Hostess done? How can anyone go bankrupt selling junk food?
BY NEIL STEINBERG firstname.lastname@example.org November 16, 2012 3:44PM
Updated: December 19, 2012 1:26PM
How can anyone in America go bankrupt selling junk food? Given our ever expanding waistlines, given the seemingly infinite capacity to stuff our dribbling maws with processed garbage, one would imagine that Hostess would be Apple and Google combined, a business behemoth astride the world.
Twinkies. Ho-Hos. Those oversweet cupcakes with the squiggle on top — the creative folks must have been on vacation when it came time to assign those cupcakes a stupid name. Then again, the squiggle was the only part that was any good, a little pirouette of Americana, as beloved as the zig-zag on Charlie Brown’s shirt.
Now gone. All together now — “The end of an era!” At least for the moment, it seems, at least until Continental Baking sells off the brands to other companies that will manufacture them. Because nothing ever goes away anymore, all the nostalgia candy of the 1960s — Bonomo Turkish Taffy and Clark bars and such — are being made once again because somebody somewhere will buy them and eat them.
Not me. I never liked Twinkies, I will admit. Bland tubes of edible Lawrence Welk, everything mundane and forgettable about American gastronomy extruded into a blond tube, shot-injected with a kind of creme and wrapped in cellophane where they would be good forever, the urban myth went.
I didn’t believe that either — to me, Twinkies have no shelf life, because they’re stale as they come out of the factory. Which makes them something of a mystery, being both unpalatable and yet ubiquitous, the source of all sorts of weird cultural baggage — the famed Twinkie Defense after the murder of Harvey Milk, or that burglar who broke into homes, stealing only the Twinkies.
You’ll notice — actually, you won’t notice, because nobody notices them — that I left Sno Balls off the list of Hostess junk. Sno Balls were the forgotten stepchild of the Hostess pantheon of snacks. They were not bland, they were exquisite. Hemispheres of thick marshmallow, furred in coconut, wrapping a smaller mound of chocolate cake hiding a heart of creme.
You could eat them by peeling the marshmallow coating off, like skinning some small palm-sized alien creature, or bite right in and get your nose close to that coconut.
But that wasn’t the cool part. Nowadays, wild brand extension causes every other product to assume all sorts of wild forms — there are so many strange mutations of Oreo cookies, the size of marbles, the size of hockey pucks, all colors, flavors, manifestations, it’s as if they bake the things at Chernobyl.
But Sno Balls were pioneers, years ago, far ahead of the curve, changing for the seasons, dyed orange for Halloween, green for St. Patrick’s Day, yellow for Easter. As if they were putting on festive coats, just to please you.
I’d run out and get one now, were I not secure in the knowledge that the shelves were stripped of all Hostess products 12 hours ago by hoarders and investors and fanatics. That’s about the only way some companies can create buzz for their products — go out of business. A potent marketing tool. But you can only use it once.