The Spectacle Blog

The Harbinger of Hostess

By on 7.17.13 | 12:00PM

Which American entity was developed in Illinois, has a history of dealing with labor unions, and is full of crap? No, I’m not talking about Obama; I’m talking about Twinkies! These cream-filled golden treats are returning union-free and more indestructible than ever to shelves nationwide. After a seven-month hiatus, Twinkies reenter the market this week with a refined target demographic of young males, and a recipe that extends its notorious shelf-life to a hefty 45 days.  

After a dispute with the bakers union caused debt-riddled Hostess to file for bankruptcy last year, Metropoulos & Co. bought out the snack cakes part of the Hostess brand for $410 million.

CEO C. Dean Metropoulos intends to sell Twinkies anywhere candy bars such as Snickers and M&M's are commonly sold. Metropoulos will be working on Hostess brand promotion with his sons Daren and Evan. The Metropoulos family’s 78 previous consumer acquisitions include Pabst Blue Ribbon, Bumblebee Tuna, Chef Boyardee, and Vlasic Pickles.

Dave Lubeck, executive vice president of the ad agency in charge of the multi-million-dollar Hostess marketing campaign, said, “[W]e’re really trying to move beyond the grocery store consumers into the convenience-store target, which is a younger male.”

The campaign, entitled “The Sweetest Comeback in the History of Ever,” will employ banner ads, a Hostess food-truck tour, and social media, according to The Wall Street Journal. There is even talk about bringing in a celebrity pitchman in the same way Will Farrell represented Old Milwaukee, another brand resuscitated by Metropoulos.

Twinkies and its Hostess brand brothers—Ho Hos, Cupcakes, Ding Dongs, and Sno-balls—are ingrained in the American identity. As the Metropoulos family reinvents and rebrands the longtime snack, the Twinkie moves from symbolizing obesity, greed, and union corruption, to exemplifying American capitalism at its best. 

Debt and pension obligations previously prevented Hostess from investing in research, product innovation, marketing, or upgraded production methods. Since its bankruptcy, Metropoulos and Co. has invested in modernizing several plants, replaced union employees, and streamlining distribution by redirecting delivery through retailer warehouses rather than having unionized truck drivers deliver directly to stores. 

However, the Metropouloses foresee a challenge inherent in transforming a timeless product. Brand consultant Simon Mainwaring summarized Hostess rebranding as “a competition between nostalgia and nourishment.” The Metropoulos family will have to keep the traditional long-time fans hooked while also making innovative appeals to an increasingly health-conscious America.

Twinkies span four food groups, and yet they are practically devoid of nutritional value. On top of their efforts to slim down the operational side, the Metropoulos family has a longer-term vision that allocates research and development money to creating leaner products such as whole grain Twinkies, new flavors such as peanut butter, lower-calorie snack packs, sugar-substitute, or gluten-free Twinkies. 

Shedding the glut of labor union control has allowed the new Hostess to realize its position as a golden enterprise synonymous with American exceptionalism. C. Dean Metropoulos expects Hostess to be profitable in the first year of operation, achieving sales of over $1 billion. Other Hostess products will return to stores later this year. Happy rebirthday, Twinkies.

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