WDEL Blog: Allan Loudell

Amateur home cooks compete to make a Twinkie knock-off

Who could have predicted? With the parent company going extinct, Twinkies have become a hot commodity on the Internet and at stores.

That quintessential Chicago area grocery store chain - Jewell-Osco - is selling the final shipments of the sugary snack food. One could imagine some folks getting Twinkies in their Christmas stockings or under the Christmas tree.

I confess: I don't get it. (As you know, not the first time for me.)

Even as a kid, I just wasn't into Twinkies. Too sugary, too greasy. I wasn't into Ding Dongs either, but at least they were chocolatee. In fairness, I'm not the best person to judge. I generally avoid cakes and pies. If I'm going to indulge, I want a premium deep chocolate bar, ice cream, mousse, or even a dark beer with chocolate notes.

I don't remember kids eating Twinkies from their lunch boxes. Bluntly, during some minor mayhem in our junior high school cafeteria, I remember some misfit smashing a Twinkie into some poor kid who HAD brought a Twinkie to school in his lunch box.

So I don't get it. Maybe in your circle, Twinkies were popular.

But more likely, I suspect, people are lamenting the demise of the Twinkie (at least for now) because they sense another small part of the America they grew up with is simply evaporating. It may not have been the most wonderful thing in the world - or savored by everyone - but Americans sense loss. And, in a silly sort of way, Twinkies - full of sugar and chemicals - are most politically incorrect, but seemingly innocent.

That said, it's interesting to read people for many years have been trying to make their own versions of Twinkies, absent the chemical ingredients, such as cellulose gum and polysorbate 60.

Read this account from The PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE & The TOLEDO BLADE...


Posted at 2:36pm on December 11, 2012 by Allan Loudell

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Comments on this post:

Tue, Dec 11, 2012 9:03pm
It sounds like entrepreneurs are attempting to fill the void of our Twinkies supplier Hostess. If they wish to succeed these Capitalists better locate in a right-to-work state or they will suffer the same fate as Hostess. Unions killed the Twinkies.

I will have to see how these "experimental" Twinkies compare to the original if they are available locally...nothing quite like a couple Twinkies and a cold can of Dr. Pepper for a tasty snack.

Wed, Dec 12, 2012 3:53am
I've been having some blood sugar issues lately, so I gotta stay away from this stuff.

Allan Loudell
Wed, Dec 12, 2012 6:36am
Mr. Grey---

I'm afraid I can't let your statement, "Unions killed the Twinkies" go without some rebuttal.

Let me quote from Helaine Olen in the business-oriented, FORBES, responding to the assumption that the striking workers bore primary responsibility for Twinkies' problems:

"Time for a reality check.

Hostess has been sold at least three times since the 1980's, racking up debt and shedding profitable assets along the way with each successive merger. The company filed for bankruptcy in 2004, and again in 2011. Little thought was given to the line of products, which, frankly, began to seem a bit dated in the age of the gourmet cupcake.

As if this were not enough, Hostess Brands' management gave themselves several raises, all the while complaining that the workers who actually produced the products that made the firm what money it did earn were grossly overpaid relative to the company's increasingly dismal financial position..."

Get it? Workers keep making concessions. Management keeps rewarding itself, even if undeserving. Money men and lawyers profit along the way from all those mergers. Meanwhile, little is done to update the product line - or to market it - in a more health-conscious era. Before this latest nostalgic kick, who regularly bought & consumed Twinkies and very white Wonder Bread? I'm not saying the union is blameless. But it's a much more complicated picture.

Indeed, let me quote from Hank Cardello, a senior fellow at the (conservative) Hudson Institute, writing in the November 21st FORBES:

"It ultimately doesn't matter that the mediation between Hostess and its bakery union failed (yesterday). Any settlement would have been only a temporary step back from the cliff. The real problem: Hostess' management never figured out how to transition its product portfolio amid a sea change in consumer tastes, to have the kind of product-line evolution that companies such as Coca-Cola, General Mills, and Danone all mastered. So any wage concessions would have just postponed the judgment day.

Hostess blamed its bakers for its problems, and many commentators have been quick to cite other reasons such as unsustainable operating costs, private-equity backers that loaded Hostess with too much debt, and increasingly health-conscious consumers who no longer want Twinkies, Ho Hos, and Donettes..."

Please note the above citation of "private-equity backers that loaded Hostess with too much debt". Hmmmm. I'm trying to remember: Who this past year suffered from his close identification with a private equity firm?

Allan Loudell

Mike from Delaware
Wed, Dec 12, 2012 7:46am
Here's a side note that might make some sense. I think most of us here would agree that the Bakers' Union's greed and stupidity put Hostess out-of-business thus causing the end of an American icon (never personally liked Twinkies, always preferred Tastykake products). Is it possible that in Michigan, where the legislature just voted to make their state a Right-to-Work state, represents some backlash against what the unions did to Hostess? If Hostess had been located in a right-to-work state, Twinkies would still be be manufactured today, because that union wouldn't have been able to get away with what they did. I'm not saying it was the cause of the Michigan vote, but might it have contributed to the 'yes' vote for Right-to-Vote?

