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Death of the Twinkie, and of the ‘Twinkie defense’

Twinkies may be an iconic snack food, but that wasn't enough to save Hostess.
(Paul J. Richards / AFP/Getty Images)

With Hostess -- the maker of Tinkies, Ding Dongs, Wonder Bread and the iconic cupcakes with creamy filling hinted at by the loops of white on their chocolate-frosting tops -- announcing plans to close its operations, comes the shocker that not only will future generations probably be unfamiliar with the so-called Twinkie defense, they probably won’t even know what a Twinkie is.

That’s OK. Not because the Twinkie represents the ultimate in junk food -- there are plenty of sweets around just as highly processed, as lacking in nutrition and laden with various forms of sugar and artificial ingredients. But because, let’s face it, though people of a certain age went through a period of life where these represented the perfect lunchbox treat, Hostess products aren’t really all that wonderful.

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Some people have attributed Hostess’ demise to a newly aware, health-conscious public; others blamed the evils of unions. The public’s greater awareness about food, and the company’s labor problems, certainly played their part. But if Hostess had been a robust company before its most recent union situation, would it have closed? Unlikely.

I suspect a bigger factor is that Hostess was simply out-competed. People flock to specialty cupcake stores, the ones that place colorful, whipped-to-the-ceiling frosting on their confections. And they also buy cheap junk. But Hostess was neither. It was too low-class for customers who sought a fresher or richer-tasting treat, and not as low-priced as the stuff in the dollar stores. It’s niche was nostalgia, which is good for a purchase every few years, maybe.

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But how many of you boomers have been doing your part on a regular basis to keep the brand alive? I thought so.

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