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 beginning of a revolution, right up there with the Toll House and Oreo cookie. No longer did anyone have to ferret out a bakery or crank up the oven for a snack attack. Six years later, the Continental Baking Company, who had struck gold with their packaged white Wonder® bread, named their new creations Hostess and they were a hit. In 1930 an employee named Jimmy Dewar came up with a sponge cake named Twinkies®. and they surpassed cupcakes by a mile. Twinkies are an American icon, with half a billion sold each year.
But it wasn’t until 1947 when a machine was invented that injected creme filling into the cupcakes and Twinkies, captivating its customers by providing not only an individually wrapped confection, but one crammed with creamy filing. What an idea. As other products were added to their repertoire, including fried fruit pies, Ding Dongs and Ho Hos, the snack cake category was secured with no end in sight. Currently a staggering 11,000 cakes are produced every hour, so joke all you want, but Hostess is smiling from ear to ear.
Although the ownership has turned over several times in its history, and faced bankruptcy, those snack cakes keep coming and their popularity continues to this day, proving Americans with that artificial creme filling and the convenience of grabbing a snack 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, alongside booths selling deep-fried funnel cakes. Featured in numerous films and cookbooks, the Twinkie continues to reign despite comedian’s jokes and celebrity chefs’ sneers. (One has to wonder if there are secret fans who indulge privately.)
Even though preservatives are used for prolonged shelf life, the company insists that Twinkies are scrapped from your local grocer after 10 days, making way for more “fresh” ones. Here is the current Hostess snack cakes hit parade:
1) Ho Ho’s – top seller, basically a rolled version of Ding Dongs
2) Twinkies – the butt of endless jokes, it still ranks high on the list
3) Sno Balls – marshmallow coated chocolate cake rolled in flaked coconut
4) Ding Dongs – shaped like hockey pucks and covered in chocolate
5) Suzy Qs – unfrosted cake with creme filling
6) Cherry Pies – fried and easy to eat by hand
7) Vanilla Zingers – creme-filled oblong cakes, vanilla reigns
8) Chocolate or Orange Cupcakes – the classic, complete with white squiggle on top
9) Crunch Donettes – people of all ages begin their day with these mini-treats (easily eaten while driving)
10) Mini Muffins – not exactly bakery quality but still popular
Currently, top competitor Little Debbie brand, started by the McKee family during the 1930s and still a privately held corporation, occupies the lion’s share of space on the snack cake aisle, which once was 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, when the company took off nationwide, racking up a staggering 157 billion snack cakes sold, which totals 1.4 billion dollars in annual sales, followed by Hostess at 670 million dollars.
Perhaps actress Ann Blyth just did it for the money, or maybe she really did feed her own children snack cakes, but either way, those sweet packaged goodies are cranked out so fast they probably are pretty fresh. Any way you slice it, when it comes to our sweet tooth, we’re all still kids at heart.