Allan Loudell
Wed, Dec 12, 2012 8:01am
Mike from Delaware:

Two points & an argumentative conclusion: One, From my interviews with folks in Michigan, it appears organized labor may have overreached by pushing a proposed amendment to the Michigan state constitution which would have enshrined the rights of organized labor. Michigan voters repudiated it, giving the Michigan G.O.P. a pretext to push such right-to-work legislation at this time.

Two, ironic that Texas - home to Hostess - is a right-to-work state.

Finally Mike... Did you not read the material above from FORBES about how inept managers - nonetheless giving themselves hefty rewards - and outsiders making big money at Hostess's expense, contributed heavily to Hostess' sorry state? I realize you're not a big fan of organized labor, but given your passion that the rich bear their fair share in the case of taxation, surely you could understand how certain moneyed people extracted everything they could from that company without giving a damn about its future. Again please re-read the FORBES quotes above.

Allan Loudell

Wed, Dec 12, 2012 9:17am
True, Texas is a RTW state and true Hostess has not been doing very well for the past two decades but the final nail in the coffin was hammered in by union reps. I will miss the Twinkie but, as with many other products, the demand was not there and they could not sell enough to stay in business.

This is how GM should have been handled as well...only they were rewarded for their mismanagement and failures to produce quality products people want with a bailout funded by taxpayers thanks to GW Bush and Obama. I wonder what yesterday's vote in Michigan will do to the "big three" auto makers and the UAW?

Wed, Dec 12, 2012 9:26am
BTW, a RTW state does not mean unions can't exist it means people can choose whether or not they want to work for a union and pay union dues. In my past I worked two union jobs and forked over my dues every paycheck...they gladly took my money but I never saw any better pay or work conditions (other than muliple forced breaks every 2 hours w/o pay).

Mike from Delaware
Wed, Dec 12, 2012 10:12am
Allan, I don't always get to read the articles, when at work I only have a few minutes in a break to read what the others post and then comment based on what I already know. However, that too may have also happened and would definitely weaken Hostess, but even in the face of losing all their jobs, the union wasn't willing to work with Hostess, which ended the business. So yes, they sure did punish those greedy managers. I agree it would be great if some sort of punishment could be meted out on those clowns, but we both know that's not how it's ever worked at any business. Managers close ranks to protect each other, etc., etc. So bottom line: The union may have punished those managers, but they cut off their own noses to spite their faces. Not too bright in my opinion.

Wed, Dec 12, 2012 4:35pm
I believe no one is reading the quoted articles Allan posted. You would not be blaming unions...

Hostess management stole money out of the union's pension fund to fund their top executive's bonuses among other things... The union decided to strike. The management used that as an excuse to close down the company.

Of course, as management is want to do, one can say, we are closing because the union is striking... In truth, the union was striking because management "stole" their money... As was portrayed similar to Romney and Bain Capital, this investment group came in, first gutted the company and secondly, loaded it with debt, not to invest in the company, but to pay themselves; then they used the retaliatory strike as an excuse to declare bankruptcy. I read the account of one person who'd been there 25 years primarily because of the pension he was paying into... That now goes to the creditors, and last week, the management asked the bankruptcy court if they could receive their 4th-quarter bonuses first, before the company gets divvied up...!

I know people blame labor because of their past experience with it... However, corporate power is far, far, far more corrupt and worse for America than any Union ever was...

Some union detractors point to the millions of dollars of funds used questionably. However corporate America misuses Billions of funds on a daily basis. I think every big bank is currently facing judgments? I think many investment houses were fined also for selling stock by praising it, then putting the short option on it themselves because they knew it would fail....

In today's world, unions are the good guys, our last line of defense.... They need our help; not us tossing a grenade at them from behind while they are fighting off our enemies to keep them from entering our homes with impunity.

Mike from Delaware
Wed, Dec 12, 2012 6:08pm
Allan: I just skimmed the article you have posted above... it's about making your own Twinkies. I don't see any article from Forbes about the company big-shots stealing pension money. So what are you and others talking about?

Allan Loudell
Wed, Dec 12, 2012 6:41pm
I posted the Forbes quotes in my 6:36 a.m. "comments". Sorry for the confusion. I just wanted to make sure you'd have the principal points without threading from comments.

You can find these articles (or other similar ones) using your search engine. It's interesting this stuff appears in the business press, not just liberal magazine websites.

Allan Loudell

Mike from Delaware
Wed, Dec 12, 2012 11:15pm
Kavips: Can't the union sue the corporation and the corporate leaders for misuse of pension funds? Seems there are laws against that.

Thu, Dec 13, 2012 12:05am
Unions can be good and are also allowed in right-to-work states...but like everything else with power (corruption and ultimate corruption), unions like SEIU, AFL-CIO and UAW are no longer for capitalism and definitely no longer for the "little guy". They are about power. The more union employees = more dues...which means more power. If this power seems to be slipping away, they resort to violence.


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