Twinkies may return to store shelves this summer -- but may face some competition from imitation brands that popped up in its absence.
Stand down Twinkies hoarders, you can start eating your secret stash.
Twinkies will hit store shelves nationally by late July, Michael Cramer, executive vice president of Hostess Brands LLC told NBC News on Thursday. "We expect to be making and selling in July," he said. "Probably the later half of the month before the product hits the stores."
All of the classic Hostess snack brands will return, some making their return in August and September. Hostess Donettes and some of the snack cakes will be among the first to return. And "Twinkies for sure," Cramer said.
In November, all 36 Hostess Brands, Inc., plants shut down after an extended stand-off with the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union. That Hostess company has almost completely wound down its operations, selling its assets in pieces. The bulk of the Hostess Snacks brands the public knows best -- Twinkies, Cup Cakes, Ho Hos, Zingers, Ding Dongs and Suzy Q’s -- were purchased in April for $410 million by hedge funds Apollo Global Management and Metropoulos & Co. Other Hostess lines, such as Wonder bread, went to affiliates of Flowers Foods, while its Beefsteak bread brand was snatched up by Grupo Bimbo, S.A.B. de C.V.
It is the new company, Hostess Brands, LLC, that will start hiring this weekend to resume operations with 200 employees at the Dolly Madison Bakery in Columbus, Ga., one of the locations shuttered in November.
Besides the Georgia location, Hostess Brands, LLC also bought plants in Schiller Park, Ill.; Emporia, Kan.; Indianapolis, Ind.; and the Atwater Village section of Los Angeles, Cramer said. At least some of those will resume operations simultaneously with Georgia. Emporia, which is already hiring, according to listings on online job sites, will likely be among the reopened locations, he said. Corporate operations will be run out of Kansas City and Dallas.
As the hiring resumes, it will not be in conjunction with the unions, Cramer said. "We're sure not going to invite the unions in. We don't have to do it," he said. Though of course nothing prevents the workers from unionizing down the line, he said.
But when Twinkies return to the shelves after an absence of more than six months, it will find competition.
Flowers Foods, Inc., which purchased some of Hostess’ other assets, has its own Twinkies lookalikes. Its Blue Bird brand sells Bingles while its Mrs. Freshley label sells Dreamies cream-filled cakes. McKee Foods’ Little Debbie brand also makes its own Twinkies twin called a Cloud Cake. The name’s even trademarked.
A spokesman for Mexico-based Grupo Bimbo, the world’s largest bread baker and the owners of Sara Lee and Entenmann's brands in the United States, on Wednesday declined to say whether it was considering its own Twinkies competitor in the United States. But should Grupo Bimbo decide to jump into the fray, it has a pretty good options on hand.
Bimbo already makes a Twinkies lookalike in Mexico called Submarinos, which are available with vanilla, chocolate or strawberry filling. Bimbo Bakeries USA since 1997 has been importing strawberry-filled Submarinos into the United States under its Marinela brand catering to Hispanic customers. In 2012 it started importing the vanilla ones as well, a company spokesman said.
After this story was originally published, a reader sent a picture of another Twinkies clone he said recently hit shelves in Los Angeles. The packaging of the new Golden Creme Cakes state they are made by the Sara Lee division owned by Bimbo Bakeries USA. However, David Margulies, a spokesman for Bimbo Bakeries USA, said the company could not comment.
The hard-core Hostess fan will return to Hostess, but the discretionary snackers will be the key market to regain, predicted Gary Karp, the executive vice president at Technomic Inc., a food industry research and consulting firm. "Their absence has allowed people to try a variety of products that are out there," Karp said.
Karp said the only concern would be if Hostess changed any ingredients, which Cramer said will not happen.
"Everything will be as delicious and fattening as it always was," Cramer said.
First published April 25 2013, 9:03 AM