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Think twice before going for that hot Ding Dong
November 15, 2012 4:16 PM   Subscribe

Hostess, the maker of Twinkies, Ding Dongs, and Wonder Bread has filed for bankruptcy twice in the past two years. Hostess workers (members of the Teamsters' Union) staged a walkout on Sunday after the company cut wages by 8 percent and benefits by up to 32 percent. Since the workers went on strike, Hostess has closed three of its plants. Hostess said today that if enough workers do not return to work by this evening, it will liquidate the company and lay off its 18,000 workers. It will announce its decision tomorrow.
posted by mudpuppie (293 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite

 
Business plan: move to Seattle.
posted by chavenet at 4:19 PM on November 15, 2012 [10 favorites]


If there are no more Hostess Cupcakes, I do not want to go on living.
posted by briank at 4:23 PM on November 15, 2012 [13 favorites]


Seems like it's just a matter of time, no matter what happens with the strike.

Twinkies are one of those things I loved as a kid, but one day when I was in my late 20s I bought a two-pack from a variety store on a whim, and an hour after I ate them my body sent me a message:

ALL THESE FOODS ARE YOURS, EXCEPT TWINKIES. ATTEMPT NO EATING THERE.
posted by The Card Cheat at 4:25 PM on November 15, 2012 [105 favorites]


Chavenet: Unfortunately, one of the bakeries closed this week is located in Seattle. And now a friend of mine is out of a job. He and his family will be OK, but I worry about the other employees.
posted by spinifex23 at 4:26 PM on November 15, 2012


Someone should set up an eternal shrine to the Twinkie.

Fortunately, it will never decompose.
posted by Soliloquy at 4:26 PM on November 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


And the Revolution Clock ticks one more notch up towards midnight.
posted by zardoz at 4:27 PM on November 15, 2012 [11 favorites]


Dear everyone in NY and surrounding areas: Hostess owns Drake's Cakes. Commence panicking.
posted by griphus at 4:27 PM on November 15, 2012 [15 favorites]


i've been following this and did some more reading last night - am i wrong to think their plan for the last 10ish months at least has been to get the best deal through bankruptcy so they can walk away from their debts (and line the pockets of executives), and then blame the union walkout for breaking the company up? it seems like the union is taking flack for the liquidation, but hostess doesn't actually seem to want to save the company.
posted by nadawi at 4:30 PM on November 15, 2012 [99 favorites]


Color me surprised that Twinkies are made in a bakery; I assumed lab.
posted by heyho at 4:30 PM on November 15, 2012 [9 favorites]


Also what are the chances they won't be picked up at a fire-sale price to operate as a loss-leader by brand recognition? They are and own some of the most visible brands in America. Certainly that is worth something.
posted by griphus at 4:30 PM on November 15, 2012 [8 favorites]


The other day I bought a box of Ding Dongs. I was the first time I've had one since the days of the foil-wrapped Ding Dongs.
They were nowhere nearly as good.
I am afraid to even try a Twinkie.
posted by Dr. Zira at 4:31 PM on November 15, 2012 [5 favorites]


am i wrong to think their plan for the last 10ish months at least has been to get the best deal through bankruptcy so they can walk away from their debts (and line the pockets of executives), and then blame the union walkout for breaking the company up?

Sounds like a good enough plan if the company was that far gone.
posted by 2N2222 at 4:34 PM on November 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


Actually, the post is misleading. The Teamsters are Hostess' largest union, and they've reached an agreement. It's the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union which is on strike. According to the article, the Teamsters' assessment of the situation is that Hostess isn't kidding: "Citing its financial experts who had access to the company's books, the Teamsters say that Hostess' warning of liquidation is 'not an empty threat or a negotiating tactic' but a certain outcome if workers continue striking."

According to Wikipedia, the company lost $143 million on $2.8 billion in revenue last year, and is almost half a billion in negative equity. As in, if you take all of the company's assets and compare them to its obligations, you get about -$460 million. They apparently owe something like $860 million all told, but large manufacturing plants don't cost a dollar, so they've got something like half that in assets.

Compensation for the top four executives was cut to $1 for 2012.

Management and the company's owners really have nothing to lose here.
posted by valkyryn at 4:36 PM on November 15, 2012 [36 favorites]


So Twinkies won't last forever?
posted by lekvar at 4:36 PM on November 15, 2012 [12 favorites]


This looks like a job for Spider-man!
He'll foil this fiendish plot!
posted by Mezentian at 4:37 PM on November 15, 2012 [12 favorites]


Also what are the chances they won't be picked up at a fire-sale price to operate as a loss-leader by brand recognition? They are and own some of the most visible brands in America. Certainly that is worth something.

Indeed. Twinkies and Dong Dongs might be on the waning end of their life spans, but Hostess owned lots of other recognizable brands. Help us, Bimbo, you're our only hope.
posted by 2N2222 at 4:37 PM on November 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


"Business plan: move to Seattle."

They already have a good sized plant in Seattle.
posted by bz at 4:38 PM on November 15, 2012


I mean, I know I'm vegan and all, but I would still be sad if Hostess went away forever. (I profess a deep and abiding love for their lemon fruit pie. And the cupcakes (esp. the orangey ones). And the Twinkie.)
posted by Kitteh at 4:38 PM on November 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


The people who figured out that you can fry a Twinkie mourn their lost legacy.

Meanwhile, New Orleans eagerly awaits news of the Simon Hubig Co. rebuilding after their fire.
posted by localroger at 4:38 PM on November 15, 2012 [3 favorites]


Well, they should not have sold the technology if they want to be solvent
posted by mccarty.tim at 4:39 PM on November 15, 2012 [3 favorites]


You know, on one hand, it's an American institution. But on the other hand, their product is really, really bad.
posted by demiurge at 4:40 PM on November 15, 2012 [20 favorites]


As a person trying to eat healthy, I really want their stuff to stay around so I can think to myself, "Yes, I did just eat a slice of cake after lunch instead of waiting until after dinner. But it was homemade and not a chemical-laden Twinkie, therefore it's kind of okay."

How can I semi-rationalize my indulgences without poorer choices to avoid?
posted by mccarty.tim at 4:41 PM on November 15, 2012 [4 favorites]


An unopened package of pink Sno-Balls from 1982 just became self-aware. And it's pissed.
posted by Kafkaesque at 4:41 PM on November 15, 2012 [33 favorites]


Wonder Bread remains the primary delivery system for Fluffernutters in our house. I don't know what this country is coming to if we can't keep up our Fluffernutter production. Probably a long line of hummuscake and decorating cookies with quinoa. If we even have cookies.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 4:41 PM on November 15, 2012 [4 favorites]


Hostess owns Drake's Cakes.

OH GOD YANKEE DOODLES
posted by elizardbits at 4:42 PM on November 15, 2012 [6 favorites]


This is disheartening in a local small everyday way, 'cause there's a Hostess plant downtown and I drive by it 3x a week or more on my way back from the gym (my husband has all of this affection for the Wonder Bread smell; it's very pungent). It's like this magnificent time warp. Now I wonder what will happen to all of those employees.
posted by ifjuly at 4:42 PM on November 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


Sure, the lost jobs are sad. But a world without Hostess is a healthier world.

Maybe they can arrange a deal where Mayor Bloomberg pays a million dollars - to be distributed to the workers - and gets to take some kind of nebulous credit for shutting them down?
posted by b1tr0t at 4:42 PM on November 15, 2012 [5 favorites]


Surely Nestle, Kraft or General Mills would jump at the chance to own Twinkies for pennies on the dollar, right? The secured creditor banks should want to maximize any remaining value, any brand in the portfolio that's even marginally in the black should have a buyer.

Although trusting a megabank to do what's in it's own financial interest isn't exactly a sure thing, these days.
posted by T.D. Strange at 4:42 PM on November 15, 2012


So... how much do their executives/owners/board members take home each year?
posted by Slackermagee at 4:44 PM on November 15, 2012


As valkyryn said, executive management cut their own salaries to $1 - but only after they were accused of playing games with increases to executive compensation almost immediately prior to filing bankruptcy.
posted by dilettante at 4:45 PM on November 15, 2012 [10 favorites]


Unfortunately, one of the bakeries closed this week is located in Seattle.

When I biked to work on Dexter Ave., I'd pass that bakery and the sickly sweet smell it made. On a foggy morning, the sign out front was back lit by red neon that gave the company name a bit of an evil glow. I haven't had a Twinkie since I was a wee lad, but I will take memories of that creepy sign to my grave.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 4:46 PM on November 15, 2012 [9 favorites]


Nice link, mccarty.tim. Twinkies are made with yellow cake? That must be why they last so long: the radiation kills any microbes.
posted by cosmic.osmo at 4:47 PM on November 15, 2012 [8 favorites]


Heh, yeah, I saw the same thing reading the article. IIRC, I first saw it in middle school or early high school, so it was definitely around the Iraq War era when yellow cake was in the news. The author missed an opportunity.
posted by mccarty.tim at 4:48 PM on November 15, 2012


But now what will we use as a metaphor for the amount of psychokinetic energy in the New York area??
posted by argonauta at 4:48 PM on November 15, 2012 [10 favorites]


What? No Zombieland jokes yet?
posted by brundlefly at 4:50 PM on November 15, 2012 [12 favorites]


Good afternoon, cousins in the Western Colonies. Token Englishman here.

Can one of you American chappies please explain exactly what a Twinkie actually is? I have observed them on the shelves of your supermarkets, but never actually consumed one. And fear I may no longer have the opportunity :(

Toodle pip,
@wordshore
posted by Wordshore at 4:50 PM on November 15, 2012 [4 favorites]


Will people please stop going on about how Twinkies and and Ding Dongs and such are bad for you? They're a snack cake. You eat them occasionally. As a treat. If someone eats so many Twinkies they adversely affect their health, it's not the fault of the goddamn Twinkies.
posted by KHAAAN! at 4:50 PM on November 15, 2012 [82 favorites]


Is it true that tokers no longer munch Twinkies? No wonder Hostess is distressed.
posted by Cranberry at 4:52 PM on November 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


The depthless dumbness of American business on parade.
posted by jamjam at 4:53 PM on November 15, 2012 [3 favorites]


Alright, so now that the poo has hit the fan, executive salaries are $1. As the poo was hitting the fan they tried to loot the company to the tune of $3m+ and run. It also seems that there are continuing concerns about the salaries being $1 but total compensation being an unknown.

I wonder what the company could have done to forestall bankruptcy and increase market share with an extra $3m?
posted by Slackermagee at 4:54 PM on November 15, 2012 [6 favorites]


WE ARE AT PEAK DIABETES!
posted by Renoroc at 4:57 PM on November 15, 2012 [4 favorites]


Wordshore: Twinkies are small yellow cakes filled with white "creme." The "creme" is not cream but rather an edible oil product. The thought, sight, or taste of Twinkies fills North Americans with either nostalgia or revulsion. Sometimes both.

Here is what Twinkies would look like if they existed where you live.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 4:58 PM on November 15, 2012 [21 favorites]


I thought Twinkies were supposed to survive past the apocalypse?
posted by dobi at 4:58 PM on November 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


hurdy gurdy girl: "The thought, sight, or taste of Twinkies fills North Americans with either nostalgia or revulsion. Sometimes both."

Nostulsion? Revalgia? Something like that.
posted by brundlefly at 5:00 PM on November 15, 2012 [12 favorites]


Can one of you American chappies please explain exactly what a Twinkie actually is?

Diabetes in sponge cake form.
posted by Talez at 5:01 PM on November 15, 2012 [7 favorites]


Color me surprised that Twinkies are made in a bakery; I assumed lab.

Bakery, lab, factory, what's in a name? Let's just call it "The Facility."
posted by Devils Rancher at 5:02 PM on November 15, 2012 [19 favorites]


*thinks about buying stock in Little Debbie*
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 5:02 PM on November 15, 2012 [7 favorites]


The "creme" is not cream but rather an edible oil product.

Imagine nonfrozen British wartime ice cream, stuffed in a tube of mildly lemon flavoured yellow cake.
posted by elizardbits at 5:03 PM on November 15, 2012 [5 favorites]


I wonder what the company could have done to forestall bankruptcy and increase market share with an extra $3m?

That represents something like 0.33% of the company's indebtedness. And 2% of the money they lost in 2011 alone.

So, nothing, basically.

Does it look bad? Yes. Yes it does. Should the executives have been trying to do this? Should the Board have approved it? No. No, they should not. Would it have made any damn difference? No. No, it would not.
posted by valkyryn at 5:03 PM on November 15, 2012 [4 favorites]


Motherfuckers. I always buy a package of the orange cupcakes along with a package of pepperoni pizza combos when I have an all-night implementation. Those are the treats that offset working in IT. Won't anyone think of the consumers?
posted by Maisie at 5:03 PM on November 15, 2012 [4 favorites]


all that stuff about how much debt they're in - absolutely true. i just get the idea they put themselves there on purpose to sell the company off in pieces in ways that are beneficial to the upper rungs and disastrous to the factory workers. i think the union that is striking is being blamed for an outcome hostess has been looking for.
posted by nadawi at 5:04 PM on November 15, 2012 [18 favorites]


If Hostess liquidates I assume its bankruptcy trustees will auction the company name as well as all its brands off to the highest bidder. They'll probably end up under the umbrella of some multinational like Unilever. I'm fairly certain there'll be no lack of availability of Twinkies or other Hostess products in the future.
posted by killdevil at 5:05 PM on November 15, 2012 [10 favorites]


This company makes garbage and calls it food. No nutritional value, contributes to obesity. go away. i mourn their passing no more than i mourn the passing of a cigarette company. i am sorry indeed for the suffering of people who lose decent paying jobs. but, they are making a living off humans propensity to crave garbage to eat.
posted by jcworth at 5:05 PM on November 15, 2012 [13 favorites]


we only know how much they stole when they were caught with their hand in the cookie jar. in no way does that prove it's all they stole. i'm going to be very interested to see who buys the pieces and who sits on those boards - i bet we're going to find some overlap with the current executive structure at hostess.
posted by nadawi at 5:06 PM on November 15, 2012 [6 favorites]


Tastykake is better. And already sold out. Which was a good move.
posted by Drinky Die at 5:07 PM on November 15, 2012 [3 favorites]


As a matter of pure math, yeah it is a tiny tiny percentage. In terms of marketing and innovation? It might have helped them start to dig themselves out of this hole.

