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Published: Tuesday, 7/16/2013 - Updated: 12 months ago

The Twinkie's triumphant return

Consumers not shy about missing beloved golden spongecake

BY JANET ROMAKER
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Hostess Twinkies made their officially return to the grocery shelves in Toledo, Ohio on Monday. Hostess Twinkies made their officially return to the grocery shelves in Toledo, Ohio on Monday.
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Talk about a feeding frenzy.

In a twinkling, customers are clearing store shelves of boxes of Twinkies, those iconic cakes filled with cream and rich in childhood memories.

Yes, they're back.

And it's about time, said several Twinkies fanatics, singing sweet praise to the Hostess with the Mostest.

"Twinkies, it's why I came here," said Sheryl Davis, 49, of Lambertville, as she clutched a box of Twinkies at a Walmart store on West Central Avenue in Toledo on Monday, the official launch date for the Big Comeback. "I knew Twinkies were coming out today. I have liked Twinkies since I was a kid."

When the "say it isn't so" news came months ago that production of Twinkies would cease, she purchased several boxes, but those didn't last long, and oh, how she has missed those golden sponge cakes.

Hostess Brands Inc. struggled for years before filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization in early 2012. Workers blamed troubles on years of mismanagement and failure of executives to invest in brands to keep up with changing tastes. The company said it was weighed down by higher pension and medical costs than its competitors whose employees weren’t unionized.

Last November, plans to liquidate Hostess were announced, triggering a sugar rush. Stores sold out of Hostess snack cakes within hours; predictably, eBay bids started soon after.

Hostess sold off its brands in chunks to different buyers. Metropoulos & Co. and Apollo bought Twinkies and other Hostess cakes for $410 million.

Boxes of Twinkies proclaim the return as "The Sweetest Comeback In The History of Ever."

And some boxes could be collector items. Through an agreement with Hostess, Walmart is selling exclusively designed boxes, featuring a First Batch gold-and-red ribbon, situated near Twinkie the Kid who gives a "Howdy there" wave from atop a cream-filled cake.

Although larger stores, such as Kroger, Meijer, and Walmart, are already selling Twinkies, several other Toledo area stores have not yet received shipments.

Mary Bath Shearman, of Toledo, said she was glad Twinkies are back. Mary Bath Shearman, of Toledo, said she was glad Twinkies are back.
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At Walt Churchill's Market in Maumee, the classic cakes are expected to arrive today, said Kunal Dawar, assistant store manager/grocery manager. Although the store ordered extras, the product had been an off-and-on seller, perhaps, he said, because the market tends to draw health-conscious customers who shy away from cakes packed with calories (270 per serving) and carbs (46g).

At Kroger on Monroe Street, a few boxes of Hostess snack cakes remained in the store; another shipment was to arrive Monday night, a store employee said.

Some 1,600 Walmart stores started selling Twinkies on Friday, and a total of 3,000 stores had the product on shelves on Sunday, the full-rollout date.

"So far, customers are very excited that Twinkies are back," said Veronica Marshall, Walmart spokesman, who described Twinkies as an American icon, a product linked to folks' childhoods. That link apparently is pretty strong: some Walmart stores already have sold out of Twinkies. Shelves will be restocked quickly, as early as today in some markets.

Walmart sells a box of Twinkies (10 individually wrapped cakes per box) for $2.98, Miss Marshall said. Manufacturer's suggested price, she said, is $3.99.

Terry Burkholder, 52, of Lambertville, has no passion for the calorie-packed product. "I never have liked them. I like the Hostess CupCakes. I'm more of a chocolate girl," she said.

Let's not sugar coat it....Twinkies could never be confused as a health food.

But chew on this: the cakes sweeten the pot when it comes to childhood memories.

Lucy M. Long, director of the independent, nonprofit Center for Food and Culture based in Bowling Green, studies the meanings of food. She said Twinkies carry a lot of memories for people, particularly for those who frequently took the sponge cakes in their school lunches.

Although there is much emphasis today on eating locally grown, organic food, "individuals like to feel a little rebellious," Ms. Long of Bowling Green said.

Sometimes, she said, people want to be able to enjoy a food and not invest it with morality and ethics. "Food is very complex," she said. People can savor Twinkies and "enjoy being in the moment."

And for this moment as fans celebrate the sponge cake's return, some customers are stashing away extra boxes, just in case shortages occur.

Ms. Davis only bought one box of Twinkies, but she was nearly giddy about the golden cake's return. Any plans to save the Twinkies for a special occasion? Um, no. The wait was over. "I'm eating one as soon as I get in the car."



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