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Twinkie, Twinkie, little star...

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Hostess, the company that makes the Twinkie and other snack cakes, said last week it would shut down as the result of a labor dispute.

That may not be the last word; on Monday, the company and its union agreed to enter mediation. Even if it were to shut down, it's possible that some other company might buy the Twinkie name and recipes. But the immediate risk brought the familiar snack cake to the forefront of popular culture over the weekend.

Near sell-out

"Most stores are pretty close to being completely out if not already out," said Melissa Eads, spokeswoman for Kroger supermarkets in Tennessee, in an e-mail.

"When we run out of the inventory we have, that is it. We won't get any more unless somebody buys the company and re-starts production, etc."

I asked readers of my Times-Gazette blog last week for their reactions.

"I'm not a Twinkie man myself ...." quipped the reader with username Lazarus. "Do you have any inside information about the future of Ho-Hos and Ding-Dongs?"

Expensive lunch box

Steve Mills, an expert on the online sales site eBay, noted that a lunch box featuring the advertising mascot "Twinkie The Kid" was sold for $690 on Friday.

"Maybe Twinkies will come back...." wrote user Grits. "But I do feel sorry for the workers, who have homes, children, etc to provide for. Also all the investors that lost money in the stock."

Grits noted that a favorite candy bar, Reese's peanut butter cup, was made in Mexico, according to the label.

Union blamed

"I hate Twinkies," wrote user Jaxspike, "but it is sad to see so many people lose their job but the union employees caused that to themselves. They knew the company was in bankruptcy and went on strike anyway and demanded more and now they have no jobs. Seems pretty stupid on their part."

"If they stopped making Moon Pies, then I would really be upset," wrote user Cookie. "It is sometimes hard to find them in Plano, Texas. I would not rush out to find Twinkies."

"Twinkies or something similar will be made and sold either by Hostess or some other company/brand as long as there is demand and a means to produce them," wrote Liveforlight. "The buildings, equipment and skilled labor [are] not going to just vanish into thin air because of bankruptcy."

Catfish like 'em

While some have moaned the (at least temporary) loss of a food for themselves, user ChefGrape puts Twinkies to a different use:

"If you squeeze a piece of Twinkie down to a small ball the size of a marble and put a #6 hook in it and cast it out into Normandy Lake, you can have catfish for dinner! It must contain some of the same ingredients as a hot dog...."

A rumor floated briefly last week, supported by a forged or at least misattributed Associated Press story, that a Chattanooga company was about to buy the Twinkie brand. But the supposed AP story didn't actually come from AP, and soon the web site that had linked to it was making a retraction.

'Food icon'

"They were a standard when I was growing up," said Whitney Danhof of the University of Tennessee Extension, when the Times-Gazette asked for her reaction. "They're kind of a food icon. Probably not the most nutritious item that we can think of ...."

Danhof recalled that she found Twinkies "every once in a while" in her school lunchbox as a child.

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