As some of you may already know, Hostess Brands, Inc., the company who makes Twinkies, Ding Dongs, Sno Balls, and other popular baked goods, filed for bankruptcy protection on January 11 of this year. Finally on Friday, November 16, after striking workers refused to return to work, company officials decided to seek the court’s permission to wind down operations.
In 1930, James Dewar, baker and manager for the Hostess line of Chicago’s Continental Bakery, began searching for a way to better utilize the pans and equipment normally used only to produce shortcakes during strawberry season. His answer was a small, oblong, banana cream-filled sponge cake–a treat he called Twinkie, the name inspired by an advertisement for Twinkle Toe shoes.
Twinkies quickly became a favorite American snack food, sharing top honors with Hostess cupcakes, a product that had been around since 1919. During World War II, however, it became almost impossible to get bananas so the company changed to a vanilla filling. After the war, sales were so good that Hostess decided to keep the vanilla cream center.
At his San Francisco trial in 1978, defendant Dan White argued that he killed the city’s mayor because of diminished mental capacity brought on by binging on junk food the night before. Although the strategy didn’t work, it became known as the “Twinkie defense.”
In 1986, Twinkies once again became the central figure in a legal battle when a Minneapolis City Council candidate was indicted for bribing senior citizens with coffee, Twinkies, and other sweets in exchange for votes. This lead to the passage of the Minnesota Campaign Act, also referred to as the “Twinkie Law.”
Twinkies have also appeared in numerous Hollywood movies such as Die Hard, Ghostbusters, and Grease. And Archie Bunker, a leading character in the 1970s sitcom, All in the Family, loved them so much that in one episode he became furious at Edith for failing to include a pack of Twinkies in his lunch pail.
In spite of stories that Twinkies have a shelf life of 30, 50, even 100 years (it’s actually twenty-five days), and so indestructible that they can survive an atomic blast, America’s taste buds continue their love affair with this sugary, fat-filled delight. Seventeen Hostess bakeries across the country turn out 500 million Twinkies each year which comes to a mind boggling 1,000 of the cream filled cakes being produced every minute.
While Hostess’s liquidation could certainly mean the end of this iconic snack food, it will probably just create a temporary Twinkie shortage. Since the company plans to sell off its portfolio of snack food treats, and in fact already has several potential buyers, this popular, iconic American confection will most likely find new life under a different owner. But for now, those of you with a secret Twinkies stash need to make this difficult decision: Do I eat them, or sell them on eBay?