Nov. 21, 2012 at 7:43 AM ET
ISMAILIA, Egypt -- Worried about the fate of those moist yellow sponge cakes with a creamy white center? Look no further. Twinkies still reign supreme in the land of pharaohs.
On Friday, the iconic manufacturer of Twinkies, Ding Dongs and Wonder Bread closed 33 factories and announced plans to lay off 18,500 workers over an acrimonious labor dispute. Hostess was headed to U.S. Bankruptcy Court in New York on Wednesday, seeking permission to liquidate its business.
But in Egypt – and most other Arab countries – Twinkies are popular treats that sell themselves.
Twinkies and Ho Hos are so popular that the local producer, Edita, no longer bothers to advertise and the treats still bring in a sweet 47 percent of the company's profit. Edita markets to the Arab Gulf, Yemen, Iraq, Syria, Jordan and Lebanon and is expanding to other countries.
"It is our top seller. Everybody buys it!" said Mohamed Sarwat, who works at the Mecca Market in Ismailia, Egypt, where Twinkies have pride of place behind the counter.
Twinkies are considered better than most of the locally produced packaged cakes and have the cachet of being a real American product made with high-quality imported ingredients. They taste like the real deal, if a little less spongy than their U.S. counterparts. That can't be said for fudgy tasting Boreos, a not-quite-ready-for-prime-time Egyptian knock-off of Oreos.
Twinkies are a favorite of school children in Egypt. The cushiony confections sell for an affordable 7 cents in school cafeterias and for 14 cents in stores. Imported snacks of a similar kind can run up to five times as much.
The local producer of Twinkies is suffering none of the ills faced by Hostess in the U.S. and its production is continuing as planned, a source close to Edita told NBC News. Since the ingredients for Twinkies are imported from outside the U.S. and are produced locally, Egyptian addicts should be able to look forward to that little foil-wrapped piece of comfort well into the future.
There is also hope beyond the Middle East. Mexican company Grupo Bimbo may be angling to resurrect Twinkies from the ashes.
Grupo Bimbo reportedly had an eye on Hostess for almost a decade, since they saw it as a key ingredient to North American expansion. Additionally, economists say high sugar prices tied to U.S. trade tariffs were a big reason Hostess was struggling. Grupo Bimbo, with its access to lower-priced sugar in Mexico, could be a lifeline.
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