Understanding the end of a Twinkie era

by Josh Sosland
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The announcement of plans to close the Schiller Park, Ill., baking plant where Twinkies were invented 84 years ago drew quiet expressions of nostalgia in the news media. The dampened response likely reflected the view that the closing was largely a footnote in a larger story for a brand that already had experienced such extraordinary upheaval.

Hostess Brands L.L.C. said the closing was in response to the highly competitive snack cake environment the company was experiencing as it sought to restore market share from companies vigorously fighting to hold gains achieved when Hostess was out of production. While it may be expected this battle will continue to play out intensely for some time to come, it is hoped that the most feverish competition will be in the sphere of innovation, injecting excitement in a category that has been languishing for many years.

Along these lines, the fact Schiller Park was still in operation is perhaps what could have been viewed as surprising (actually, the current facility in Schiller Park dates back only to the 1960s, not the 1920s). The snack category is as dynamic as any in the packaged foods business, and sustained success for snack cakes will be tough and require forward thinking. Still, the energy being poured into the category by its highly focused players represents a hopeful sign for a product with a rich history and the potential for a bright future.

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