Though I don't see the captain of that ship really being able to change course at this point.
posted by Slackermagee at 5:07 PM on November 15, 2012


Woody Harrelson is going to be very upset.
posted by bearwife at 5:08 PM on November 15, 2012


it's my understanding that the hostess snack cakes aren't going away if they liquidate - just the corporate structure of hostess - the most noticeable lines will absolutely be purchased and distributed under their own names. what's going to happen is the bakeries will be consolidated so the people doing the actual snack making work now will lose their jobs and people at other factories will start making twinkies and ho-hos along side whatever other snack cakes their company already makes.
posted by nadawi at 5:08 PM on November 15, 2012 [5 favorites]


Color me surprised that Twinkies are made in a bakery; I assumed lab.

What I heard was that they weren't so much baked as set, being formed of an extruded foam.
posted by acb at 5:09 PM on November 15, 2012 [3 favorites]


I thought Twinkies were supposed to survive past the apocalypse?

Obviously, this means that the apocalypse already happened some time ago, and the realization is only now beginning to dawn on us.
posted by Strange Interlude at 5:11 PM on November 15, 2012 [12 favorites]


Nostulsion? Revalgia? Something like that.

Brundlefly, I like that both those words sound vaguely like diseases. Or maybe the drugs one takes to combat them!
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 5:13 PM on November 15, 2012 [8 favorites]


So, never again will we eat Twinkies and drink champagne while watching the Twins win a World Series? Sad. I think it was Kent Hrbek who said "twinkies go well with champagne."

Then again...it was Kent Hrbek. I wouldn't be surprised to learn that he kept a bratwurst under his hat in case he got hungry while standing at first base.

What is the half-life of a Twinkie? Maybe the Twins will return to the World Series before the last Twinkies break down into unrecognizable elements. That would be, what, in the 23rd century?
posted by Elly Vortex at 5:13 PM on November 15, 2012 [10 favorites]


The above comment brought to you by TIRED.
posted by Elly Vortex at 5:13 PM on November 15, 2012 [4 favorites]


I guess from the consumer's point of view, the good news is that these can be "baked" anywhere in the world and be shipped to our convenience store shelves in however long it takes without loss of deliciousness. But still, sometimes you just want some things to stay the same, you know?
posted by Maisie at 5:14 PM on November 15, 2012


I saw them on an episode of Unwrapped. They're baked, flipped out of the pans, and injected with the goop.

The show didn't go into the ingredients. Which are long, and probably horrifying if you can make out what they are, and probably form druidic incantations if read aloud.
posted by mccarty.tim at 5:14 PM on November 15, 2012 [8 favorites]


This never would have happened under a Romney administration. If white bread needed a bailout he woulda been there.
posted by humanfont at 5:15 PM on November 15, 2012 [26 favorites]


Marijuana enthusiasts from Washington and Colorado will save the company with a quickly organized Kickstarter.
posted by Blue Meanie at 5:15 PM on November 15, 2012 [11 favorites]


Time for America to discover Philadelphia's best-kept secret : Tastykakes!
posted by Afroblanco at 5:15 PM on November 15, 2012 [11 favorites]


And they laughed when I told them I stockpiled Hostess Fruit Pies! I'll turn these around and make quite the pretty penny selling them in the Mission District as vintage. Ask me now who is laughing? I'll tell you. It is I. I am the one laughing, laughing maniacally!
posted by TwelveTwo at 5:18 PM on November 15, 2012 [6 favorites]


Future generations shall be deprived of the subtle humor of one of the greatest sandwiches ever known to man
posted by antonymous at 5:20 PM on November 15, 2012 [3 favorites]


This never would have happened under a Romney administration. If white bread needed a bailout he woulda been there.

Although the similarity of the word Twinkie to a term in use by the gay community might have complicated his decision. Can't offend the base after all.
posted by killdevil at 5:20 PM on November 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


Well ok, I guess I can deal. When Table Talk shuts down is when I start to panic.
posted by Ad hominem at 5:21 PM on November 15, 2012


There's precedent for something like this happening, with the brand surviving and being bought out. Mother's went under in 2008, but really only disappeared for about six months. But you better believe I loaded the fuck up on Circus Animals as soon as I heard the news about the bankruptcy.
posted by LionIndex at 5:21 PM on November 15, 2012 [7 favorites]


if you want to make a less scary twinkie, this works really well - and then you can do things like raspberry cake with chocolate filling. or spice cake with cream cheese filling. or even add a little spice to your filling.
posted by nadawi at 5:22 PM on November 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


So (trying still to get a grasp on America) is this "fiscal cliff" I keep hearing about made from compacted twinkies? Hence, with no more twinkies, America is apparently "going to drive off it"?

Formulate your own metaphor
posted by Wordshore at 5:24 PM on November 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


LionIndex - i panicked over mothers! but, ever since their return, some varieties of archways are missing and i miss them.
posted by nadawi at 5:24 PM on November 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm Wilford Brimley...
posted by thewalrus at 5:25 PM on November 15, 2012


Marijuana enthusiasts from Washington and Colorado will save the company with a quickly organized Kickstarter.
I don't know about Colorado, but we've got plenty of vastly superior alternatives: If the passing of Hostess in anyway impinges on your ability to enjoy Seattle's new laws, your residency papers are hereby revoked.
posted by b1tr0t at 5:28 PM on November 15, 2012 [5 favorites]


Hostess wants to do one thing and one thing only, and that is to overfeed you until you drop dead. Obviously their compulsion for bankruptcy telegraphs the fact that they're doing too good a job at reaching their goals. :-)
posted by Bindyree at 5:28 PM on November 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


Sad Twinkie
posted by josher71 at 5:28 PM on November 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


Every child who went to second grade at my grade school learned about the Niña, the Pinta, and the Santa Maria by making models of them out of Twinkies. Then we pretended we were giant sea monsters, and we ate them.
posted by ocherdraco at 5:32 PM on November 15, 2012 [9 favorites]


"Twinkies are small yellow cakes filled with white "creme." The "creme" is not cream but rather an edible oil product. The thought, sight, or taste of Twinkies fills North Americans with either nostalgia or revulsion. Sometimes both."

With the exception of Wonder Bread, Hostess bakery products might be pretty much confined to the US. I've seen the comic book ads, but never encountered a Twinkie or Devil's Food Cupcake in the wild.
posted by Kevin Street at 5:32 PM on November 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


Basically big bread baking businesses like this are doomed. Americans want better bread then they provide. Basically the industry is being taken over by things like bake in store frozen breads that 1) have the image of being "better" and 2) don't require an expensive distribution system of trucks visiting stores every few days.

Because of 1) the economics of 2) have gotten even worse, so the industry has structural over capacity. Someones gotta close and the brands sold to someone else. In this case its Hostess. Maybe that's because their brands were weaker than those that are surviving, maybe mgmt is inept, maybe labor costs were higher than competitors. Its probably some combination of all three. The Bonds holders only agree to a liquidation if they think that's the best option. It really is the last option.
posted by JPD at 5:33 PM on November 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


This company makes garbage and calls it food. No nutritional value, contributes to obesity. go away. i mourn their passing no more than i mourn the passing of a cigarette company. i am sorry indeed for the suffering of people who lose decent paying jobs. but, they are making a living off humans propensity to crave garbage to eat.

BECAUSE JOY HAS NO VALUE NOW BACK TO THE TOFU MINES, PEOPLE
posted by BitterOldPunk at 5:35 PM on November 15, 2012 [81 favorites]


Their bread is terrible. Hopefully the bread line won't get bought out and we can get some decent bread in the shelf space in my local bodega and grocery store.
posted by Jahaza at 5:35 PM on November 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


There were a lot more of those comic book Hostess ads than I thought. Holy crap!
posted by josher71 at 5:35 PM on November 15, 2012 [4 favorites]


It seems like the PBR strategy. Stage 1 liquidate the company and allow the brands to go for a little while. Stage 2: small batch production for specific events and hipster gathings. Stage 3 nation wide relaunch now as an upmarket snack.
posted by humanfont at 5:36 PM on November 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


Another American food product that isn't actually food. See also: everything.
posted by unSane at 5:37 PM on November 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


My theory is that they made one great big batch of Twinkies decades ago. And they're still drawing off of that batch. We'll be OK until the stockpile runs out.
posted by azpenguin at 5:37 PM on November 15, 2012 [3 favorites]


And people wonder why I don't care for unions.

13,000 non-union people willing to work rather than collect UI will lose their jobs because the union decided they'd rather put an American icon out of business than take an 8% pay cut? Wow. If I worked as one of those 13k right about now, you'd likely read about me going postal on the assholes about to cost me my job tomorrow morning.
posted by pla at 5:38 PM on November 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


nope - the company has been raiding the coffers and trying to sell themselves off and are blaming the union for it. seems you fell for it. sad, really.
posted by nadawi at 5:40 PM on November 15, 2012 [32 favorites]


Lady Gaga announces limited-edition run of artisanal Twinkies. You heard it hear first, folks!
posted by b1tr0t at 5:40 PM on November 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


Help us, Bimbo, you're our only hope.

Grupo Bimbo is already the world's largest and America's largest baking company, making dozens of 'regional' brands as well as Sara Lee (all the non-frozen products, the rest are owned by Hillshire Farms), Entenmann's, Thomas' English Freaking Muffins... If they acquire any more brands, this Mexican-owned Megacorp would become powerful enough to tell America what to eat... it'd be all Tortas, Sopapillas and Tres Leches. Do you you want to live in an America like that?

And Mother's Cookies? Owned by Keebler, which is owned by Kellogg's. Yep, a bunch of elves who answer to a cartoon tiger. But they consolidated bakeries, so they nixed anything too similar to a Keebler product or that couldn't be baked in their nationwide network of hollow trees. (Still, they're making subtle changes, and in 10-15 years, everything they make is gonna be Pop Tarts).

But don't worry. Genuine Cake Boss Brand Cakes are coming to Kroger-owned supermarkets nationwide. Yeah, 5X the price of a box of Twinkies, but aren't your kids worth it?
posted by oneswellfoop at 5:40 PM on November 15, 2012 [6 favorites]


"WORTH OF UNIONS DERAIL! NEXT STOP!".
posted by josher71 at 5:41 PM on November 15, 2012 [9 favorites]


Twinkies and Wonder Bread will always hold a special place in my heart. Not because I ate them often, I didn't, but because there was a Twinkie/Wonder Bread factory in the town I grew up in. The very same one immortalized in an episode of Family Guy. Yes, kids, there really was a Twinkie factory in Natick. Sadly, a few years ago they tore it down and built an addition to the already disgustingly huge mall. One of my most favorite eBay purchases is an old advertisement for this new, space-age Continental Bakery opening up in Natick.

I grew up across the lake from it. When the wind was blowing right I'd wake to the smell of fresh baked bread and/or sugar. They had a thrift store where you could buy $.10 Hostess Fruit Pies. They sold Hostess products nobody else had ever heard of, products you could only find at the factory store as far as I know.

A rite of passage for every fourth grader in town was to take a field trip to the factory. We got to walk down the line as workers in head nets poured giant vats full of ingredients into other vats full of ingredients. We got to eat a slice of Wonder Bread as soon as it came out of the slicing machine, still warm from the oven. For a fourth grader in the late 1970s, this was just about the greatest thing ever. I'm grown up now and I know what crap Wonder White is, but back then, for a kid whose mom only bought the store brand, there was no better bread than Wonder White. Now imagine warm Wonder White and, baby, you've got yourself a slice of motherfucking bread.

Later in the tour we got to see something that was kind of like Charlie walking in and seeing the Oompa Loompas. We got to see something few kids, hell few adults, would ever see.

We got to see how they put the cream into the Twinkies.

Spoiler alert: They inject it.

I don't quite remember the exact sequence, whether it happened before or after they were baked (I want to say after), but I remember three white tubes (a series of tubes!) on a machine that would punch three holes into the bottom of the Twinkie and fill it with cream. There's probably a good reason why they gave us the tour in fourth grade. It would have been a lot funnier in seventh grade.

It's not that big a deal now, I suppose, but for a fourth grader it was a pretty amazing thing to see. It was like a thirty year old witnessing child birth. Only in reverse, I suppose.

At the end of the tour we got a goodie bag filled with all manner of pamphlets explaining the wonders of all the chemicals added to Wonder products, some coupons, a paper craft Wonder Bread delivery truck, a Twinkie the Kid ring, and a Twinkie. Yep. A whole, free Twinkie that we got because we were learning shit.

I miss the Twinkie factory. I think about it every time I go to the Apple Store in the new mall, located approximately where the thrift store used to be.
posted by bondcliff at 5:41 PM on November 15, 2012 [44 favorites]


Big bread makers may be doomed, but Hostess sure hasn't been helped by private equity.
It exited bankruptcy in 2009 in a deal financed by Ripplewood Holdings, which received a controlling stake in the company for a $130 million capital commitment. General Electric's (GE) GE Capital division, Monarch Alternative Capital and Silver Point Capital also provided hundreds of millions in rescue financing, the Post reports.
Ripplewood was apparently larded it up with consultants:
Resist the temptation to mock the consulting-firm-speak (“driving the planned priorities?”), and ask yourself what’s missing. Don’t C.F.O.’s normally work closely with the treasury departments, too?

Turns out that Hostess has no treasury department. It apparently doesn’t have anyone who can perform treasury functions at all.

The company has asked the bankruptcy court for permission to hire FTI Consulting to do the work. Apparently Hostess does not have much of a finance department either, since FTI is also providing employees for that department.

If approved, FTI will provide three people to staff Hostess’ treasury department. The interim treasurer gets monthly fees that work out to an annual salary of $780,000. His two deputies get $660,000 per year, each.

The finance department group gets paid hourly rates that top out at $895 per hour. You might think that would supplant the need for a financial adviser in the case, but Hostess is asking to retain one of those, too.

