Hostess with the most
The story begins in 1919 when the world was introduced to what is now known as the Hostess® Cup Cake at the bargain price of two for 5 cents. It was the start of a revolution, right up there with Toll House and the Oreo cookie. No longer did anyone have to search for a bakery or fire up the oven for a snack attack. Six years later, Continental Baking Company, who had struck gold with their Wonder® packaged white bread, named their new creations Hostess, and they were a hit. In 1930, an employee named Jimmy Dewar came up with a sponge cake called Twinkies®. and they beat cupcakes by a mile. Twinkies are an American icon, with half a billion sold each year.
But it wasn’t until 1947 that a machine was invented that injected cream filling into cupcakes and Twinkies, wowing its customers by providing not only an individually wrapped confection, but a cream-filled one as well. What an idea. As other products were added to their repertoire, including Fried Fruit Pies, Ding Dongs and Ho Hos, the snack pastry category was assured with no end in sight. A staggering 11,000 cakes are currently being produced per hour, so joke all you want, but Hostess is smiling from ear to ear.
Although ownership has changed several times in its history and faced bankruptcy, these snack cakes keep coming and their popularity continues to this day, proving Americans with that artificial cream filling and the convenience of grabbing a breakfast cake. Deep-fried Twinkies are a popular item at many regional and state fairs each summer, as Americans line up for this high-fat treat, along with stands selling deep-fried cones. Featured in numerous movies and cookbooks, the Twinkie continues to reign despite the jokes of comedians and the mockery of celebrity chefs. (One has to wonder if there are secret admirers who indulge in private.)
Although preservatives are used for an extended shelf life, the company insists that Twinkies be thrown out of the local grocer after 10 days, making way for “fresher” ones. Here is the current hit parade of Hostess sweets:
1) Ho Ho’s – the best selling, basically rolled version of Ding Dongs
2) Twinkies – the basis of endless pranks, still ranks high on the list
3) Sno Balls – chocolate sponge cake rolled in shredded coconut
4) Ding Dongs – shaped like hockey pucks and covered in chocolate
5) Suzy Qs – unglazed cake with cream filling
6) Cherry pies – fried and easy to eat by hand
7) Vanilla Zingers – cream filled oblong cakes, vanilla reigns supreme
8) Chocolate or orange cupcakes – the classic ones, topped with white sprinkles
9) Crunch Donettes – People of all ages start their day with these mini treats (easy to eat while driving)
10) Mini Muffins – Not exactly bakery, but still popular
Currently, the biggest competing brand, Little Debbie, founded by the McKee family in the 1930s and still a privately held corporation, occupies the lion’s share of the space in the snack cake aisle once dominated by Hostess. Their Oatmeal Creme Pie remains the flagship product, followed by Swiss Cake Rolls and Nutty Bars® Wafers. Dozens of additions have been added since 1960 as the company expanded nationwide, amassing a staggering 157 billion snack cakes sold, totaling $1.4 billion in annual sales, followed by Hostess at $670 million.
Maybe actress Ann Blythe just did it for the money, or maybe she actually fed her own kids candy bars for breakfast, but either way, these cute packaged treats are so quick to make that they’re probably pretty fresh. However you slice it, when it comes to our sweet tooths, we’re all still kids at heart.