Twinkies Back On Shelves Next Month, But Brand Could Still Face Trouble

Twinkies are back on shelves in a few weeks after the bankruptcy of Hostess last year, but some market experts think the sweet sponge cakes may face more trouble ahead.

Hostess went bankrupt last year after a battle with unionized workers over pay rates and other compensation. Hostess filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization in 2012, with years of mismanagement blamed for the financial straits.

Twinkies will return with a new structure, with Hostess delivering to warehouses that will supply retailers rather than delivering directly to the stores themselves. This is expected to reduce delivery costs and increase the reach of Hostess.

The change also allowed Hostess cut slash production, moving from 11 bakery plants down to just four.

But some market experts worry that Twinkies will come back to a shrinking demographic. Consumers are much more calorie-conscious today that in past decades, when Twinkies peaked in popularity, and the core group of customers who would buy the sponge cakes out of nostalgia is growing smaller.

“The biggest obstacle is that Twinkies are not exactly a good candidate for a millennial consumer,” said Stuart Leslie, president of brand design and innovation firm 4sight Inc. “Meanwhile, their nostalgic consumer demographic is getting old and health conscious. It’s going to be a tough sell.”

There is little doubt that Twinkies fans are devoted. After Hostess announced its bankruptcy, fans reacted loudly, even creating a Facebook page in an effort to save the snacks.

But in the time that it’s been gone from shelves customers have had the chance to find other options.

“As a brand, one thing you don’t want is your customers trying alternatives,” said Allen Adamson, managing director of marketing consultancy Landor’s New York office. “They might say, ‘If I can’t see or taste the difference, why am I paying the difference?’”

Twinkies fans and follower will soon know if the brand can stage its comeback. Twinkies hit shelves again July 15.