And then there is the $1.25 million completion fee that FTI will get at the end of the case.
And so on.
When it filed for bankruptcy this year it listed unsustainable debt as a primary reason — more than $800 million in debt to financial players and a larger amount owed to its employees [pension obligations that have already been converted to equity]. The debt to financial players is secured by assets, the debt to workers is secured by nothing at all and not likely to ever be paid back.
posted by notyou at 5:42 PM on November 15, 2012 [19 favorites]


Happily, someone else will surely move into the junk food market in short order. We loves our junk food. Sometimes business owners have their heads so far up their asses that the only way to extract them is for the business to no longer be in business.
posted by wierdo at 5:42 PM on November 15, 2012


Dear everyone in NY and surrounding areas: Hostess owns Drake's Cakes. Commence panicking.

Oh my god oh my god no. NO. You mean I'll never have a Drake's Coffee Cake or Pound Cake ever again?! And they don't have them in Missouri, the brutes! This is like being stuck in the bathroom at 11:59:59 on New Year's Eve
posted by invitapriore at 5:44 PM on November 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


Grupo Bimbo is already the world's largest and America's largest baking company

Holy shit, I did not know that. I buy Bimbo white bread, it is about $1.69. The next cheapest is like $4. I think I may be the only one who buys it, whenever someone scans me out they think they got the price wrong.
posted by Ad hominem at 5:45 PM on November 15, 2012


13,000 non-union people willing to work rather than collect UI will lose their jobs because the union decided they'd rather put an American icon out of business than take an 8% pay cut?

It is, of course, more complicated than that. Hostess' largest union is actually playing ball. It's a smaller union that isn't. So yes, it does seem that one union is being unreasonable. But the bigger one isn't.

Just because some of the union bosses are idiots doesn't mean that all of them are.
posted by valkyryn at 5:45 PM on November 15, 2012 [3 favorites]


bondcliff, we also had a Hostess bakery in my home town that gave tours to elementary-aged schoolkids. Best field trip ever. The only other one that was even close was the field trip to the dairy where we got free chocolate milk.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 5:46 PM on November 15, 2012




Big bread makers may be doomed, but Hostess sure hasn't been helped by private equity.


Ripplewood bought them out of bankruptcy. It was already unhealthy. And their first trip through chapter 11 lasted 4 years - a very long time. That usually bodes ill for the future.

Here's a description of the original bankruptcy

posted by JPD at 5:49 PM on November 15, 2012


I grew up, i.e., ate all the frickin' time, on Drake's Cakes: Ring Dings, Yodels, Devil Dogs, Funny Bones. And Hostess Chocolate Cupcakes. An occasional Twinkie, but, really, not my thing: no chocolate.

My old supervisor brought a box of Sno Balls to work a year ago, and we, more or less, had to eat one to indulge her. Sweet Jesus, really? I consumed this every day, sometimes multiple times a day, for the Wonder Years™ of my life?

If there is ever a need to document the body's survival mechanisms in the face of intensive chemical assault, give me a call.
posted by the sobsister at 5:53 PM on November 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


Here's that advertisement. (self link to Flickr)

*sigh*
posted by bondcliff at 5:56 PM on November 15, 2012


Here's a clip of Anthony Bourdain visiting an old Twinkie factory (now Zubal's books). Spoiler alert: contains footage of Mr. Bourdain consuming decades-old twinkie filling. Bonus: contains Harvey Pekar.

This may not be germane to the discussion but I thought it was cool anyway.
posted by stinker at 6:00 PM on November 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


This reminds me of the scene in blazing saddles.
posted by srboisvert at 6:00 PM on November 15, 2012


Anybody have a link to actual financials? I want to see what kind of deferred compensation deals they had with executives. It's pretty common for executives to defer much of their compensation until later, leaving the company and its shareholders to pay corporate income tax on that not-yet-paid executive compensation, plus pay outrageous interest rates to said executives.
posted by wierdo at 6:01 PM on November 15, 2012 [3 favorites]


Future generations shall be deprived of the subtle humor of one of the greatest sandwiches ever known to man

My God, I've never had a Twinkie wiener sandwich! I've always meant to. Must buy some before the great DeTwinkening.
posted by The Great Big Mulp at 6:02 PM on November 15, 2012


Yeah. What you got to know is the company can shut down and then all the employees are screwed. Pretty basic.
posted by Agenda21 at 6:06 PM on November 15, 2012


/me raises eyebrows, checks apocalypse-ready stock of Moon Pies in the basement, nods, turns off light, climbs stairs and sleeps soundly... for now.
posted by 1f2frfbf at 6:09 PM on November 15, 2012 [3 favorites]


Growing up in Canada, where until the 1990s "Hostess" meant ketchup flavoured potato chips, the back-of-the-comic-book ads for Hostess baked goods -- most of which we had, but made by different companies, namely Vachon -- were like some weird artifacts from a parallel universe.

Anyway, Vachon's doing fine, so if you run out of Twinkies south of the border, try asking your local Kinder Egg smuggler.
posted by Sys Rq at 6:10 PM on November 15, 2012


but, they are making a living off humans propensity to crave garbage to eat.

Does food taste better in your glass house?
posted by griphus at 6:13 PM on November 15, 2012 [10 favorites]


it'd be all Tortas, Sopapillas and Tres Leches. Do you you want to live in an America like that?

Yes?
posted by strangely stunted trees at 6:13 PM on November 15, 2012 [13 favorites]


And Mother's Cookies? Owned by Keebler, which is owned by Kellogg's. Yep, a bunch of elves who answer to a cartoon tiger. But they consolidated bakeries, so they nixed anything too similar to a Keebler product or that couldn't be baked in their nationwide network of hollow trees. (Still, they're making subtle changes, and in 10-15 years, everything they make is gonna be Pop Tarts).

Yes, I know, and I understand...but....Circus Animals.

Also, Keebler owns the company that makes girl scout cookies, which is why they sell knock-offs of Samoas.
posted by LionIndex at 6:14 PM on November 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


BECAUSE JOY HAS NO VALUE NOW BACK TO THE TOFU MINES, PEOPLE


Obligatory Farside
posted by shivohum at 6:22 PM on November 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


My experience with the CEO of Interstate Bakeries in 2004.
posted by infinitewindow at 6:24 PM on November 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


you guys I'm at Target right now and when did Hostess strawberry cupcakes become a thing?

when I worked at a car dealership as a kid, I'd always buy a pack of the Donettes from the vending machine as a break snack..

now that I'm an adult though prepackaged stuff like this is just sickly sweet and gross to me
posted by ninjew at 6:26 PM on November 15, 2012


BCTGM is also the union that went on strike to protest paycuts to Stella D'oro employees after that company was bought out by a big CT-based hedge fund. I know that in that case, the company wouldn't release financials, and from all accounts was profitable but greedy.

Seems like a different case here, but probably the same outcome - unionized factories are closed and biggest brands are sold off to non-unionized competitors for $$$.
posted by subdee at 6:28 PM on November 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


I can't wait for the Kickstarter description "OpenCrowdSourced spongy rapidprototyped custom snacks!"
posted by nickggully at 6:28 PM on November 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


So (trying still to get a grasp on America) is this "fiscal cliff" I keep hearing about made from compacted twinkies? Hence, with no more twinkies, America is apparently "going to drive off it"?

The fiscal cliff refers to cutbacks in government spending that are certain to happen if the number of politicians who agree that they can't be seen to cooperate with each other exceeds some kind of threshold, or something. Most importantly, it includes a decrease in the military budget of 0.03%, which would be enough to put 800 million people out of work. That would include those who were working on the Twinkie militarisation project, AKA the Munchies experiment. If Hostess are giving up now, can the other big military contractors be far behind? This could be the beginning of the end of American military supremacy.
posted by sfenders at 6:33 PM on November 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


"Anyway, Vachon's doing fine, so if you run out of Twinkies south of the border, try asking your local Kinder Egg smuggler."

Ah, Vachon, now that sounds familiar. I remember their Swiss Rolls well. Don't think they make anything that's exactly like a Twinkie, but their various rolls and spongy cakes are definitely in the same pre- diabetic neighbourhood.
posted by Kevin Street at 6:34 PM on November 15, 2012


LionIndex: "Also, Keebler owns the company that makes girl scout cookies, which is why they sell knock-offs of Samoas."

Which one? Little Brownie Bakers or ABC Bakers?
posted by radwolf76 at 6:46 PM on November 15, 2012


Bringing up a defunct Hostess factory seems like less of a project than The Impossible Project.

So, yeah it could be a Kickstarter campaign.
posted by Confess, Fletch at 6:50 PM on November 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


Can one of you American chappies please explain exactly what a Twinkie actually is?

it is extremely light (ie, aerated) Victoria sponge in a roll/tube shape, filled with whipped cream. Except it's all got a very plasticky, manufactured taste that is sort of appealing if you grew up with it.
posted by DarlingBri at 6:50 PM on November 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


Can one of you American chappies please explain exactly what a Twinkie actually is?

Picture a dildo... then probably just stop.
posted by Trochanter at 7:09 PM on November 15, 2012 [6 favorites]


Wordshore: "Can one of you American chappies please explain exactly what a Twinkie actually is?"

If you can visualize the amount of psychokinetic energy floating around the New York area just before the Gozer the Gozerian incident as a creme filled spongecake 35 feet long and weighing approximately 600 lbs, a Twinkie would be the PKE in New York, but on a normal day.
posted by radwolf76 at 7:11 PM on November 15, 2012 [55 favorites]


Which one? Little Brownie Bakers or ABC Bakers?

Little Brownie.
posted by LionIndex at 7:18 PM on November 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


If you can visualize the amount of psychokinetic energy floating around the New York area just before the Gozer the Gozerian incident as a creme filled spongecake 35 feet long and weighing approximately 600 lbs, a Twinkie would be the PKE in New York, but on a normal day.

I need more favorites to give this.
posted by Pope Guilty at 7:24 PM on November 15, 2012 [5 favorites]


LionIndex: "Also, Keebler owns the company that makes girl scout cookies, which is why they sell knock-offs of Samoas."

Dollar General sells Girl Scout cookies under other names. When I say Girl Scout cookies I mean they are identical except in packaging. Mint Thins are the only reason I go there.
posted by wierdo at 7:24 PM on November 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


The Hostess with the leastest?
posted by ShutterBun at 7:29 PM on November 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


Seriously? I scroll this far down, and nobody has already quoted the entire phrase "nobody bakes a cake as tasty as a Tastycake?"

For shame, children of he 1980s raised by a cathode ray tube! ;)
posted by trackofalljades at 7:33 PM on November 15, 2012 [3 favorites]


LionIndex: "Little Brownie."

Oh, the bastards who keep introducing lemon flavored ones like Chalet Cremes and Lemondrops, only to break my heart by canceling them a year or two later. And don't get me started on their current one, Savannah Smiles, which while lemon, is only 2/3rds of a cookie per cookie; they haven't even canceled them yet and I already hate them for it.

At least ABC Bakery still has Lemonades and looks like they're coming out with a new mango one, and being on the border between two states, I can pick and choose between troopes who are with one bakery or the other.
posted by radwolf76 at 7:34 PM on November 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


it is extremely light (ie, aerated) Victoria sponge in a roll/tube shape, filled with whipped cream.

It's not whipped cream. It looks like whipped cream, but other than that, there's no similarity. It's lard (or possibly shortening) mixed with confectioner's sugar and chemical gummifiers.

Yum!
posted by Sys Rq at 7:42 PM on November 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


Sigh. One of the factories that would be closed is in my hometown. (We only just got Tastykakes here, and I worried it was a harbinger of doom. I guess I was right.) One of my favorite guilty pleasures is a frozen pack of Hostess orange cupcakes. Zingers and the fruit pies were a staple of my childhood, though I can't bring myself to eat either anymore. I do still like Sno Balls, though...

Oh man. This is kind of apropos. I just clicked the link on the Wikipedia page for Sno Balls, and it pulls up a 404 ("FourOFour") page on the Hostess website with a teary Twinkie in a cowboy hat saying this:

Aw crumb.

We’re terribly sorry, but what you are looking for is gone. Gone forever.

Please click the button below to find comfort during this difficult time.

[HOLD ME]


Aw...hold me.
posted by limeonaire at 7:43 PM on November 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


Growing up in Canada, where until the 1990s "Hostess" meant ketchup flavoured potato chips

When you've got the munchies, nothing else will do! I didn't recognize the hilarity of that slogan until I was much older.

the back-of-the-comic-book ads for Hostess baked goods -- most of which we had, but made by different companies, namely Vachon -- were like some weird artifacts from a parallel universe.

Passion Flakies were my drug of choice.
posted by emeiji at 7:45 PM on November 15, 2012


Hostess may not have been good at running a company but they sure were great at...


accumulating debt.
posted by mazola at 7:48 PM on November 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


So I think it should be asked. Is this some sort of PE bust out? Renegotiate with creditors, get out of chapter 11 once, siphon money out of the firm by taking on more debt to pay consultants and huge bonuses, go into chaper 11 again, liquidate the whole thing, pay more bonuses and give yourself a pat on the back ?
posted by Ad hominem at 8:13 PM on November 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


All of this, and no acknowledgement of the one true snack cake company, Little Debbies? I mean, Nutty Bars? Zebra Cakes? Set up a tournament, one Hostess snack vs. one Little Debbies, and the Little Debbies will win hands down, every single time.

I'm so, so luckly Little Debbies aren't available in Japan. I've got enough trouble with my weight as it is... Damn. Nutty bars... Just that thrill when you manage to separate an entire layer of wafer from the collective without breaking it. Tastes like victory. Not surprisingly, victory tastes like peanut butter and chocolate.
posted by Ghidorah at 8:15 PM on November 15, 2012 [4 favorites]


Now would be a good time to archive The T.W.I.N.K.I.E.S. Project, which I remember being a fairly common item on 90s web link lists. According to the fine print, Hostess is their webhost.
posted by reprise the theme song and roll the credits at 8:19 PM on November 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


liquidate the whole thing

Twinkie milkshake time!
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 8:22 PM on November 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


Twinkie milkshake time!

