significant data about it aren’t available. Plunkett Research Inc. said salaries and bonuses for the top officer in 2011 were more than $1.4 million with a bonus of $1.3 million, despite declining market share.

The 83-year-old Hostess has put all of its brands and facilities up for sale, so it is possible that another company will purchase and produce the brands.

In the meantime, the Hostess frenzy, particularly centered around Twinkies, continues. As of noon Saturday, hopeful sellers had posted the cream-filled sponge cake for sale for as much as $20 million on the eBay online auction site. Little Debbie sells several similar products for a few dollars a box.

In defense of the Twinkie

The Twinkie in particular has become part of American folklore, gaining a reputation as a so-called food that will last for years without spoiling, can withstand a nuclear attack like a cockroach and causes people to commit murder but allows the perpetrator to get off – the “Twinkie Defense.”

In 1978, Dan White, a young, conservative San Francisco city supervisor, shot and killed the first openly gay city official, Harvey Milk, and progressive mayor, George Moscone.

White’s defense team argued that White had changed his clean-cut, healthy habits and ate only junk foods. One professional witness who testified mentioned Twinkies.

When White was convicted only of manslaughter and given a relatively short sentence instead of the death penalty, according to a 2003 article by Carol Pogash on SFGate, many media mistakenly dubbed White’s “victory” as the Twinkie Defense.

Nuclear-resistant sponge cake

According to Snopes and How Things Work websites, it is true that Twinkies are unlikely to spoil, but they do get hard and crumbly after a time. Hostess considers their shelf-life for staying moist about a month.

Students at Rice University in Texas did a number of experiments with Twinkies in 1995. Among these were rapid oxidation (burning, radiation (microwaving), a gravity check and solubility (water absorption).

The students followed standard scientific testing procedures, using two Twinkies for each experiment. One was a control Twinkie (which they ate after each experiment), and one was the test Twinkie (which they would have had to been awfully drunk to eat).

The surprising results of these experiments can be viewed at www.twinkiesproject.com.

For those who find any commercial substitute completely unacceptable, both the Food Network and other sources offer make-it-yourself Twinkie recipes.

If people just cannot wait for another company to buy Hostess or to make their own, there’s always eBay.

rgalin@durangoherald.com

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