In Da Boom, an episode of the animated series, Family Guy, the Griffins hide in their home’s basement in an anticipation of world-ending disaster striking due to the Y2K bug. At midnight, when the calendar switched from 1999 to the year 2000, their worst fears were realized as a nuclear holocaust destroyed much of the world and turned some of their neighbours into mutants.
To prevent starvation, Peter recalled that Twinkies are believed to be the only food capable of surviving a nuclear holocaust. With this in mind, Peter took his family on a trek to the Twinkie factory in Natick, Massachusetts. Upon arrival in the town, they found the factory intact and a plentiful supply of indestructible Twinkies on-hand. The wealth of Twinkies became the impetus for Peter to establish the community of New Guaghog.
Of course, its only an animated comedy episode and Hostess Brand Twinkies are not indestructible, but urban legends do persist about the “Golden Sponge Cake with Creamy Filling.” Besides Family Guy, tales of Twinkies’ long shelf life have been mentioned in movies such as Die Hard, Zombieland, Ghost Rider and Spirit of Vengeance.
The memory of Twinkies’ taste sensation in the U.S. seemed to have been destined to vanish with the bankruptcy of the Hostess Brands last November. At the time, newspapers across the U.S. were filled with lengthy articles mourning the loss of the snack food that millions of Americans had grown up to gobble down.
In Canada, the Twinkie never came to an inglorious end, since its Canadian rights are held by cheese company Saputo Inc., and its bakery division, Vachon Inc., based in Montreal, continued to produce the cream-filled cake while Americans cried crocodile tears over the loss of their home-grown treat. But the spongy yellow cakes were never as popular in Canada as in the U.S. Canadians seem to prefer Vachon’s other snack foods such as Jos. Louis and May West.
But the tears of sadness will soon dry up and turn into tears of joy in the U.S. since the Twinkie is slated to be resurrected. A press release was issued by the private equity firms Apollo Global Management and Petropoulos & Co., which now owns the Hostess Brand, announcing Twinkies will again begin appearing on U.S. store shelves on July 15. And further good news for Americans is that the shelf life of yellow cakes will be increased to 45 days, which is nearly three weeks longer than the 26 days the previous owner of Twinkies had claimed.
A spokesperson for the new Hostess owners, Hannah Arnold, told the Associated Press that the change to extend the shelf life of Twinkies was actually made by the old company and the longer-lasting cakes had hit shelves on November 1 last year. But the old company went bankrupt and production of the longer-lasting Twinkies abruptly ended. As a result, Americans who hadn’t stockpiled the snack food had to put their Twinkie cravings on hold — that is, until July 15 when another production run of Twinkies begins.
To date, there’s no news on whether Vachon will be producing the longer-lasting cakes in Canada.
In the same AP article, Arnold declined to say how the shelf life of Twinkies was being extended, adding that it’s propriety information.
One thing company officials did mention is that some stores will receive frozen Twinkies that will extend their shelf life. Since the Twinkie packages will be delivered frozen, retailers will be able to stamp their expiry dates on the cakes.
As to whether the freezing would affect taste, Arnold said in the press release that “any suggestion that Hostess is changing the integrity of the iconic snack cakes consumers have loved is completely untrue.”
New York-based The Daily Ticker was told by a Hostess spokesperson that consumers “will have the same delicious experience” as before.
The marketing tagline for the reintroduction of the Twinkie is, “The Sweetest Comeback in the History of Ever.”
Twinkies were invented in River Forest, Illinois, on April 6, 1930, by James Alexander Dewar, a baker for the Continental Baking Company. Dewar saw that several machines used to make cream-filled strawberry short cakes sat idle when the fruit was out of season, so he dreamed up a snack cake filled with banana cream. Dewar named it Twinkie after he saw a billboard in St. Louis for “Twinkle Toe Shoes.”
With the rationing of bananas during the Second World War, vanilla flavoured cream was introduced, and became popular with consumers of the snack cake. Banana cream Twinkies were only occasionally produced for promotions and the vanilla cream cakes dominated the market.
What makes Twinkies last so long on store shelves is that they contain no dairy products. In bakery goods, dairy products result in quicker spoilage. The list of Twinkie ingredients, despite the promise of a sweet, tasty treat, is rather unappetizing: enriched wheat flour, sugar, corn syrup, niacin, water, high fructose corn syrup, vegetable shortening — containing one or more of the following: partially hydrogenated soybean oil, cottonseed oil, canola oil, and beef fat, dextrose, whole eggs, modified corn starch, cellulose gum, whey, leavenings (sodium acid pyrophosphate, baking soda, monocalcium phosphate), salt, cornstarch, corn flour, corn syrup solids, mono and diglycerides, soy lecithin, polysorbate 60, dextrin, calcium caseinate, sodium stearoyl lactylate, wheat gluten, calcium sulphate, natural and artificial flavors, caramel colour, yellow No. 5, red No. 40 (Steve Ettlinger, Twinkie, Deconstructed, 2008).
What caused the fall of the Twinkie in 2012 was bad company management, debt, union stikes and the health craze sweeping the U.S. On May 4, 2012, Hostess filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection when sales for 2011 fell to 36-million packages, a two per cent drop from the previous year. On November 16, 2012, Hostess officially announced it was winding down operations and had filed a motion in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court asking for permission to close down and sell off its assets. On November 21, 2012, the request was approved and Twinkies seemed to have become a footnote in American history.
But there were still plenty of Twinkie fans and Internet campaigns were launched to bring back the less-than-healthy snack food. A group of devotees even created a “Save the Twinkie” Facebook page. They got their wish when the new Hostess owners recently announced that Twinkies would again be hitting U.S. store shelves on July 15.
Perhaps there’s some measure of truth to the urban legend that a Twinkie is indestructible.