If you have a ho-hos or yodels milkshake recipe, please don't link it.
posted by Ad hominem at 8:26 PM on November 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


It was totally worth sludging through all these nonsense comments about evil corporate conspiracies and how snack companies are trying to kill America, just to read that Ghostbusters joke.

Thank you, Radwolf76. You made this thread worthwhile.
posted by cribcage at 8:40 PM on November 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


Just because: Fruit Pie the Sorceror
posted by stevis23 at 8:55 PM on November 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


So... Here's my question: how did it come to this? Are people really buying that much less of a Hostess products, or was Hostess leveraged and saddled with debt by some Bain types?
posted by slkinsey at 9:24 PM on November 15, 2012


What ever happened to Twinkie-The-Kid? Well, pardner, most folks will tell you how he was run out of town, betrayed by the Hostess he had sworn to defend. Some people say he hooked back up with his ol' amigo Cap'n Cupcake and went on the run to Bolivia, where they ran into a run of trouble with some Federales amd disappeared. Some people say he hung up his lariat and settled down with to a rich lady by the name of Lil' Debbie, content to lay low and let god lady take the lead in domestic affairs

Me? I still think he's out there, a-ridin the range, rightin' wrongs where he can, waitin'. Waitin' for a time when all the imposters and braggarts have fallen by the wayside and people need someone who won't crumble or go stale in the face of want and hunger; there will always be a Twinkie-The-Kid, because there will always be a hunger that no other cake can fill.
posted by KingEdRa at 9:32 PM on November 15, 2012 [5 favorites]


Now would be a good time to archive The T.W.I.N.K.I.E.S. Project

Came in here to mention that. Rice represent!
posted by immlass at 9:43 PM on November 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


slkinsey: So... Here's my question: how did it come to this? Are people really buying that much less of a Hostess products, or was Hostess leveraged and saddled with debt by some Bain types?

Regardless of the latter, I can't help but think the former has something to do with it. I mean, one of their main products is wonder bread. Does anyone here know anyone who ever eats that? Does it serve any purpose in the modern world except for the occasional person filming a period piece from the 80s? I mean, I have a horrible diet - I'll eat whatever random frozen/canned/boxed food looks good - and even I'm too good for wonder bread.
posted by Mitrovarr at 9:55 PM on November 15, 2012


All of this, and no acknowledgement of the one true snack cake company, Little Debbies?

I was briefly panicked while reading this thread until I remembered that my snack cake crack of choice is a Little Debbie product - whew!
posted by naoko at 9:58 PM on November 15, 2012


Frankly, the Execs should rot in hell. As to snack food nirvana, this: Butterscotch Krimpets!
posted by evilDoug at 10:12 PM on November 15, 2012 [3 favorites]


"We can't keep the company going because these jerks actually want to get paid to work for us! I know, it's crazy, isn't it? Our hands are tied!"
posted by Brocktoon at 10:17 PM on November 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


brundlefly: "What? No Zombieland jokes yet?"

And, I quote from an email to SMS I sent a friend earlier...

"Now Zombieland can never happen. Hostess might liquidate on Thursday if their strike doesn't clear up. "
posted by Samizdata at 11:04 PM on November 15, 2012


So... Here's my question: how did it come to this?

My guess, which I'm trying to confirm but not really finding a lot of information either way on, is that they have some fundamental problems going on related to their production processes. I'm willing to bet that their factories are mostly old and production is labor-intensive relative to competitors. But changing something like that requires major capital investment, which they probably can't afford due to poor sales. So they have declining sales, old infrastructure, high costs, inability to lower prices to get new customers, further declining sales ... death spiral.

Maybe if they go under, someone will buy some of the Twinkie-making machines and start turning out artisanal "tubular snack cakes" and become the newest foodie thing. I feel like they were on their way there — a few months ago I went to a fairly upscale NYC restaurant that had a dessert option consisting of nothing but a plate of assorted manufactured snack cakes (for something like $20).
posted by Kadin2048 at 11:05 PM on November 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


mccarty.tim: "I saw them on an episode of Unwrapped. They're baked, flipped out of the pans, and injected with the goop.

The show didn't go into the ingredients. Which are long, and probably horrifying if you can make out what they are, and probably form druidic incantations if read aloud.
"

Although, I would say "eldritch and rugose" (or even all the way to "squamous"), instead of "druidic".

Of course, druids had to do with nature. Hostess? Not so much.
posted by Samizdata at 11:07 PM on November 15, 2012


Is it me, or all these Hostess names rather risqué?

Twinkie?
Sno Ball?
Ding Dong?
Honey Bun?
Ho Ho?

I bet folks will sure miss stuffing a twink in their mouth ... or a relaxing sno ball from time to time ... those filthy perverts. ;)
posted by busillis at 11:13 PM on November 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


In the early/mid 1990's I worked awhile at a Wonderbread factory, on a temp assignment. My wrists have never been the same since. Antiquated keyboards on antiquated computers, and obscenely convoluted paperwork processes. It wasn't a nice environment.

Wonderbread is the stand-in for that typical soft white crap that was the normal daily bread of America, back in the day. I always loved those colored polka dot wrappers. Who the hell ever thought that was good bread?

But then there are the pies. That's where my Hostess-love existed. When I was a homeless teen, I got one helluva lot of miles out of 1 pie and a can of V8. No, not a tasty combination. But it worked amazingly well. Don't recall when I last ate anything like that (the pie. Gave up V8 due to salt, without which it was sadly horrible).
posted by Goofyy at 12:52 AM on November 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


I ran across a story about this last night on my local tv news. Sadly, the story ran along the lines of "Can you believe what these idiot UNION workers are doing? Hostess has no choice!!! And no moar Twinkies!!!111"
posted by Thorzdad at 3:47 AM on November 16, 2012


Whelp that's it. Liquidating.

I think Kadin pretty much has the story here adding on a shrinking market for packaged bread and very high incremental margins meant that they were stuck in a sprial. Add into that their exit from bankruptcy came at an absolutely terrible time and they were allowed to exit with too much debt and you've got the story. Manufacturing companies converting a ch 11 to a ch 7 usually only occurs when the underlying plants are non-viable from a cost perspective. Let's remember that the Teamsters actually agreed with Management on the need for labor to take wage cuts to make the plants viable.
posted by JPD at 4:29 AM on November 16, 2012 [5 favorites]


Frankly, the Execs should rot in hell. As to snack food nirvana, this: Butterscotch Krimpets!

When I was a little kid, one of my favorite books was Jerry Spinelli's "Maniac Magee", and the favored snack food of the eponymous protagonists was the Butterscotch Krimpet. Until just now I thought it was something made-up! I'll have to try one sometime if I'm ever geographically able.
posted by Pope Guilty at 4:41 AM on November 16, 2012 [3 favorites]


An old friend of mine will be mourning.

In his college days, finding the right place to go dumpster diving was an art form. For example, the Pizza Hut downtown was popular -- too popular, in that they had to padlock the dumpsters after college kids and local homeless people had one too many fistfights over discarded pizzas.

My friend chose the local Hostess plant as his target and was rewarded well; the irregulars they chucked were wrapped and therefore quite edible, if Hostess products can be described as edible in their natural state.

His one qualm about the experience was phrased as a question while looking for a bathroom: "Do you know what an all-Brownie Bites diet does to a person?" We did not inquire further.
posted by delfin at 4:42 AM on November 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


Twinkies cost about £2 here in shops that do US sweets. And like Hershey's, they seem to be very much one of those things you need to grow up on to enjoy - Kisses are the only sweets, bar the durian fruit candy, that didn't disappear in minutes in my office.
posted by mippy at 4:44 AM on November 16, 2012


Pope Guilty: my mom taught 6th grade reading in Indiana, and being a Maryland native, had butterscotch krimpets shipped in when they read Maniac Magee so that her students would know that it wasn't a fictional treat.
posted by percor at 4:52 AM on November 16, 2012 [3 favorites]


In his college days, finding the right place to go dumpster diving was an art form. For example, the Pizza Hut downtown was popular -- too popular, in that they had to padlock the dumpsters after college kids and local homeless people had one too many fistfights over discarded pizzas.

My friend chose the local Hostess plant as his target and was rewarded well; the irregulars they chucked were wrapped and therefore quite edible, if Hostess products can be described as edible in their natural state.


There's a place in a town I used to live in that is both a bakery and a Hostess "dealership", and their dumpster was incredible. We'd take turns each trip being the one who'd climb in and toss stuff out, and newbies were always chosen to go into the bread and Hostess dumpster just because of how much pure awesome it was.


Pope Guilty: my mom taught 6th grade reading in Indiana, and being a Maryland native, had butterscotch krimpets shipped in when they read Maniac Magee so that her students would know that it wasn't a fictional treat.

Your mom is awesome!
posted by Pope Guilty at 4:55 AM on November 16, 2012


The ingredients aren't all that bad.
posted by gjc at 4:57 AM on November 16, 2012


The Union isn't striking to improve their position with management - they're striking to improve their position with whoever management decides to sell the facilities to. They know they're all going to be laid off - but they also know they were all going to be laid off eventually, anyhow, no matter what concessions they made.

However... they also know the product they make is still in demand nationwide, and that there will be a buyer of both the brand and the factory. When that buyer goes to re-hire them, they'd much rather be hired back with a decent level of wages and benefits as a starting point for negotiation.
posted by Slap*Happy at 5:03 AM on November 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


When that buyer goes to re-hire them, they'd much rather be hired back with a decent level of wages and benefits as a starting point for negotiation.

Except that isn't really going to be a starting point. It's a liquidation. The new owners will be under absolutely no obligation to even talk to the union unless the union commands such a high percentage of the pool of potential employees that the new owners simply can't get the plant running without the union.

In today's labor environment, that seems less likely than ever before. Instead of improving their bargaining position with the new owners, why wouldn't this simply encourage the new owners to say "Oh, those guys? The ones that drove the old owners out of business. Yeah, those guys. Fuck those guys. Seriously."
posted by valkyryn at 5:14 AM on November 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


Silly Teamsters! You cannot hurt a Twinkie!
posted by NordyneDefenceDynamics at 5:17 AM on November 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'll have to try one sometime if I'm ever geographically able.

As much as I hate to recommend them to anyone, I believe tastycake distributes butterscotch krimpets nationwide through Wal-Mart now. You may also be able to find them at Kroger supermarkets.
posted by radwolf76 at 5:18 AM on November 16, 2012


Well, here's one comforting thought: if anyone feels the need to buy a whole bunch of twinkies now while the company is still making them, they'll still be good to eat in 50 years!
posted by Melismata at 5:21 AM on November 16, 2012


This is irresponsible and dangerous. Without Hostess, our main line of defense against supervillains is gone.
posted by Legomancer at 5:22 AM on November 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


why wouldn't this simply encourage the new owners to say "Oh, those guys? The ones that drove the old owners out of business. Yeah, those guys. Fuck those guys. Seriously."

Well, because they didn't drive the old owners out of business. The ship was sunk with or without worker concessions. The whole thing reeks of "We fucked the business up, but, hey, let's blame the big bad unions." But, at a guess, if I buy up a newly liquidated Twinkie factory with antiquated, purpose-built machinery, hiring the guy who used to run the Twinkie machine is probably not a terrible move. If I just buy the trademark and make my own factor, maybe I don't need the former workers, but then they're screwed anyway.
posted by hoyland at 5:24 AM on November 16, 2012 [3 favorites]


You wouldn't liquidate if you thought the plants were viable. The brands will probably continue to exist (at least Wonder Bread and Twinkies) they'll just be made in someone else's plants.
posted by JPD at 5:26 AM on November 16, 2012


But, at a guess, if I buy up a newly liquidated Twinkie factory with antiquated, purpose-built machinery, hiring the guy who used to run the Twinkie machine is probably not a terrible move.

You probably wouldn't be a bidder for the brands unless you already had a distribution network delivering bread and or pastry from your facility, so you don't really need the machines - you already have them outside of things like molds.

Like you can't just buy a factory. The distribution network is as important as the factory, if not more so. That's also why it is so hard for businesses like this to deal with shrinking demand.
posted by JPD at 5:29 AM on November 16, 2012


~ why wouldn't this simply encourage the new owners to say "Oh, those guys? The ones that drove the old owners out of business. Yeah, those guys. Fuck those guys. Seriously."

~ Well, because they didn't drive the old owners out of business.


That's all well and good, but the spin being shoveled-out to the media is that the shuttering of Hostess is the union's fault. As I noted earlier, the story is being framed as yet another "Great American business forced to close because the greedy union refuses to do their part" tale. Regardless of what the truth is, this is the shading that is being actively fed to media outlets.
posted by Thorzdad at 5:31 AM on November 16, 2012 [4 favorites]


Instead of improving their bargaining position with the new owners, why wouldn't this simply encourage the new owners to say "Oh, those guys? The ones that drove the old owners out of business. Yeah, those guys. Fuck those guys. Seriously."

I have to say that I'm hardly surprised that your "it's a fraction of the company's total liabilities, so it doesn't matter at all!" tune completely evaporated when we went from talking about the CEO tripling his salary to the unions making what I would expect were much more modest requests. As if there is anything the workers could do that would make the old owners or new owners not try to fuck them over.
posted by XMLicious at 5:45 AM on November 16, 2012 [5 favorites]


However... they also know the product they make is still in demand nationwide, and that there will be a buyer of both the brand and the factory. When that buyer goes to re-hire them, they'd much rather be hired back with a decent level of wages and benefits as a starting point for negotiation.

Seems incredibly unlikely to me that this would be in any way a positive outcome for the workers. Hostess was still playing by the old rules where a company has to treat its workers well and provide things like pensions and medical benefits. I have no idea if playing by those rules actually made it significantly harder for them to compete with other companies, but newer companies are definitely not playing by those rules anymore. Especially considering that unemployment is high right now and there are most likely many people who would agree to work for less money and benefits than the union workers were getting.
posted by burnmp3s at 5:47 AM on November 16, 2012


Regardless of what the truth is, this is the shading that is being actively fed to media outlets.

