July 9, 2013 -- Hostess Brands LLC is preparing for the return of the Twinkie in a week, without unionized workers, company stores or the pile of debt the predecessor company accumulated.
The Twinkie's shelf life will be 45 days when the baked good returns to grocery stores on July 15. That's almost three weeks longer than the 26 days the former Twinkie was supposed to stay fresh.
Customers can look forward to Twinkies, CupCakes, HoHos, Donettes, DingDongs, Zingers, fruit pies and mini muffins in the coming days while SnoBalls and SuzyQs will be back in the next few months.
Hostess Brands, based in Kansas City, Mo. had stopped operations at the last of its 11 factories in November after failing to reach an agreement with its second biggest union, the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers & Grain Millers International Union. The company filed for bankruptcy on Nov. 16. The new owners of Hostess have cut the number of plants to four and the products will be sold through convenience and grocery stores only. Some 600 Hostess thrift stores have been closed permanently.
Other differences for the new product include how the goods will be distributed. Company spokeswoman Hannah Arnold said "90 percent of the product will still be delivered fresh," but some will be delivered frozen.
"A select number of customers - representing only about 10 percent of Hostess' distribution - have explicitly requested to receive frozen product," Arnold said. "This allows the retailer to date the product for freshness, provides flexibility in filling their shelves and has no impact on the quality or taste of the products. The decision is up to the customer - the only stores that will receive frozen product are those that request it."
She said the Twinkie's extended shelf life is not new news, however.
"The improvement was made under the old company, products were introduced to the market on Nov. 1, 2012 prior to the company's liquidation and prior to the sale of assets to the new owners," said Arnold, who declined to comment about what methods were used to extend shelf life.
Mira Calton, nutritionist and co-author of the book, Rich Food, Poor Food, said freezing a product prior to delivery would "most likely require additional preservatives and dough strengtheners being added to the recipes."
Arnold said the snacks will be just as customers remembered them.
"When consumers are finally able to bite into Hostess snack cakes again on Monday, they are going to have the same delicious experience that has given these products their enduring appeal," she said. "Very minor tweaks have been made to improve product quality, such as using dark cocoa instead of milk chocolate in the CupCakes to make them darker and richer."
The prices are also not changing. A 10-pack box of Twinkies retails for $3.99, much lower than the hundreds of dollars some eBay sellers were asking for last year when the Hostess folded.
Hostess was first established in 1930 and was based in Kansas City. After emerging from bankruptcy in 2009, the company moved its headquarters to Irving, Texas. By the time of its second bankruptcy, it had $1.3 billion in debt, none of which the new company has taken on.
The new owner and chief executive, C. Dean Metropoulos, is planning for 50 million Twinkies to be in stores during the first two weeks of the comeback. Hostess is operating factories in Schiller Park, Ill.; Columbus, Ga.; Indianapolis and Emporia, Kan. The company expects to have about 1,800 employees within months, according to a company spokeswoman.
"The new ownership is absolutely committed to baking top quality snack cakes and, in fact, is making major investments to ensure that Hostess products are as good, if not even better than before," said a spokeswoman for the new company, Hannah Arnold.