Friday, November 16, 2012

The Sunset of Twinkies?

In the hilarious post-apocalyptic zombie comedy Zombieland, Woody Harrelson's character "Tallahassee" has a serious craving for Twinkies.  He's met with some unfortunate turns of events, like finding a wrecked Hostess truck that is literally full to brimming with...Sno Balls.  His frustration is epic, and the irony is actually kind of tragic.  In a post-apocalyptic wasteland where finding fresh food is starting to become an issue, the poor guy can't find what he really wants.  They'll keep you alive, Sno Balls.  But if it isn't what you have a hankering for, it stops being a fun food and starts being unpleasant survivalist fare.  Like eating Tofurky on Thanksgiving Day, when what you really want is a great big slice of real ham.

Did you click on the link?  Did it work for you?

Of course it didn't.  The End Times are upon us.  Twinkies, that indefinable food product whose shelf life is supposedly most easily measured with a Mayan calendar, might be nearly done.

In fact, Twinkies are no more stable on the shelf than any other snack cake.  But compared to many other foods, they remain palatable in the wrapper much longer than other offerings, so while their shelf life isn't appreciably longer than anything else, they are tolerable longer than other items.

Why might Twinkies be done?  Because Hostess appears to be going the way of the dodo.  And why is that?  It looks like there are a few vectors pushing the ball in this direction:

1) Consumers are moving more toward healthier choices.  The Twinkie, and indeed most of Hostess' offerings, have never been associated with a healthy diet, not even white bread in the last 20 years or so.  (Hostess is also the purveyor of the ancient Wonder Bread brand)  As consumers move away from poor diet choices, Hostess is left high and dry as the tide goes out.  It was one thing when kids ran around all day and burned off all that fat and moms stayed home and made dinner, but so much of America's diet already comes out of boxes, cans and fast food bags that shoppers are choosing slightly less self-destructive snack food options.  At least, I hope that's what they're doing.  I'm tired of the "fat American" stereotype.

2) The Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union was striking hard against Hostess to try to force them to continue contributing to the pension fund.  This is where I butt up against the liberals: I strongly believe unions have had their day.  Now it appears to me that unions exist for only two reasons: money and power.  Neither of these is actually for the sake of the workers they ostensibly represent.  Unions wield tremendous power, yes...but the power they wield is destructive.  They browbeat the employers with the capacity to idle plants by calling the workers away from their jobs.  But what about when such activity is so destructive to the company that the company is forced to close?  That's exactly what is happening here.

Now, BCTGM, answer me this: how will you support all those workers now?  You exist to support the workers in their relationship with management, but that management is disappearing.  The Hostess company is going away, and taking 18,000 jobs with it.  I ask this question: if the jobs disappear, what happens to BCGTM representation for all those workers?

I strongly suspect they will be out in the cold.  I will investigate this further and report back.

Hmm.  At this moment, I cannot get on their website.  I bet it's completely inundated with traffic as a result of this, or else perhaps they have taken it off line for a while.  God knows I wouldn't want to hear what people had to say about me, if I had been a proximate cause in the dissolution of 18,000 jobs in the face of a new recession.

And there's the last vector: 3) the looming recession.  In the face of the so-called "fiscal cliff," people are going to be watching their money even closer than they have for the last several years.  Junk food is one of those things that people stop buying.  It's a luxury.  Granted it's a small luxury and an inexpensive one, but when you're taking jars of coins to the bank so you can afford groceries, you don't tend to spend it frivolously at all, not for anything.  A once-in-a-very-long-while treat for the kids, maybe.

Honestly I won't miss Twinkies.  I didn't like them much as a kid.  They were too sweet and not especially pleasant in the mouth, all gooshy and oozy.  If Twinkies and Sno Balls are gone (especially Sno Balls, I hate coconut with a pathological passion), I won't spend one instant wishing they could come back.  And besides, some other snack food company may buy the rights to the name and the recipe and keep Twinkies in production.  

But at this moment, it looks like Tallahassee's quest for Twinkies may be futile.

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