It is actually amazing how well-prepared and full-bore Hostess went on the propaganda campaign. I mean "unions are taking Twinkies from you" is powerful enough but even just to Google this is total information dominance. The "Hostess Strike Information" website is even owned by Hostess.

You know what pisses me off the MOST about this? Do any of us REALLY lament the lack of, specifically, a Twinkie? Because there aren't a HUNDRED competitor equivalents on the shelves? As if you don't buy the cheaper store brand "creme filled snack cakes" when they're on sale already? Why the love for Hostess? Oh, right, it's a brand loyalty. It's because Americans care about that name and that product tradition... one that was maintained by.... oh, that's right.... A STRONG LABOR FORCE MAKING THE GODDAMN THINGS.

Oh wait never mind fuck those guys. If I can't have health care fuck them for complaining. From sea to shiniiiinnnngggg seeeeeGLOURGHD (dies of diabetic shock)
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 5:52 AM on November 16, 2012 [10 favorites]




It's because Americans care about that name and that product tradition... one that was maintained by.... oh, that's right.... A STRONG LABOR FORCE MAKING THE GODDAMN THINGS.


So are the private-label baked goods. Nearly all of the big bakeries are unionized.
posted by JPD at 5:57 AM on November 16, 2012


Yes JPD I understand that; I'm not saying people loved the name Hostess because it had union workers. I'm saying they loved the name because it carried itself as an American institution through the success of its product. The product was successful because of its workers. We have a generation of Americans now who seem to just believe large companies sprung from the ground and weren't successful because of the equal success of organized labor throughout the post-WWII era.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 6:03 AM on November 16, 2012 [3 favorites]


it'd be all Tortas, Sopapillas and Tres Leches. Do you you want to live in an America like that?

Depends. REAL Sopapillas or those flat fake crispy things they pass off as sopapillas?
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 6:14 AM on November 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


Good news, bad news:

Hostess Brands has bakery operations across the United States but several of its brands are made for the Canadian market by other companies. [...] Montreal-based Saputo has rights to the Hostess brand but doesn't include Twinkies among its current lineup of snack cakes.

So Canadian Twinkies are safe, if only there were Canadian Twinkies.

Odd -- you would think that with all the weed... Maybe it's to do with the return of Wagon Wheels.
posted by Capt. Renault at 6:26 AM on November 16, 2012


The distribution network is as important as the factory, if not more so.

The distribution network is really good, hostess products are pretty much in every store that sells something edible, and comes with the factory. It's unlikely people will buy the brand without a way of recreating the product, and it's unlikely they'd buy a way of recreating the product without a means of delivering it to wholesalers and retailers.

Hostess' problem, IIRC, was raiding their pension at the same time they accumulated almost a billion dollars in very ill-considered debt - leaving them in a position where they could repay neither. A new owner won't have this problem, but will have a ready-made factory and distribution system for brands that basically market themselves. It's going to be bought lock, stock and barrel by Kraft or Nestle or someone, and the Union is right to think of where their workers will need to start in negotiations with the new owners for their re-hire.
posted by Slap*Happy at 6:57 AM on November 16, 2012


Future generations shall be deprived of the subtle humor of one of the greatest sandwiches ever known to man

I guess this is my last chance to drop a link to my photo of former Apple/Be exec Jean-Louis Gassée eating a Twinkie Dog for $20.
posted by mikepop at 7:00 AM on November 16, 2012 [3 favorites]


Everyone - run, don't walk, to all your nearest vending machines and bodegas and rush-buy up all the Twinkies, DingDongs, HoHos, Sno Balls etc. etc. you can and put them under an old mattress in the basement for long-term storage. I promise (kinda) you that these sexually provocative ("archaeologists tell us that our ancestors used them for courtship and foreplay") 100% artificial Jetsons-style snacks will be worth millions, even billions (equivalent to thousands today) on 3D augmented reality mandatory Craigs-eBay in 20 years time or so.
posted by Bwithh at 7:01 AM on November 16, 2012


A rite of passage for every fourth grader in town was to take a field trip to the factory.

I grew up in a smaller town about 20 minutes away from there. We rarely got to go on field trips to places that weren't museums or good-for-you places like that. My mom was always determined that we weren't going to grow up without knowing anything about cities and more urban places, so we'd do these weekend field trip things. She'd call up factories and say "How many people do you require to do a tour?" and round up the requisite number of neighborhood kids and we'd pile in the car and go. I barely remember the trip we took there except that it smelled AMAZING. My mom was also one of those store-brand-only ladies so just getting brand name breads and just-cooked snacks and seeing a factory that had more people working at it than I had pretty much ever seen together at one time was something special. When I moved to Seattle later they had a Hostess factory which also smelled AMAZING but said they didn't do tours when I called to ask them about it.
posted by jessamyn at 7:10 AM on November 16, 2012 [3 favorites]


The distribution network is really good, hostess products are pretty much in every store that sells something edible, and comes with the factory

so are their competitors. The brands are worth more to someone who can push them through an existing distribution network and bake them in their existing plants. Selling it as a going concern is a much easier option. If that were an option the DIP guys would make that happen. No remotely competent bankruptcy judge would allow a company to convert from a Ch 11 plan to a Ch 7 plan and then sell entire business to (or even entire operating units) to someone as an ongoing concern.

The pensions are part of the problem, but they were never "raided". They were converted into debt in the last bankruptcy. Additionally one of the pension issues is the multi-employer plans where Hostess is liable for the pension obligations of other bakeries that have liquidated.

The whole thing is a mess and to lay the blame at the hands of anyone in control today is a mistake.
posted by JPD at 7:17 AM on November 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


I have to say that I'm hardly surprised that your "it's a fraction of the company's total liabilities, so it doesn't matter at all!" tune completely evaporated when we went from talking about the CEO tripling his salary to the unions making what I would expect were much more modest requests.

"Much more modest requests" my ass. There were about 18,000 Hostess employees. Every $1,000 spent per employee is $18 million for the company. Probably closer to $19-20 million after taxes are counted. That $3 million we were talking about? $166 per employee. The Teamsters just agreed to an 8% pay cut, which would probably have saved the company something like $50 million. Tens of millions, certainly.
posted by valkyryn at 7:26 AM on November 16, 2012


Cranberry: "Is it true that tokers no longer munch Twinkies? No wonder Hostess is distressed."

If they only would have hung on until legalization in more states, they may have been able to make a killing (I mean, beyond the killing they already did with all those artery cloggings!)

Quite frankly, Twinkies was the only thing I really liked from Hostess. Well, the cupcakes were ok, I guess (I made out with one, once, when I was really really fucking baked (baked! get it?) on some fucking primo Northern Lights - the shit was so potent I thought it was laced with acid. It's one of the two "made out with food while high" stories I have, so there's always that lovely trivia re: me and Hostess products -- I mean, full on tongue action with the cream oh yeah!)

But you know, Little Debbie is where it's at. Nutty Bars is like the mother fuckin' BOMB and there is no Hostess alternative to that schizz... Seriously. Nutty Bars.

------
Speaking of unhealthy - you don't know unhealthy until you've had a solid multi-month binge of Egekvist donuts (oh my god, the fat. the FAT! I blame that for my really bad health outcomes today - that and Mountain Dew). Also: THERE ARE NO EGEKVIST DONUTS ANYMORE :(

--------
And yeah - it seems like an embittered move by the fucking pig owners of the shit. Total "blame the union" bullshit :\
posted by symbioid at 7:29 AM on November 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


Oh I meant to add - I read in one of Rushkoff's books that one of the things these places do is pump chemicals into the air to give an artificial smell of food outside their bakeries to drive people to go into the little local store adjacent to it. I'm talking these big corporate places (we have one in Madison - though I think it's Dolly Madison), not authentic small scale local bakeries. So that's probably the smell everyone's been smelling - just a bit of a chemically fake scent for your subliminal advertising.
posted by symbioid at 7:31 AM on November 16, 2012


You know who benefits from the Hostess bankruptcy? General Petraeus, that's who. You think an allegedly* former CIA chief couldn't pull some strings and close a damn bakery? Now who's being naive? This thing is rotten all the way to the core.

* Yes. That's what they want you to think.
posted by gauche at 7:35 AM on November 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


My god, they're going to have to increase security at the Texas Twinkie Depository and/or Strategic Underground Hostess Reserve a la Kraft. Try to convince me Hostess didn't prepare for this...do you think infinite shelf life is a mere coincidence?
posted by obscurator at 7:41 AM on November 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


I call for a British Invasion of our large and time-honoured range of delicious savoury meat pastries/pies and scotch eggs to fill in the snack market gap created by the demise of Hostess. Americans have bafflingly gone without the comforts of savoury meat pie (and scotch egg) snacks for long enough
posted by Bwithh at 7:50 AM on November 16, 2012


I call for a British Invasion of our large and time-honoured range of delicious savoury meat pastries/pies and scotch eggs to fill in the snack market gap created by the demise of Hostess. Americans have bafflingly gone without the comforts of savoury meat pie (and scotch egg) snacks for long enough

I second this. As well sausage rolls, cornish pasties of all flavors, chip shops and doner stands suspiciously only open after dark, all of which are missing and much-missed from my diet.
posted by gauche at 7:57 AM on November 16, 2012


stinker :Here's a clip of Anthony Bourdain visiting an old Twinkie factory (now Zubal's books). Spoiler alert: contains footage of Mr. Bourdain consuming decades-old twinkie filling. Bonus: contains Harvey Pekar.

This may not be germane to the discussion but I thought it was cool anyway.


That clip couldnt have been more germane than if it played bass for the Jackson 5.
posted by dr_dank at 7:58 AM on November 16, 2012 [6 favorites]


So this sinks Dolly Madison as well, doesn't it?

I need to stock up on Zingers. I haven't eaten one in years but the thought of never tasting one again saddens me for some reason.
posted by Dr-Baa at 8:00 AM on November 16, 2012


Sorry dude, but if you can't manage to make a healthy profit with a 5000% markup on pretend garbage food and pay people a living wage, then the world probably doesn't need your fake pastries in it that bad.
posted by Senor Cardgage at 8:03 AM on November 16, 2012 [13 favorites]


Kisses are the only sweets, bar the durian fruit candy, that didn't disappear in minutes in my office.

Well, yeah, there's really no reason to eat american "chocolate" when you have access to the real delicious european thing, is there.
posted by elizardbits at 8:09 AM on November 16, 2012


With the exception of Wonder Bread, Hostess bakery products might be pretty much confined to the US. I've seen the comic book ads, but never encountered a Twinkie or Devil's Food Cupcake in the wild.


West coast Canada here, they are fairly ubiquitous here and have been since I was a kid. Mostly see them in gas stations, warehouse superstores, cheap "bakeries" that don't actually make their own bread, and the prepackaged cookie region of the grocery store. Nostalgia/revulsion is pretty accurate, I think.
posted by purplecrackers at 8:12 AM on November 16, 2012


I grew up on the east side of Indianapolis, directly downwind from the Wonder/Hostess plant on Shadeland Ave. The couple of days each week they baked the Wonder bread were amazing.
posted by Thorzdad at 8:13 AM on November 16, 2012


What about the Twinkie?
posted by stltony at 8:23 AM on November 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


Don't know if this was posted upthread, but here is an article from last summer that tries to detail the situation. The more I read about this mess, the more depressing it looks.....for all the parties involved. I am not sure what to make of the whole thing anymore.

Seems like this company was doomed to failure 50 years ago but it amazingly took this long to finally happen.

Hostess is bankrupt … again
July 26, 2012
By David A. Kaplan, contributor
CNN Money | Fortune
Caught in a fight between labor and hedge funds, the baker may finally have reached its expiration date.
posted by lampshade at 8:25 AM on November 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


The Market has been slowly killing the Pension as an institution for decades (I was given a 401K-or-nothing choice 25 years ago). Companies and governments who continued to provide them were pressured into "pre-funding" by making investments that they hoped would provide high, inflation-proof yields, but have severely underperformed (or they were dishonestly overpromised). Calpers, the umbrella organization of California public pension plans, is one of the world's largest 'owners of stock' (about $250 billion depending on the current market) and is getting blamed for the insolvency of many California cities.

The term "workplace reform" in lampshade's linked article is a business-press euphemism for down-classing the workers. Most of the big investors (besides Calpers and Warren Buffet) just HATE the whole idea of adequate employee compensation. If Henry Ford were to start his business today with the commitment to "pay the workers enough to buy the product", he'd find it impossible to get seed money, let alone make a Public Offering.
posted by oneswellfoop at 8:30 AM on November 16, 2012 [9 favorites]


Still...let no one say I am incapable of sentimentality.
posted by Senor Cardgage at 8:35 AM on November 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


The Market has been slowly killing the Pension as an institution for decades

Doesn't this kind of thing make you want a 401(k) more than a pension? I'd rather get my money away from my employer now than depend on them being able to pay it out to me in 40-some years. There is a transfer of risk from the company to the individual but this and a million other stories you'll read about show that companies and even state and municipal governments cannot be relied on to meet those obligations down the line.

Give me my money now and let me manage it as best I can, thanks.
posted by Aizkolari at 9:31 AM on November 16, 2012 [4 favorites]


Give me my money now and let me manage it as best I can, thanks.

You could take it to Vegas! Cause it's the same difference, really.
posted by Brocktoon at 9:34 AM on November 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


You could take it to Vegas! Cause it's the same difference, really.

Not really. Making an account at Vanguard and transferring in money from your checking account could not be simpler. If you're risk-averse, pick a portfolio of mostly bonds. They have tools to help you pick the right options for you, and even portfolios based on your target retirement age. I'm sure Fidelity has similar options, or you could pay a flat-fee financial adviser for advice.

Besides, you're kind of making my point. If I don't have the money now, the company does, and they might go bankrupt like Hostess or find themselves unable to pay out like Illinois may do soon.
posted by Aizkolari at 9:43 AM on November 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


valkyryn: ""Much more modest requests" my ass. There were about 18,000 Hostess employees. Every $1,000 spent per employee is $18 million for the company. Probably closer to $19-20 million after taxes are counted. That $3 million we were talking about? $166 per employee. The Teamsters just agreed to an 8% pay cut, which would probably have saved the company something like $50 million. Tens of millions, certainly."

