80s Food Week: Hostess
Hostess, makers of 80s lunchbox favourites Twinkies, Ding Dongs, HoHos, Fruit Pies, Pudding Pies, Snowballs (white and pink), Suzy Qs, CupCakes (chocolate, vanilla and orange), and Zingers amongst others, has had quite a rebranding in recent years when America as a whole clutched its chest when the biggest news to hit snack food history since WWII sugar rationing shook us to the core: Twinkies were being discontinued.
Hostess Captain Cupcake and Twinkie the Kid courtesy PhakeNam
Let’s back up a bit: Hostess started in 1919 manufacturing those beloved little CupCakes. Their parent company, Continental Baking Company, began way back in 1849 under the name Ward Baking Company after founder Robert Boyd Ward and was later renamed Continental by his grandson in 1925. You’ll know Continental as the bakers who brought the world Wonder Bread which would forever make best friend out of Transformers lunch boxes and balogney sandwiches. Though the Hostess division only made CupCakes to start, they branched out obviously into other goodies up until 1995 when Contintental was taken over by Interstate Bakeries Corporation and by 2009 became Hostess Brands.
2012 was that terrible year Hostess disappeared from grocery stores following workers strikes, factory closings, bankruptcy, and rising prices on ingredients. Rumour was that other companies might buy and remarket individual Hostess favourites but the company pulled it together in time for a triumphant return to the shelves in summer 2013 now run by Apollo Management and C. Dean Metropoulous (with a collective sigh of relief across the land).
The controversial but beloved Twinkie is seen across the world as everything that’s wrong with American cuisine (besides chicken nuggets) and seen in the US as everything that’s right. Sounds good- “golden sponge cake with creamy filling” and apparently Canada and Mexico think so too- they have their own dedicated production plants. Invented in 1930, Twinkies were originally made with banana cream filling and got their name when baker James Alexander Dewar saw a St. Louis billboard for “twinkle toed shoes.” O–kaaaaaaaaaaaay.
Just what is Twinkie? courtesy Truemajik777
In WWII bananas were rationed and consequently yanked from the cream recipe leaving us with the vanilla goodness that survived to this day. 80s kids will recall a fruit and cream version from 1988 with strawberry swirled into the cream. Yeah, that didn’t do so well.
Popular legend states that Twinkies were created from a happy accident in the Ready Brek plant after explosion #2,246 and thus can survive nuclear holocausts (No, I made that Ready Brek part up- not the other)- or something like that because of their fabulous shelf life. Hostess says, “Um, no.” (official quote) and let’s be honest, we’d still be scarfing them anyway, bragging to our pals about how we glow in the dark now. However, officially Twinkies’ shelf life did increase from 26 days to 45 days in 2012 when Twinkies were planning their comeback to world domination. And let’s do the math -Chernobyl happened in 1986 and tours began in 2002 so you figure out how that shelf life got so long- uh huh? Is there a giant Twinkie cooking up in Reactor 4?
Other snack giants under the Hostess label are Dolly Madison (joined in 2013) whose claim to modern fame are Zingers (chocolate, vanilla and those wierd red ones with the shredded coconut coating) and Flower Foods whom you’ve probably never heard of but they’ve heard of you and have sold you some of their famous wares most surely- Little Debbie, Sunbeam, Nature’s Own, Mrs. Freshley’s, Bluebird, Mi Casa, and Tasty Cake. Try not to drool when I say Kandy Kakes- oh I caught ya.