Will no one come to the defense of Twinkies?

September 27, 2004|By KEVIN COWHERD

THIS IS HOW great civilizations crumble, when a way of life erodes bit by bit and the citizens stand by and do nothing.

Look what's happening with Twinkies.

Maybe you heard that Interstate Bakeries Corp., the nation's largest wholesale baker and maker of Hostess Twinkies and Wonder bread, just filed for bankruptcy protection.

The company will now try to make a go of it with $200 million in bank loans and a corporate turnaround specialist at the helm.

But if the turnaround doesn't work, it's sayonara for Twinkies.

If the company goes down, it's the end of an American icon: the little golden sponge cakes with creamy filling that have nourished sugar junkies for nearly 75 years.

And if Twinkies bites the dust, whose fault will it be?

Well, I'll tell you whose fault it'll be, Mr. and Ms. Consumer.

It'll be your fault.

Your fault because you just flat-out stopped buying Twinkies years ago.

You started listening to the Health Gestapo and it did something to your head, and you've never been the same since.

Maybe you bought into this whole low-carb madness, where a meal of steak, bacon and eggs was suddenly good for you while a fluffy lump of enriched wheat flour shot full of sugar, corn syrup, vegetable shortening, dextrose, etc., was suddenly evil.

Or maybe you were watching your saturated-fat intake or your sugar intake or your cholesterol, or whatever.

It was always something with you, wasn't it?

Oh, you were going to live forever.

Your body was a temple, your second home was in the gym, you swore off caffeine, you were running 81 miles through the hills every night and blah, blah, blah.

Twinkies were the tool of the devil, and you reminded everyone of this as you sat there smugly eating your granola bars.

Why, you wouldn't even let your kids eat Twinkies.

When the little monsters wanted a snack, you gave them raisins and apple slices, instead of the rich, gooey jolt to the nervous system they craved.

In the supermarket, you hustled the kids past the Twinkies aisle like it was porn.

"No, forget it, we're not buying that stuff," you'd say in that superior tone as you scooped up a package of dried apricots - Mmm, yummy - and tossed it in the cart.

Oh, yeah, if this whole restructuring deal goes down badly, you have only yourself to blame.

You killed Twinkies.

May God have mercy on your soul.

OK, fine. Maybe I'm being a little hard on you consumers.

Maybe it wasn't just a diminished customer base that killed Twinkies.

Because according to industry analysts, if Twinkies goes to that big Product Graveyard in the Sky, Interstate Bakers will have to share part of the blame, too.

Apparently, the company did a lousy job of keeping its product line fresh and innovative.

Over the years, except to the company's loyal base of aging baby boomers with a sweet tooth, eating Twinkies became about as hip as playing mahjong.

Interstate didn't market them the right way, especially not if it had wanted to hook a whole new generation of fat little kids with a Twinkie jones.

Look, do you realize that Twinkie the Kid, the little walking, talking sponge cake with the cowboy hat, cowboy boots and bandanna, is still this product's mascot?

Twinkie the Kid's been around so long he should be using a walker, shouldn't he?

In those old Twinkie commercials, he was always thwarting evil by taking on cattle rustlers, or promoting the general welfare by stopping stampedes, remember?

I'm sorry, but that's just not going to get it done if you want to be a player in today's highly competitive kid-food market.

If you want to hook young people today, you have to dress Twinkie the Kid in hip-hop gear and $200 Oakley shades.

You have to have him chasing down the bad guys in a Cadillac Escalade, or an Apache helicopter with twin-mounted 50-caliber machine guns and rocket launchers.

And when the bad guys have been defeated, Twinkie the Kid can't just smile benignly and hand out Twinkies to all the children like he used to do.

No, these days you'd have to show him clubbing with some fine-looking babes, raising a glass of Cristal on the dance floor and winking at the camera.

Times have changed, is what I'm saying.

But Twinkies ... Twinkies should be eternal.

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