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Twinkie Fans Delight in Hostess Return From Zombie Death

After Hostess started talking about liquidation in November, a 10-pack of Twinkies was quickly available on EBay for $24.99 and four 10-packs for $99.99 as store shelves emptied.

In the movie “Zombieland,” Woody Harrelson had to slay three of the undead to get his hands on a Twinkie. Real-life junkies pining for the return of the spongy yellow creme log won’t have to go to such lengths.

Today Hostess Brands LLC officially revives the iconic snack cake, following a seven-month hiatus after the original company decided to liquidate under bankruptcy. The confection maker will put Twinkies, CupCakes and Ding Dongs in stores across the U.S. Some retailers, including Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (WMT), couldn’t wait for the official rollout and began selling the cakes early. Hostess said it hadn’t given any retailers permission to sell its products before today.

Given Twinkies’ pop-culture status, Hostess’s return was in little doubt. Apollo Global Management LLC (APO) and C. Dean Metropoulos & Co. came to Hostess’s rescue last year, paying as much as $410 million for the name. The new owners have resumed production, plan a fifth factory and expanded distribution. The Metropoulos family, always eager to milk a marketing opportunity, dubbed the revival the “sweetest comeback in the history of ever.”

“There is so much passion surrounding this brand and we’re looking forward to what’s in store,” Daren Metropoulos, a principal at the family firm, said in an e-mail.

Photographer: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg

After Hostess started talking about liquidation in November, a 10-pack of Twinkies was quickly available on EBay for $24.99 and four 10-packs for $99.99 as store shelves emptied. Close

After Hostess started talking about liquidation in November, a 10-pack of Twinkies was... Read More

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Photographer: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg

After Hostess started talking about liquidation in November, a 10-pack of Twinkies was quickly available on EBay for $24.99 and four 10-packs for $99.99 as store shelves emptied.

Hostess’s previous owners ended production in November amid its second bankruptcy in a decade. The news sparked a feeding frenzy and bidding wars on EBay, a yearning presciently foretold by Harrelson’s 2009 zombie action comedy.

Last Box

“There’s a box of Twinkies in that grocery store,” his character Tallahassee said. “Not just any box of Twinkies. The last box of Twinkies anyone will enjoy in the universe.”

After Hostess started talking about liquidation in November, a 10-pack of Twinkies was quickly available on EBay for $24.99 and four 10-packs for $99.99 as store shelves emptied. Searches for the brand on Google jumped 11 times higher, while searches for Twinkies increased 17 times.

Last week, retailers scrambled to catch the latest Hostess wave. Grocer Albertson’s said on its website July 10 it was putting a “secret stash” of “Hostess gold” on sale early at select stores while supplies lasted. Kroger Co. (KR) also began selling the cakes in some stores, and they were available in a majority of Wal-Mart’s U.S. stores yesterday, the retailer said.

A small Hostess display at an Atlanta-area Wal-Mart was well-stocked on July 13, and there was no sign of a consumer stampede.

Marketing Kickstart

“The Metropoulos team with the Apollo backing had a very good plan about how they wanted to ramp back up production,” Gregory Rayburn, former chief executive officer of Hostess Brands Inc., said today in an interview with Bloomberg Television’s Betty Liu. “They’ve done an excellent job on the marketing side, which is really what these products needed. They needed some sort of kickstart.”

Rayburn led the liquidation and helped negotiate the sale of Hostess’s brands.

Hostess, founded in 1930, filed for bankruptcy in January 2012, less than three years after emerging from a first filing. That entity, now called Old HB Inc., has since been liquidating brands, recipes, plants and other assets. It failed to reach an agreement with striking bakers on concessions to help the company emerge from the filing under Chapter 11.

The new Hostess Brands, based in Kansas City, Missouri, will be run by Chief Executive Officer C. Dean Metropoulos. He has specialized in purchasing and turning around struggling brands, such as Chef Boyardee and Bumble Bee Tuna. His firm also owns Pabst Brewing Co.

Outlets Closed

Hostess is free of the union contracts and $1.3 billion in debt that saddled the previous entity. Hostess is eliminating some products, such as Strawberry CupCakes, and adding manufacturing automation. About 600 outlet stores that sold near-expired products have been closed.

The cakes will be easier to find, too. Distribution will include 110,000 convenience stores by year’s end, up from about 50,000 previously, according to Hostess. About 90 percent of the cakes will be delivered fresh with a 45-day expiration. The other 10 percent will be shipped frozen at the request of some retailers, said Hannah Arnold, a spokeswoman for the new Hostess. The freezing will have no impact on taste and quality, she said.

“When consumers are finally able to bite into Hostess snack cakes, they are going to enjoy the same wonderfully delicious experience that has given them their enduring appeal,” Arnold said.

F Grade

That taste comes with a cost. The website Calorie Count gives Twinkies an “F” grade for its 135 calories and about 18 grams of sugar -- per cake. A pack of two has more calories and sugar than a Hershey’s milk chocolate bar.

Still, the brand has led a zombie-like existence itself. Hostess emerged from an earlier bankruptcy in 2009 under the control of buyout firm Ripplewood Holdings LLC and lenders. Previously known as Interstate Bakeries Corp., the company changed its name to Hostess Brands that year.

Today’s return will include Hostess’ classic CupCakes, spiraled HoHos, chocolate-covered Ding Dongs, frosted Zingers, Donettes mini donuts, Fruit Pies and Mini Muffins.

As Harrelson’s Zombieland character hunted for the Earth’s last Twinkie -- which was fake because the actor is vegan -- he stumbled upon a crashed Hostess truck. Instead of Twinkies, he found pink coconut- and marshmallow-covered chocolate cake Sno Balls, which sent him into a tirade. Hostess says Sno Balls, along with SuzyQ’s, will return in a few months.

To contact the reporter on this story: Duane D. Stanford in Atlanta at dstanford2@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Robin Ajello at rajello@bloomberg.net

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