The subject of the day is not to be taken lightly! In fact, you can take it lightly because it is mostly sugar and air.
However, from the age you might be – and I’m only guessing – you probably haven’t consumed one (or more) in decades.
I’m here to chat about Twinkies.
The little rascals are only nine years older than me; some may have been on the shelves just as long.
Twinkies were designed and developed by James Dewar in Schiller Park, Illinois in April 1930.
James (probably unrelated to the Scotch named Dewars, or the Twinkies might have had an interesting flavor) but, I digress – Twinkies and Scotch will get you there – James was a Canadian born baker for the Continental Baking Co.
He acknowledged that the cream-filled strawberry shortcake that Continental made was extremely limited by the short strawberry season – in 1930 strawberries did not come from the southern hemisphere as may happen in this century.
James thought “why should these machines sit idle outside of strawberry season?” So he made a cupcake with banana cream filling (apparently bananas last longer than strawberries but you can’t put them in the fridge).
He dubbed his creation the “Twinkie”, a name inspired by his vision of a billboard in St. Louis advertising “Twinkle Toe Shoes” (don’t ask).
Twinkies were spreading even during the Depression days, then World War II came along and bananas were rationed.
There’s no denying their share of the snack market. The Twinkies have switched to vanilla cream. The movement proved popular, and Banana Cream Twinkies were never widely reintroduced.
Life looked good for Twinkies in the 21st century, when sales plummeted to 36 million packages, down 20%, and Hostess Foods (now the owner) filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Their reasoning was that customers had migrated to healthier foods – there was only one way forward.
Twinkies was off market shelves (some may have persisted) for about six months before Twinkies and other hostess brands were bought out of bankruptcy for a whopping $410 million; Apollo then sold Hostess for $2.3 billion, making a good return on investment (the company’s executives probably also got a lifetime supply of Twinkies, no, just kidding).
Just before the bankruptcy, Hostess had reduced the size of the Twinkies to 85% of their original size and a corresponding drop in calories, but I’m sure the price stayed the same.
In theory, this gave the average Twinkie a shelf life of 45 days (more on that later).
Twinkies are made in Mexico as “Submarinos” and “Tuinky” by subsidiaries of the Mexican bread company “Grupo Bimbo” (not to be confused with the Hollywood “Beach Blanket” films of the 1960s).
Well, there’s more to Twinkies than meets the eye or the stomach.
As I jokingly mentioned (I think), an urban legend claims that Twinkies have infinite lifespans (maybe like honey). The idea that Twinkies can last a relatively long time, say 10, 50 or a hundred years due to the chemicals used in their production (I don’t want to know) has been debunked by the folks at Twinkies (planned obsolescence?).
A company executive told The New York Times in 2000 that the “Twinkie is on the shelf no more than 7–10 days.” The initial shelf life was supposed to have been 26 days; then in 2012, the addition of stronger preservatives increased it to 45 days.
In a recent test (2020), a box of Twinkies from shortly before Hostess went bankrupt in 2012 was opened. The results: one had been completely molded with cladosporium; a second had a small amount of mold and the cream filling in a third had turned brown, giving the taste of “old sock”. I’m curious to know the taster who was able to make the comparison with the “old sock”.
The Twinkie Tale takes Twice Telling – I love alliteration – so I’ll go over some interesting corollaries of Twinkie’s theorem in next week’s “Trivally Speaking”.