Twinkie fans rejoice as the iconic treat returns

Bloomberg NewsJuly 15, 2013 

Twinkies Comeback

Twinkies are placed on the shelf at a Fry's Food Stores, Monday, July 15, 2013 in Gilbert, Ariz. The world's largest retailer announced Friday, July 12, 2013, that that they are making Twinkies available but asked retailers to wait until Monday to start selling the spongy yellow snack cakes. Fry's stated that they only received a small introductory shipment and expect a full stock by the end of July.

MATT YORK — AP

— In the movie “Zombieland,” Woody Harrelson had to slay three of the undead to get his hands on a Twinkie. Real-life junkies pining for the return of the spongy yellow creme log won’t have to go to such lengths.

On Monday, Hostess Brands officially revived the iconic snack cake, following a seven-month hiatus after the original company decided to liquidate under bankruptcy. The confection maker puts Twinkies, CupCakes and Ding Dongs in stores across the United States. Some retailers, including Wal-Mart Stores, couldn’t wait for the official rollout and began selling the cakes early. Hostess said it hadn’t given any retailers permission to sell its products before Monday.

Given Twinkies’ pop-culture status, Hostess’s return was in little doubt. Apollo Global Management and C. Dean Metropoulos & Co. came to Hostess’ rescue last year, paying as much as $410 million for the name. The new owners have resumed production, plan a fifth factory and expanded distribution. The Metropoulos family, always eager to milk a marketing opportunity, dubbed the revival the “sweetest comeback in the history of ever.”

“There is so much passion surrounding this brand and we’re looking forward to what’s in store,” Daren Metropoulos, a principal at the family firm, said in an email.

Hostess’s previous owners ended production in November amid its second bankruptcy in a decade. The news sparked a feeding frenzy and bidding wars on EBay, a yearning presciently foretold by Harrelson’s 2009 zombie action comedy.

“There’s a box of Twinkies in that grocery store,” his character Tallahassee said. “Not just any box of Twinkies. The last box of Twinkies anyone will enjoy in the universe.”

After Hostess started talking about liquidation in November, a 10-pack of Twinkies was quickly available on EBay for $24.99 and four 10-packs for $99.99 as store shelves emptied. Searches for the brand on Google jumped 11 times higher, while searches for Twinkies increased 17 times.

Last week, retailers scrambled to catch the latest Hostess wave. Grocer Albertson’s said on its website July 10 it was putting a “secret stash” of “Hostess gold” on sale early at select stores. Kroger also began selling the cakes in some stores, and they were available in a majority of Wal-Mart’s U.S. stores Sunday, the retailer said.

A small Hostess display at an Atlanta-area Wal-Mart was well-stocked on July 13, and there was no sign of a consumer stampede.

Hostess, founded in 1930, filed for bankruptcy in January 2012, less than three years after emerging from a first filing. That entity, now called Old HB Inc., has since been liquidating brands, recipes, plants and other assets. It failed to reach an agreement with striking bakers on concessions to help the company emerge from the filing under Chapter 11.

The new Hostess Brands, based in Kansas City, Mo., will be run by Chief Executive Officer C. Dean Metropoulos. He has specialized in purchasing and turning around struggling brands, such as Chef Boyardee and Bumble Bee Tuna. His firm also owns Pabst Brewing Co.

Hostess is free of the union contracts and $1.3 billion in debt that saddled the previous entity. Hostess is eliminating some products, such as Strawberry CupCakes, and adding manufacturing automation. About 600 outlet stores that sold near-expired products have been closed.

The cakes will be easier to find, too. Distribution will include 110,000 convenience stores by year’s end, up from about 50,000 previously, according to Hostess. About 90 percent of the cakes will be delivered fresh with a 45-day expiration. The other 10 percent will be shipped frozen at the request of some retailers, said Hannah Arnold, a spokeswoman for the new Hostess.

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