Business Buzz
Hostess Shutdown Sets Off National Snack Attack
Friday, November 16, 2012 - 11:01pm
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The post-Hostess hysteria has begun. With the announcement that the bankrupt 82-year-old snack-maker is winding down its operations amid a week-long strike by one of its labor unions, fans of the company’s Twinkies cakes and other products have been stocking up and clearing store shelves in some places.

“We are definitely seeing an increase in customers purchasing Hostess products and we expect that this will continue as news about the company spreads,” says Mike Siemienas, a spokesman for Minnesota-based Supervalu Inc., the country’s third-largest grocery-store operator with nearly 1,100 retail locations across the country.

On eBay, sellers posted hundreds of Twinkies listings, with some clearly angling for press coverage. Still, unopened boxes of Twinkies were selling for more than their usual supermarket prices, and a bobblehead doll of the Twinkie the Kid character was selling for more than $50.

The craze briefly struck our office too. A colleague who grew up in China had never tasted a Twinkie – a gross injustice that needed to be rectified immediately. My pursuit of the cream-filled pastries took me to seven stores in midtown Manhattan. Along the way, I found other shoppers also suddenly jonesing for a Twinkie fix. At one supermarket, the checkout clerk told me they didn’t sell any Hostess products, but that she was a big fan of the Hostess Bakery Outlet near her home. “I’m about to go there and stock up and get everything before it expires,” she said.

Hostess’s 33 bakeries may be closed, and most of the company’s 18,500 workers may be out of work. But for all the jokes about the fat lady singing for Hostess, Twinkies and Wonder Bread have probably not reached their ultimate expiration date.

Deliveries will continue and Hostess Brands retail stores will stay open for several days in order to sell whatever products have already been baked, the company said. Hostess will also be looking to sell its brands and assets, and new owners will likely get Twinkies back on store shelves eventually. “We anticipate there to be a lot of interest in our brands but do not have a specific timeframe for the sale of those brands,” the company said in an online FAQ.

Unless or until the brands are sold, Hostess products will disappear from store shelves. And for whatever reason, they proved surprisingly hard to find on Friday in midtown Manhattan – an area better known for Tiffany’s than Twinkies. 

Still, a stroll through the grocery stores offered ample evidence that we certainly won’t lack for alternative snack options. Sure, Americans feel a nostalgic bond with the Hostess brands – the company reportedly was selling about $2.5 billion worth of sweet treats a year – but we’ve got plenty of other pastries to gorge on, from store brands to Tastykakes to Hostess-style knockoffs sold by bakery brands like Mrs. Freshley’s, owned by Flowers Foods Inc., reportedly a potential bidder for some of the brands soon to be on the auction block. Whatever becomes of the beloved Twinkie, our waistlines won’t be suffering.

Executive Editor Yuval Rosenberg oversees coverage of business, the economy, technology and Wall Street. A former web editor at WNYC, Fortune and Newsweek, he also writes on a wide range of subjects.