And I would counter that, at that level, employees get a relatively large quality-of-life increase per dollar, and employers see a very large quality-of-product increase for improvement in employee quality of life. Underpaid employees underperform, whether it's because they don't get enough sleep because they have to work multiple jobs to stay afloat, or because they feel devalued, or because you're more likely to get unskilled employees at lower pay levels.

In contrast, the quality-of-life increase per dollar for a CEO making seven figures is virtually nonexistent. And you have to agree that, regardless of the other issues here, for such a CEO to accept a huge compensation increase as the company sinks into bankruptcy is at best evidence of gross idiocy and mismanagement. The quality-of-product increase for his improved quality of life is thus... very negative.

Yes, it costs more to give everyone a modest raise than to give the CEO a huge one, but that's because you're investing in the future of the company as opposed to throwing good money after bad. Wasting a small amount of money isn't smarter than investing a large amount of money, so when we see you getting all het up only about the latter we start to doubt your savvy, or your motives, or both.
posted by Riki tiki at 9:49 AM on November 16, 2012 [4 favorites]


oneswellfoop: "The Market has been slowly killing the Pension as an institution for decades (I was given a 401K-or-nothing choice 25 years ago). Companies and governments who continued to provide them were pressured into "pre-funding" by making investments that they hoped would provide high, inflation-proof yields, but have severely underperformed (or they were dishonestly overpromised). "

Given how routinely employers weasel out of obligations in bankruptcy, I have to wonder why pensions are so valued by unions. And part of the problem is that state retirement plans calculate the present value of their pension liabilities by assuming an 8 percent growth rate of assets under management. In comparison, TIAA yields 1, maybe 2 percent. That 6 percent gap is presumably all risk. So I guess I do have a theory: stupid accounting rules make pensions far more attractive to unions, as long as the courts enforce the bargain. Perhaps this is why unions rely on companies to run pension systems on behalf of their members, instead of collecting the money and running it themselves?
posted by pwnguin at 9:52 AM on November 16, 2012


For anyone running OS X who wants to make their own backup of The T.W.I.N.K.I.E.S. Project, SiteSucker might be of some use. I just used it (it still works fine on OS X Lion), and it appears to have gotten everything!
posted by limeonaire at 10:25 AM on November 16, 2012


Don't cry any tears for the managers currently taking a $1 salary. They certainly aren't staying on the job just to pad their resumes. They know that, as typical in liquidations, top management will be awarded millions of dollars by the bankruptcy judge for their assistance in the liquidation and are at the front of the line for any proceeds ahead of equity and bond holders. In fact, their willingness to take the one dollar salary (after previously being caught trying to loot the company) indicates that their plan all along was liquidation. They would have made out relatively poorly in any alternative reorganization to continue operations. This whole union thing is just a cover and convenient scapegoat for their true intentions all along.
posted by JackFlash at 10:41 AM on November 16, 2012 [11 favorites]


So, Hostess is filing bankruptcy because they can't afford to pay their workers. I'm not sure why that's the union's fault. If you can't afford to operate, you can't afford to operate. Expecting the workers to subsidize your failing business is ludicrous.
posted by Stagger Lee at 10:49 AM on November 16, 2012 [11 favorites]


Hostess has been a mess for a long, long time. Management heaping blame on the workers is laughable at this stage. It reminds me of those people you hear about, who blame all their problems on that last person who didn't spot them a $20, when they've gotten loan upon loan in the past. Sheesh.

Unions, management, and owners generally need to work together -- and should share in the profits -- but this is ridiculous.

Also - as an aside - once I studied the GAAP rules for pensions, I decided then and there never to rely on a pension as part of my compensation package. It is trivially easy for companies to obscure the real amount of their pension obligations and underfund them for decades at a time. Some companies do stay on top of their pensions and fund them appropriately, but it's too hard to tell who those companies are ... and then if they change on you while you're employed, you're screwed.
posted by stowaway at 10:54 AM on November 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


Bwithh: "I call for a British Invasion of our large and time-honoured range of delicious savoury meat pastries/pies and scotch eggs to fill in the snack market gap created by the demise of Hostess. Americans have bafflingly gone without the comforts of savoury meat pie (and scotch egg) snacks for long enough"

Not where I'm from, my friend! We have Cornish Pasties up the wazoo - hell, we have this local place, Teddywedgers that sells GIANT ASS PASTIES! Look at these glorious things. That's due to the heritage of Cornish minders coming up to the Iron Mountain region in Michigan and some of that spread in the area around here :)

And I got to have Scotch Eggs from my ex's step-father. They are awesome. In fact, I was wondering why the hell McDonald's hasn't already jumped on that one. McEggs! You just KNOW people would gobble that shit up.
posted by symbioid at 10:54 AM on November 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


"Much more modest requests" my ass. There were about 18,000 Hostess employees. Every $1,000 spent per employee is $18 million for the company. Probably closer to $19-20 million after taxes are counted. That $3 million we were talking about? $166 per employee. The Teamsters just agreed to an 8% pay cut, which would probably have saved the company something like $50 million. Tens of millions, certainly.

Yes, that's what I'm saying. When three million dollars is going to triple the salary of a single very important person like an executive that is, if I may use your precise words, "nothing", because it's merely "0.33% of the company's indebtedness", even when the company is on the brink of bankruptcy. Not even worth speaking of, when it's going to something important like cranking up executive compensation.

But when unions have the outrageous expectation that their however-many-thousand workers shouldn't give up via a cut to their current salaries an amount that's less than 5.8% of the same "$860 million all told" (if the Teamsters are the biggest union) to a company tossing cash around like that then Dear God! What effrontery! They've singlehandedly driven the company to ruination! And put the poor old owners out of business.

Yeah, I don't think so.

Brian Driscoll almost immediately got a new job paying a hundred grand more than his (pre-tripled) salary. I doubt the old owners are going to be doing much worse. Given that several of them are private equity firms I wouldn't be surprised if much of the $860 million is actually in their pockets as "consulting fees".
posted by XMLicious at 10:56 AM on November 16, 2012 [3 favorites]


Interestingly, the rights to the Hostess and Wonder Bread names are owned by separate companies in Canada and they'll both continue using the brands and producing the products. So I guess Twinkies are about to become a uniquely Canadian phenomenon, which seems strangely since they seem like such a quintessentially American foodproduct.
posted by asnider at 10:56 AM on November 16, 2012


On review, I guess Twinkies won't be a uniquely Canadian product, as apparently Saputo (who owned the Canadian rights to the Hostess name) doesn't make them.
However, the Saputo lineup doesn’t currently include Twinkies.
posted by asnider at 10:58 AM on November 16, 2012


Man, I got in on this one too late so I guess I'll make a list of my points below.

- Amusingly, Woody Harrelson is a vegan and raw foodist and wouldn't eat a Twinkie if you paid him a pound of marijuana. The one he ate in Zombieland was apparently made of cornmeal.

- Bimbo bread is awesome.

- Keebler's knock-off Samoas aren't anywhere near as good as the real thing, which I suspect may have something to do with the fact that my local troops get their cookies from ABC.

- Butterscotch Krimpets are for sale in my local Walmart in Northern California.

- Little Debbie Cherry Cordials are the best snack cake ever, but you can only get them between December and February. Stock up!
posted by elsietheeel at 11:14 AM on November 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


GIANT ASS PASTIES! Look at these glorious things. That's due to the heritage of Cornish minders

If you want to a-change snack domination
A-do-do-do-do-do
Old flavour, old style, just a new location
A-do-do-do-do-do
I've got a good idear
Just you keep me near
I'll be so good for replacingtheTwinkie

(I'm thinking maybe they only seem giant relative to the person holding them.)

posted by Sys Rq at 11:31 AM on November 16, 2012


This sucks. There's a Hostess bakery outlet down the street from me, and I could get Nature's Pride pan loaves for 99 cents, and the big loaves for 1.59 a loaf, less than half of what it cost at Sprouts. It was a really good place to get cheap bread, and an occasional cheap goodie like a 25 cent Chocodile, my personal favorite. It's terrible that whoever dropped the ball did so so catastrophically.

It provided cheap, decent quality bread in a low income neighborhood, (and also employed 18,000+ people,) but I guess people crowing about "garbage food" and whatnot are more concerned about aesthetics or something.
posted by Snyder at 11:32 AM on November 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


Later in the tour we got to see something that was kind of like Charlie walking in and seeing the Oompa Loompas. We got to see something few kids, hell few adults, would ever see.

We got to see how they put the cream into the Twinkies.


When I was in fourth grade, they took us around to the R. J. Reynolds plant in Winston-Salem, where we got to see the big machine that made the Endless Cigarette of Wonder. Monster rolls of cigarette paper and a never-ending flow of chopped tobacco were funnelled and glued together into an eternally extruding cigarette that never ended. At least not until it hit the blades a few feet down that cut it into individual Winstons or Camels. The floor was littered with a few yard-long bent up cigarettes from when something had gone wrong and the Endless Cigarette started jumping into the void.

I need a smoke.
posted by gimonca at 11:46 AM on November 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


Also, am I the only person who remembers the twinkie defense?
posted by gimonca at 11:48 AM on November 16, 2012


Sadly, no.
posted by Aizkolari at 12:01 PM on November 16, 2012


When I was in fourth grade, they took us around to the R. J. Reynolds plant in Winston-Salem, where we got to see the big machine that made the Endless Cigarette of Wonder. Monster rolls of cigarette paper and a never-ending flow of chopped tobacco were funnelled and glued together into an eternally extruding cigarette that never ended. At least not until it hit the blades a few feet down that cut it into individual Winstons or Camels. The floor was littered with a few yard-long bent up cigarettes from when something had gone wrong and the Endless Cigarette started jumping into the void.


We did that exact same field trip twice in my school career, once in middle school iirc. I always wound up with an immense headache after the tour, and we always went to Old Salem afterwards, and I always had a headache at Old Salem. Ah memories.


(I wish I still had that Joe Camel poster I bought at the gift shop afterward. I bet that would have been a collector's item.)
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 12:17 PM on November 16, 2012


Aizkolari: "Doesn't this kind of thing make you want a 401(k) more than a pension?"

You'd think, but many 401(k)s have limited investment options. Ask the folks at Enron or Worldcom or Wiltel or any other of a number of fairly large companies that ended up going bust. Damned if you do, damned if you don't.
posted by wierdo at 12:27 PM on November 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


When my husband's father took the R. J. Reynolds tour (in the 50s?) they gave the kids a carton of cigarettes "for the parents." I wonder how many smokers got started that way?

Although my mom did a lot of baking --tollhouse cookies for a start-- there were enough Hostess goodies around that I still remember the tactile sensation of the cupcake frosting, slightly pliable, almost leathery, and the white squiggle on top like plastic. My mom taught me that the correct way to eat a hostess cupcake (goodness, she must have been in her 20s) was to pull off half of the cake and plop it down over the frosting, so that you had cake, frosting, cake. Much better that way.

Nobody in elementary school would be caught dead eating a Sno Ball, that was like cootie city, and the fruit pies were consumed mostly by fat kids. However I did have a twinkie now and then. I feel no compulsion to eat one now.

What struck me as I was doing my grocery shopping today is that Hostess doesn't command all that much space but my god if Oreos ever go out of business there will be hell to pay. How many different kinds of Oreos do they make now?
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 12:57 PM on November 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


I have to admit that as I think off and on of this post, I increasingly hear in my head:

"Ding, Dong, the Ding Dong is dead!"
posted by bearwife at 2:29 PM on November 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


I thought Twinkies were supposed to survive past the apocalypse?

They did. We reelected Obama!
posted by mygoditsbob at 2:43 PM on November 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


Man, the last time that I heard from Hostess, they were complaining about some Obamacare or some shit, totally oblivious to the idea that people might actually be buying healthier foods of their own volition.

One thing that I would have liked to see, which didn't seem in the cards, is to have unions take on some of the debt in exchange for an ownership stake — similar to the hedge funds. Then they'd have both the incentive to keep the plants going and the ability to influence decisions made regarding labor.
posted by klangklangston at 2:50 PM on November 16, 2012


They will bluff for as long as they have capital to ride out the production halt.
posted by clarknova at 2:51 PM on November 16, 2012


From a link on another MetaFilter thread, found the list of ingredients for the Twinkie. So, that's a big step to making our own. Fiancee: this weekend, let's convert the basement into a Twinkie Lab...
posted by Wordshore at 2:55 PM on November 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


One thing that I would have liked to see, which didn't seem in the cards, is to have unions take on some of the debt in exchange for an ownership stake

They did. They offered unions a 25% share of the business for $100 million in debt plus wage and benefit cuts. Would you take that deal? That's throwing them a life buoy with an anchor on it.

If Hostess couldn't find an investor to willing to buy 25% of the company for $100 million, the unions would be foolish to do the same.
posted by JackFlash at 3:09 PM on November 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


"Really, seriously, you're not asking me about Hostess Twinkies, are you? ... I'm on Saturday Night Live enough. ... This is a setup! You people are the worst! I am not answering questions on Twinkies. No, no, no, no, no, no. It's bad that I even said the word 'Twinkie' from behind this microphone."

—New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, responding to a question on the bankruptcy of Hostess

posted by MCMikeNamara at 3:20 PM on November 16, 2012 [10 favorites]


I thought that was some funny satire, MCMike... but a quick google proved Chris Christie actually said that.

I may not always agree with the man, but he's got a great sense of humor.
posted by m@f at 3:29 PM on November 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


Noooo Ho Ho Ho Ho
posted by yoga at 4:23 PM on November 16, 2012


In my panic over the loss of Drake's Cakes I found the best website ever.
posted by galvanized unicorn at 5:00 PM on November 16, 2012


So we just got back from the grocery store (Dierbergs) here in St. Louis. The endcap displays of individually wrapped Hostess products looked pretty picked over—but as my husband pointed out, well, that's kinda how they always look...

