Originally, I considered the title of this post to be The Bell Tolls For Twinkies – or maybe May Twinkies Rest In Peace. You may guess that I’m not a fan of Twinkies, and it’s not just the fact that they’re horrible for you, but how they effect communities and contribute to food deserts. A recent Bloomberg article, “Americans Are Obsessed With Eating Healthy—and With Twinkies“, notes that most people are eating healthier these days minus their continued obsession with Twinkies. This almost made me spit out my coffee, why would anyone feel nostalgic for Twinkies?
I thought Twinkies were dead, or least in a slow death and gasping for air, so why the heck are they popular again? Don’t people know the real impact of Twinkies? Don’t they know what they do to our bodies? To our communities?
In the 70s, I worked for Continental Baking Company, the parent brand of Wonder Bread and Twinkies. ITT acquired Continental in 1968 and immediately began closing intercity bakeries (Chicago, Detroit, Cleveland, etc.) and moving to the suburbs where land was cheap and production lines could be laid out efficiently. Consequently, perhaps unintended, inner city poverty continued to rise as jobs became harder to come by. ITT tried to give inner city bakeries away – conned a few non-profit into taking them and setting up “training programs.” Then Continental started on focusing the typically American manufacturing pitfall – cheaper is better. The original Wonder Bread and Twinkies were a huge change for the diet of poor folks, and inexpensive and easily available. Mass production made it possible to put bread on the table every day – and an occasion dessert at an affordable price. Of course, this all came at a cost to society in the forms of poor nutrition, childhood obesity, and lower wages.
On November 21st, 2012 Hostess announced they were heading to bankruptcy along with their iconic Twinkies. I relished the news, and had a good chuckle that the very same capitalistic system that ITT used to close inner city local bakeries in the name of profits, was the one that ultimately led to its demise. The irony.
Unfortunately, my joy was short lived. On March 12th, 2013, the Apollo Global Management company (the new owners of Hostess), announced that Twinkies would be back on the shelves in July. I remember shaking my head, yet knowing this is how the “system” works. Everything in the name of profits.
This month it was announced that Twinkie flavored cappuccinos would be going sale. Coupled with the news that more people are buying and eating the nostalgic brand suggests a creamy filled future for the brand. I can’t help but think back to the original decision by ITT to move jobs out of the city and create more industrial production process. While I know this is common in the world of manufacturing, I feel that some sort of justice was cheated when Twinkie came back to the shelves. The brand deserved to die based on my experiences with ITT and the impact to the communities.
The Twinkie and Continental experience makes me think about moral hazard. Corporations can do whatever they want, regardless of their impact on communities or society. I fail to find the benefits of Twinkies availability in society, they’re empty calories. It directly contributes to wider waistlines, offers little nutritional value, and the parent company ends up being bought and sold by capital management companies. Where is the justice in this? Twinkies deserve to die, not live on.