Editor's Note / Columns

Sprucing up the Bread Basket, Waxing Nostalgic

Bread basket

Despite today’s economic problems, baked goods have remained “an affordable splurge.” Perhaps they’ve maintained that status because of the bad economy. It’s no wonder: People do tend to treat themselves sometimes when the going gets tough. Who wouldn’t when the pressure’s on?

They can do so, especially because baked goods are accessible in various ways. According to Packaged Facts, Rockville, Md., consumers have been soothing themselves for the past several years with various types of baked goods, from fresh pies and pastries to indulgent cookies, cupcakes, artisan breads, specialty crackers and the like.

In “Baked Goods: Culinary Trend Mapping Report,” Packaged Facts and the Center for Culinary Development (CCD), San Francisco, used  CCD’s Trend Mapping technique to profile sweet and savory baked goods trends that provide fresh ideas for bakers, food manufacturers and restaurant operators to rev up their product offerings and “spruce up the bread basket.” These new concepts can also jumpstart things in the baking aisle and the freezer case.

A few recently introduced products that reflect this are Poppycock’s In-dul-gence, a new line of gourmet popcorn in five flavors, with clusters of almonds, cashews and pecans, delectably covered with caramel. Others are using caramel to dress up foods, such as the Caramel Nut Brownie Luna Bar. But sweet treats and savory items are becoming more healthful, and contain familiar and not-so-familiar flavor combinations. One such product entry teams sweet and savory together to create a snack that satiates both palates. Tropical Foods of Charlotte, N.C., is a good example of a company bringing satisfaction to sweet and savory snack cravings with its ReCharge snack mixes, which are pretty much guilt-free and naturally enhanced.

But there’s one indulgent item that may not be able to get a healthy reformulation: The Twinkie from Hostess Brands, Irving, Texas. Twinkies are iconic. They have been a kids’ delight for decades. Yet, now that Hostess is in a difficult financial situation after having filed bankruptcy, the fate of Twinkies, which originated in the 1930s, is uncertain. And this fate also covers Ho Hos, Ding Dongs, Suzy Qs and other decadent and nostalgic treats that the parent company produces.

 It seems that this news coincides with the move consumers have been making to more healthful eating preferences, though it’s a painful reminder that those wonderful, super-sweet treats from childhood may be on their way out. Replacing them is a movement of products designed for those who take nutrition much more seriously. Is there some way that Twinkies, Suzy Qs and the others could be formulated to be better for us? I doubt it. That said, according to dietitians, one Twinkie isn’t going to make anyone obese. Eating several of them each day would, and so would a lack of exercise.

I haven’t eaten Twinkies for a long time, but I would really miss seeing them on store shelves. These are some of America’s most iconic snack cakes. We wish the company all the best, and hope it can regain some sort of footing and get a real fresh start this time. That’s tricky these days, and companies aren’t always able to recover from Chapter 11. But if the producer of such baked staples as Wonder Bread can’t get back on its feet, what’s this world coming to? Maybe there are some issues with the effectiveness of Chapter 11 filings and their success rate. For now, however, we can only wait and see if they survive this new financial challenge. Restructuring of the company’s bakery business also depends on union negotiations that, as of presstime, were still up in the air, but could be halted with a strike of truck drivers and bakery workers.

Yet just in time for Valentine’s Day, Hostess launched a new Chocolate Crème version of Twinkies, which followed a similar limited-edition launch of the chocolately treat last spring. The golden cakes’ signature creme filling is chocolatey in this version, and Hostess says the new flavor is here to stay—at least as long as Hostess is around. Hostess is also said to be making headway in its operating efficiencies and implementation of Lean Manufacturing practices.

The company continues to produce more than 500 million Twinkies a year, claiming it experienced an overwhelmingly positive consumer response to the limited-edition of Chocolate Crème flavor. The decadent chocolate-filled treats that began delighting consumers as of Feb. 6 may be the twist the treat needs. Available in
multipack and single-serve options, Chocolate Creme Twinkies join the original vanilla creme Twinkies, as well as Hostess’ entire line of snack cakes, on shelves across the country. Could this be Hostess’ recipe to beat its financial troubles? We hope so. Good luck, Twinkies. 



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