When I got to the endcap of bulk boxed Hostess products, I saw a gal carrying a box of chocolate cupcakes, giving the display a last look. "It's so sad—gotta stock up!" I said, and told her about not being able to find the orange ones. She piped up immediately: "Oh, they have them at Target—I was just there!" And then she spotted the two remaining bulk boxes of orange cupcakes for me. Yeah...I bought both, and a box of strawberry ones, too. And I feel vindicated—I'm not the only one!
posted by limeonaire at 5:39 PM on November 16, 2012


Mmmmmm....PBR and Twinkies.
posted by Drinky Die at 6:42 PM on November 16, 2012


employers see a very large quality-of-product increase for improvement in employee quality of life

First, I'm not convinced that's true in general. Second, even if it were, you need to also convince me that said "very large quality-of-product increase" actually translates to increased revenues and/or profitability. If it doesn't, there's no business reason to encourage such. Third, in this specific case, we're talking about Twinkies. What kind of "very large quality-of-product increase" are you talking about? The recipe isn't going to change if workers get paid more, and it's not like anyone was complaining that their Twinkies weren't made right. They're Twinkies.

So you've got three unproven and, to my lights, highly dubious assumptions going on here. You're assuming that happier employees make for better products, which not obvious. You're assuming that better products make for a healthier company, which is also not obvious. And you're assuming that happier workers would in this specific case make for better Twinkies, which is not so much not obvious as downright hilarious.
posted by valkyryn at 3:47 AM on November 17, 2012


But when unions have the outrageous expectation that their however-many-thousand workers shouldn't give up via a cut to their current salaries an amount that's less than 5.8% of the same "$860 million all told" (if the Teamsters are the biggest union) to a company tossing cash around like that then Dear God! What effrontery! They've singlehandedly driven the company to ruination! And put the poor old owners out of business.

If you're okay throwing around orders of magnitude like that--the employees were presumably demanding something which would cost the company twenty-plus times more than the executive compensation we're talking about--then it's probably a good thing that you aren't running any businesses.
posted by valkyryn at 3:49 AM on November 17, 2012


Hostess And The Limits Of The Private Welfare State
These workers deserve universal health care, a good pension from Social Security, and dare I say it, even a Universal Basic Income to support them while they try to find other jobs. The fact that we depend on a privatized welfare state where all these things are tied to jobs is bad for workers and bad for the country.

It feeds into the problem Ashwin Parameswaran discusses in this post, a quixotic search for “a stable system where labour and capital are both protected from the dangers of failure”, one which “inevitably breeds a fragile and disadvantaged working class” that is fragmented into groups of protected insiders looking to protect their status, rather than act in solidarity as a class. I can’t recommend that post enough if you, like a lot of people I interact with, have any affinity for the project of “somehow recreat[ing] the golden age of the 50s and the 60s i.e. stability for all.”
posted by the man of twists and turns at 7:02 AM on November 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


If you're okay throwing around orders of magnitude like that--the employees were presumably demanding something which would cost the company twenty-plus times more than the executive compensation we're talking about--then it's probably a good thing that you aren't running any businesses.

I am, actually.

And twenty times "nothing" is still nothing. Speaking of orders of magnitude—which you seem to have ignored yourself throwing around when you try to claim that employees turning down $2500-average pay cuts aren't being modest enough next to a $1.8 million raise—if you think it makes sense for 700-plus of the employees to take pay cuts to finance that one guy's salary increase alone, you may be lacking a bit in business acumen yourself.

I may not be a titan of industry or anything but I know enough to say that if it makes sense to you to give a gift—not a loan—of 50 million dollars to someone you're doing business with who has ploughed themselves into the ground to the tune of $860 million in the hopes that they won't screw up again and in the expectation that you're going to make out well from the deal because it's such a fantastic opportunity, or if you would blame yourself for having put someone like that out of business because you didn't give them such a gift out of the goodness of your heart, there's a prince in Nigeria who has an equally fantastic opportunity for you.
posted by XMLicious at 7:15 AM on November 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


Up thread I noted the PBR(Pabst Blue Ribbon) strategy was in play. Today it was discovers that PBR's parent company is considering a bid.. Normally wouldn't promote my own prescience, but I'm having a rough day. Could I get some dap please.
posted by humanfont at 8:03 AM on November 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


I guess this is my last chance to drop a link to my photo of former Apple/Be exec Jean-Louis Gassée eating a Twinkie Dog for $20.

Okay, I'm dying to hear the story behind this. He looks like he's only another $20 bill from taking off his glasses and stripping.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 8:38 AM on November 17, 2012


You're assuming that happier employees make for better products, which not obvious. You're assuming that better products make for a healthier company, which is also not obvious.

Unhappy employees and shitty products for everyone! Google Ron Paul!

I would just like to say that if you are in the business of selling delicious pastries to Americans, and you have a brand name that goes back almost a century, and you are failing, you may just be a wretched businessman.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 8:41 AM on November 17, 2012 [3 favorites]


There really wasn't much of a deal to be made. This was the second round of bankruptcy and the company was still saddled with hundreds of millions of debt that no company its size could hope to service.

Part of the union deal was that 12 plants would be closed, so thousands of employees would be losing their jobs no matter what.

Part of the deal is that they wanted to trade 25% of the shares in the company to the unions in exchange for their being responsible for $100 million in debt. A large part of this debt was due to the looting of the pension funds because the owners failed to contribute the required amounts. This means the unions would be responsible for paying back the debt on their own stolen pension funds.

Perhaps the key issue is that by taking an equity share, the unions would have limited their eligibility for pension insurance through the PBGC. If the company subsequently went out of business despite all the concessions, very likely given the huge debt burden, they would lose most of their pensions. With liquidation, they at least have their pensions guaranteed by insurance. With the offered deal, they would have been totally screwed.
posted by JackFlash at 8:45 AM on November 17, 2012 [5 favorites]


valkyryn writes "You're assuming that happier employees make for better products, which not obvious."

I think the inverse is obviously true; unhappy employees are the ones serving sneeze muffins.
posted by Mitheral at 10:22 AM on November 17, 2012


Morning Hostess brain-dump:

Last night my wife asked me to fetch her some Twinkies and Cup Cakes. Twinkies are extinct in the San Fernando Valley. The only Cup Cake I could find was an orange one. Dunkin' Stix and Donettes are still easily available, but that's because they suck.

The liquor store owner I talked to didn't carry Hostess but did carry Dolly Madison. He told me that he had to sell Hostess-brand snacks at $1.69 to make a healthy profit margin, but he could sell Dolly at $1.00 for the same effect on his bottom line. Even though Dolly is owned by Hostess and sells a Twinkie clone, I'm told it's not the same, so I didn't pick any of those up for my wife. Part of the taste of the Twinkie is the packaging, of course (witness the "white can of Coke" debacle during the 2011 holiday season).

Hostess owned the Merita brand, which is the white bread I grew up with. I don't eat white bread anymore, but I will miss the yellow "OLD-FASHIONED" bags of bread when I fly back east to see family.
posted by infinitewindow at 10:47 AM on November 17, 2012


Part of the taste of the Twinkie is the packaging, of course (witness the "white can of Coke" debacle during the 2011 holiday season).

Tangent, but: Certainly branding has a lot of power over us, but I don't think the white can of Coke debacle had anything to do with a perception that Coke in a white can tasted different...at least not for some arcane reason. The problem was that the white can of Coke made it look like a normally packaged can of Diet Coke, so no one really knew what they were buying without looking at it hard.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 11:00 AM on November 17, 2012


It seems like the PBR strategy. Stage 1 liquidate the company and allow the brands to go for a little while. Stage 2: small batch production for specific events and hipster gathings. Stage 3 nation wide relaunch now as an upmarket snack.

humanfont called it! Pabst Brewing Co.'s owner might make a bid for Hostess' brands.
posted by 1970s Antihero at 11:02 AM on November 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


10 Pop Culture Moments For Twinkies
posted by the man of twists and turns at 11:37 AM on November 17, 2012


Got suet? Roll your own Twinkies (courtesy of SPY Magazine, July 1989.)
posted by maudlin at 10:35 PM on November 17, 2012


Hostess' largest union is actually playing ball. It's a smaller union that isn't. So yes, it does seem that one union is being unreasonable. But the bigger one isn't.

Can it possibly be true that no one in an oh-so-liberal Metafilter thread about labor relations bothered to link the November 13th press release from the union that is now being blamed for Hostess' closing? I mean, its claim that Hostess was planning on closing many bakeries months and months ago, and that the strike is being used as an excuse, is pretty fucking clear:

"Our members rejected the company's outrageous proposal by 92 percent in September. Rejection came from every corner of the country. They were being asked to vote on a proposal with massive concessions, knowing that their plant could very well be one of those to be closed...

Over the past eight years since the first Hostess bankruptcy, BCTGM members have watched as money from previous concessions that was supposed to go towards capital investment, product development, plant improvement and new equipment, was squandered in executive bonuses, payouts to Wall Street investors and payments to high-priced attorneys and consultants.

BCTGM members are well aware that as the company was preparing to file for bankruptcy earlier this year, the then CEO of Hostess was awarded a 300 percent raise (from approximately $750,000 to $2,550,000) and at least nine other top executives of the company received massive pay raises. One such executive received a pay increase from $500,000 to $900,000 and another received one taking his salary from $375,000 to $656,256.

Over the past 15 months, Hostess workers have seen the company unilaterally end contractually-obligated payments to their pension plan. Despite saving more than $160 million with this action, the company continues to fall deeper and deeper into debt. A mountain of debt and gross mismanagement by a string of failed CEO's with no true experience in the wholesale baking business have left this company unable to compete or survive.

posted by mediareport at 9:23 AM on November 18, 2012 [4 favorites]


mediareport : I mean, its claim that Hostess was planning on closing many bakeries months and months ago, and that the strike is being used as an excuse

If they planed to close up shop and liquidate, why did they need an excuse? When you've decided you can't keep treading water any more, it doesn't much matter whether you blame the cold, fatigue, or a cramp.


They were being asked to vote on a proposal with massive concessions, knowing that their plant could very well be one of those to be closed

Yup, true enough. And then they voted to put themselves out of a job.

But hey, no worries! No doubt, some other manufacturer will buy the plants and want to hire back thousands of people who've already proven they'd rather put their employer under to score a "moral victory", than share a bit of the pain. Wouldn't you, if you had the capital?
posted by pla at 11:51 AM on November 18, 2012


why did they need an excuse?

This is one of those questions that answers itself.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 12:10 PM on November 18, 2012


the man of twists and turns : This is one of those questions that answers itself.

No, really, it doesn't. Or if you consider the answer so obvious, please, let me know? (Not sarcasm).

Because it just doesn't make any sense. Hostess had no reason to "blame" anyone in its death throes. Shareholders? Moot point if they go under. PR? Moot point if they won't exist next week. IP selloff value? Blame doesn't change the value of the Twinkie name. Looking forward to the next job? Yeah, running the company into the dirt rather than giving in to hypothetically reasonable demands looks just fab on a resume.

Even if you view it as a mere negotiating tactic, they didn't bluff. The union didn't give in, and Hostess went under. Those boys need to get a looooot better at poker, if you take that stance.
posted by pla at 1:35 PM on November 18, 2012


Hostess had no reason to "blame" anyone in its death throes.

To be clear, it's the post-death throes narrative in the media coverage of this story that I think most needs to be called out. It's bad enough that most outlets miss the fact that two unions disagreed on strategy here, but not even bothering to address the issues raised by the smaller union is ridiculous.

And then they voted to put themselves out of a job.

We'll see what happens to the Hostess brand, I guess. But I dunno, the move seems to me not very far beyond the pale when you consider the bakery union workers felt they had zero job security to begin with. Plants were going to close, and profits were going to be given to top executives. Can you really not see how, at some point, some folks might say, "enough"?
posted by mediareport at 1:50 PM on November 18, 2012


It sounds to me like the executives ran the company into the ground, gave themselves raises, and looted the pension. Why would you make ANY deal with them? I mean, why even play poker with someone who is going to overturn the table and rob you?
posted by Drinky Die at 2:08 PM on November 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


why did they need an excuse?

They needed an excuse in order to liquidate the company, which allows them to sell off the brand names to the highest bidder to extract the only remaining value in the company. A company can't just cease operation unilaterally. It has contractual obligations to its shareholders, bondholders and unions. It has to go through bankruptcy proceedings and a judge decides how these conflicting obligations can be best resolved. The judge's first objective is to find some way to keep the company operating, to preserve employment and to help the bondholders get their money back. It is only if the judge decides there is no possible way for the company to survive that the judge will allow liquidation and the selling off of assets. Offering the unions a really garbage deal so that the union goes on strike is the excuse they needed to liquidate and squeeze the last bit of cash out of the company.
posted by JackFlash at 2:13 PM on November 18, 2012 [4 favorites]


No, really, it doesn't. Or if you consider the answer so obvious, please, let me know?

To shape the narrative, for the media, the bankruptcy proceedings (like JackFlash said), and future employers. To convince people that it was the unions that caused the company to fold.

Is it working? You tell me.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 2:25 PM on November 18, 2012


mediareport : Can you really not see how, at some point, some folks might say, "enough"?

Make no mistake, I neither mean to call Hostess the "good guy" here, nor to suggest that the offer on the table looked like a decent deal.

In that situation, I would most certainly have started working my butt off to find a new job ASAP - Effectively, saying "enough!" as you suggest. But I very much would have preferred to do so with a job to pay the bills for the next few months than without.

Yes, they might have lost their jobs a month from now anyway, because it sounds like the company had completely incompetent upper management; but as it played out, the union has effectively taken away its own members' option of looking for a better job while things get progressively worse.

Or going back to my intended-as-rhetorical question - Do you think the execs will suffer here, regardless of who the media blames? Hell no! They'll get their golden parachutes no matter what happens. The one group that both had options and a lot to lose here has chosen to throw those options away to make a point.

And that, I just can't agree with.


JackFlash : A company can't just cease operation unilaterally.

Do you believe the board wanted to put themselves out of a cushy job? Golden parachutes aside, no one jumps off the golden plane voluntarily.
posted by pla at 2:25 PM on November 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


the union has effectively taken away its own members' option of looking for a better job while things get progressively worse.

92% of members voted to reject the deal. I think they understand their situation better than you.
posted by Drinky Die at 2:31 PM on November 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


Do you believe the board wanted to put themselves out of a cushy job?

Their current CEO does nothing but come to companies for a year while they liquidate. They knew what they were doing, cashing out. They knew the job was already gone just like the union did.

Gonna C&P a Something Awful post here.

Correct. Let's take a look at current Hostess CEO Gregory Rayburn's executive resume, per Businessweek and LinkedIn:

CEO, Hostess Brands: February 2012 – Present (10 months)
CRO, Indiana Live Casino and Indiana Downs Racetrack: February 2011 – April 2012 (1 year 3 months)
CEO, NYCOTB: July 2010 – January 2011 (7 months)
CEO, Magna Entertainment Corp. March 2009 – May 2010 (1 year 3 months)
CEO, Muzak: 2005 – 2006 (1 year)
CRO, AAIPharma Services Corp.: 2004 – 2005 (1 year)
CRO, WorldCom: 2003 – 2004 (1 year)
CEO. Sunterra: 2002 – 2003 (1 year)
Co-Founder, Capstone Equity: 1999 – 2001 (2 years)

Huh. In ten years, he's helped run eight (8) companies, yet his average tenure is just under one (1) year. Sounds like just the guy to provide some stability to a company that's hemorrhaging cash (Hostess has had six CEOs in eight years, an obvious indicator of sensible and stable leadership; insert deck-chairs-on-Titanic metaphor here).

And where did Mr. Rayburn receive the wisdom and knowledge to assume these responsibilities? Why, at our favorite cornerstone of financial integrity, Arthur Andersen, where he spent twelve years prior to trying his hand at leadership!

You'll notice, by the way, Mr Rayburn was also helping to drive the bus at WorldCom during their _massive_ embezzlement scandal, which makes a compelling read if you're so inclined. Gosh, ugly financial debacles just seem to follow Mr Rayburn around, don't they?

Hostess brought Rayburn in because they knew damn well the ship was going sideways. And the reason they're drowning in debt is because the two primary investors shuffled/transferred as much debt as they could onto a business that they've intended to sink for some time, just like every one of the companies Mr. Rayburn has so ably supervised.

EVERY FUCKING ONE of the companies he's run has either liquidated or been acquired in eighteen months or less after he's come on board. For this generous service, Hostess of course has paid him $125,000 a month.

I don't even mind that. It irritates me personally, but business is business and owners can do what they want. I'm not an accountant or a CFO, and I'm more than willing to concede that bankruptcy/liquidation may have been the sensible option. What pisses me off is the blatant dishonesty in publicly pushing the responsibility onto the employees. The last offer from Hostess to the unions was rejected with a 92%-against vote. What's more likely: that 92% of the union employees - not labor officials but bakers, truck drivers, factory workers - are lazy, stupid, greedy slobs thirsting for unemployment and the ole government teat? Or that the offer was garbage and unrealistic?

By the way - this last offer came after Hostess shamelessly broke previous promises and violated their collective bargaining agreement. They were supposed to pay back the workers' pension to the tune of nearly $100M - didn't happen. The company "temporarily" stopped paying into the pension fund last August. Whoops. They were also supposed to invest in new plant equipment per the bankruptcy resolution/agreement. Surprise, didn't happen.

Private equity intended for this company to go tits-up the whole time. And again, I'm okay with that. I disagree with it personally, but business is business and it's unrealistic to expect that to change anytime soon. But to paint this closure as a failing of the _workforce_? You cowards.

And this is why when the rich whine about their tax rates increasing, I give you a big fat fuckin' middle finger.


Why union? Why won't you sign the deal he offered you and take on a huge responsibility for the ship management already knew was sunk?
posted by Drinky Die at 2:36 PM on November 18, 2012 [13 favorites]


Do you believe the board wanted to put themselves out of a cushy job?

Yeah, seriously, that's *exactly* what these people do.
posted by mediareport at 3:00 PM on November 18, 2012


Keep in mind, that the deal offered to the unions was to get 25% ownership of the company in exchange for taking on $100 million in debt -- debt owed to their own pension. If they accepted the deal they would lose the PBGC insurance on their pensions -- so they likely ultimately would end up with no job and no pension. This way at least they keep their pensions.
posted by JackFlash at 3:19 PM on November 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


Let's take a look at current Hostess CEO Gregory Rayburn's executive resume

Thanks so much for that link. I had no idea it was that bad. Bravo, Something Awful; you had a more intelligent and informative comment about what happened than 99% of what just happened in this MeFi thread.
posted by mediareport at 3:53 PM on November 18, 2012 [1 favorite]



Thanks so much for that link.


Me too! It really helps put some perspective on the whole Hostess melt-down, and it verifies what I thought was really happening. Now if only some real journalists would do their job and spread the word I would appreciate it; I'm tired of reading all of the anti-union sentiment in my local new source.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 4:03 PM on November 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


Forbes blames the management.
By constantly trying to defend and extend its old business, leadership at Hostess killed the company. But not realizing changing trends in foods made their products irrelevant – if not obsolete – and not changing Hostess leaders allowed margins to disintegrate. Rather than developing new products which would be more marketable, priced for higher margin and provide growth that covered all costs Hostess leadership kept trying to financial engineer a solution to make their horse and buggy competitive with automobiles.

And when they failed, management decided to scapegoat someone else.
FOX blames the Union.

Guess which one is going to get a bigger audience.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 4:14 PM on November 18, 2012


pla: "Do you believe the board wanted to put themselves out of a cushy job? Golden parachutes aside, no one jumps off the golden plane voluntarily."

That's not in the least bit true. Executives that fail somehow almost always manage to end up with top jobs elsewhere within a few years. There is no risk from their perspective. They either do well for the company and get fantastically wealthy or don't do well for the company and get slightly less fantastically wealthy and go work somewhere else that will make them fantastically wealthy. Even the board members were overpaid relative to other companies. Inbred capitalism at it's finest.
posted by wierdo at 4:57 PM on November 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


Or going back to my intended-as-rhetorical question - Do you think the execs will suffer here, regardless of who the media blames? Hell no! They'll get their golden parachutes no matter what happens. The one group that both had options and a lot to lose here has chosen to throw those options away to make a point.

But how does the fact that the "house always wins" indicate that the right move for the union was to accept pay cuts amounting to a few percentage points of the company's overall debt via decimating the workers' incomes, after already having made concessions in the past and subsequently seen things like the CEO's salary tripling?

The fact that the management and owners had nothing to lose, had looted the company, and had the game rigged are the primary things which indicate to me that it would have been stupid for the union to take the deal rather than being something that weighs in favor of it being a great option. The whole "shared sacrifices" and $1 executive salary thing were obviously a complete ruse and fakery, as you yourself are essentially saying, because the executives and private equity firms are going to be dealt a winning hand no matter what.

"Throwing away" that option is a good choice because all of the sacrifices JackFlash lists that the unions would have ended up making would not have accrued to the workers' benefit in the long term nor stabilized the company but instead would have simply gilded some executive's golden parachute a bit more or otherwise been siphoned off into someone else's pocket. Not to mention the fact that this wouldn't be the last time they would've been asked to make "shared sacrifices", because if the other parties had gotten away with it this time they'd have just tried the same gambit again and again.

In fact, that could've turned out to be the more profitable option if keeping the company in poor shape and repeatedly fleecing the unions turned out to have more ROI than fixing things. "Shoot the hostage" strategies like that are exactly what private equity firms specialize in and they don't give a damn what happens to the hostage. Maybe that's what had already happened and was the reason the CEO cashed his chips in via the suddenly tripled salary and jumped ship - he knew it wasn't going to work again.
posted by XMLicious at 5:05 PM on November 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


JackFlash writes "If they accepted the deal they would lose the PBGC insurance on their pensions"

Shit in that case I'd be voting against a pay cut too.
posted by Mitheral at 5:42 PM on November 18, 2012


ABC has the first murmurs about who will buy up pieces of the company:
...analysts' reports that Thomasville, Ga.-based Flowers Foods Inc. and private equity food investment firm Metropoulos & Co. are likely suitors. Metropoulos owns Pabst Brewing Co., while Flowers Foods makes Nature's Own bread, Tastykake treats and other baked goods.
If Tastykake's owners think there's a future there, there IS a future there. But the owners of Pabst? PBR and Twinkies? Do they (or could they) really have 'hipster cred'?
posted by oneswellfoop at 8:56 PM on November 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


i don't really know why some people have the idea that PBR is just for hipsters (or that PBR is the only brand they make). they make shitty, but super cheap beer (there's a 30 pack in my pantry right now - fifteen bucks!). i can see them translating that to something like twinkies with great success.
posted by nadawi at 9:10 PM on November 18, 2012


Unless I'm mistaken, PBR doesn't actually make anything. They rent spare capacity at breweries and have PBR made where-ever there's spare capacity.
posted by Pope Guilty at 9:11 PM on November 18, 2012


it's still not just pbr - which really makes them buying hostess make more sense - the customer base for olympia/lone star/stroh/pbr etc and hostess are pretty evenly aligned, i'd bet (give or take some mormons).
posted by nadawi at 9:19 PM on November 18, 2012


Inside the Hostess Bankery
posted by homunculus at 9:40 PM on November 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


Huh. Apparently the judge is pressing for one last attempt at mediation. And just in time—everywhere I've been is already sold out of Hostess products...
posted by limeonaire at 12:43 PM on November 19, 2012


Via limeonaire's link: Exclusive: Sun Capital wants to buy Hostess

Private equity firm Sun Capital Partners wants to buy bankrupt bakery Hostess Brands Inc., Fortune has learned. The proposal would be to operate Hostess as a going concern, including reopening the shuttered factories and continuing union representation of Hostess workers.

Sun Capital privately expressed interest in acquiring Hostess earlier this year, but the bakery's creditors chose for an alternate reorganization plan that ultimately failed. Following Friday's liquidation, Sun reengaged by contacting Hostess advisor Perella Weinberg Partners. It also plans to contact the relevant labor unions.

"I think that we could offer a slightly better, more labor-friendly deal than what was on the table last week," says Sun co-CEO Marc Leder, in an interview with Fortune. "We also think that one point the unions have made is that there hasn't been a great amount of reinvestment in the business. We've found that investing new capital into companies like this can be very positive for brand, people and profitability... We would look to invest in newer, more modern, manufacturing assets that would enable the company to become more productive and to innovate."

posted by mediareport at 1:00 PM on November 19, 2012


everywhere I've been is already sold out of Hostess products...

Yeah, there is some hardcore hoarding going on.
posted by elizardbits at 1:24 PM on November 19, 2012


Be interesting to see if the deal goes through whether it's valued at 400 million. If it's less then that'll show the deal offered the union was a rip off to some degree.
posted by Mitheral at 5:11 PM on November 19, 2012


All too predictable
posted by Ad hominem at 10:51 PM on November 19, 2012


Hostess Judge to Weigh Shutdown After Mediation Fails

This article from yesterday has more details about the bonuses and creditors who want to block them:

U.S. Trustee Tracy Hope Davis asked the judge to convert the case to a Chapter 7 from Chapter 11 bankruptcy, based partly on the company’s intent to pay bonuses, and appoint a trustee to supervise the wind-down. Hostess officials “have not demonstrated that the insider bonuses are permissible,” Davis wrote in a court filing. They also “improperly seek to exculpate and indemnify their management from past and future liabilities” and want to “cherry-pick which administrative claims get paid.”

Also, the judge seemed to imply that the bakers union had been in talks with possible buyers, which might have led to an "improper" strike, which will turn up in the certain litigation to come:

Drain said courts have established that the law doesn’t prevent monetary claims against a union for a strike that’s unlawful or improper. Discovery may bring out what was said to Hostess’s competitors and prospective buyers, he said.

“A decision in essence to accept the termination of 6,000 jobs and what appears to me the inevitable reduction of recoveries at least raises issues as to why it was made, particularly when there was no attempt made to contest the terms that were imposed,” Drain said. “I’m giving the union as well as the debtors and their lenders a last chance to try and work those issues out in private...If they don’t take it, it’s not as if they won’t be worked out. They will be worked out, but they will be worked out in public and, I believe, ultimately in an expensive way.”

posted by mediareport at 9:32 PM on November 20, 2012


Rejoice!
John Constantine defeats the forces of Hell with Fruit Pies, and other Twinkie ads that never were from Comic Book Resources.

Guess how many Lex Luthor steals.
posted by Mezentian at 4:11 AM on November 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


TOM THE DANCING BUG: A HOSTESS TWINKIES AD - CAPTAIN INDUSTRY VS. UNION-MAN
posted by homunculus at 10:33 AM on December 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


Huff Po: Hostess Brands acknowledged for the first time in a news report Monday that the company diverted workers' pension money for other company uses.

The bankrupt baker told The Wall Street Journal that money taken out of workers' paychecks, intended for their retirement funds, was used for company operations instead. Hostess, which was under different management at the time the diversions began in August 2011, said it does not know how much money it took.

posted by Drinky Die at 2:35 PM on December 10, 2012 [4 favorites]


Maybe someone should go to jail?
posted by Drinky Die at 5:51 PM on December 10, 2012


Maybe someone should go to jail?

Corporations are convicts, my friend.
posted by localroger at 7:29 PM on December 10, 2012


So that would appear to have been under Brian Driscoll, the guy who got his salary tripled and then left precipitously, who's now CEO of Diamond Foods? I bet that wasn't the only thing it was a payoff for.
posted by XMLicious at 8:59 PM on December 10, 2012


Central Indiana now has Tastykake products! I assume they're expanding to take advantage of the demise of Hostess. Krimpet tasting imminent!
posted by Pope Guilty at 9:06 PM on December 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


Corporations are convicts, my friend.

Corporations are people.
The most virtuous people on Earth.
posted by Mezentian at 1:36 AM on December 11, 2012


Twinkie CEO Admits Company Took Employees Pensions and Put It Toward Executive Pay
posted by homunculus at 5:57 PM on December 12, 2012


Executives of Hostess, the maker of “Twinkies,” have admitted that they did not put the money paid into workers’ pension plans into a separate account. - " Rather, they basically stole the money and used it for operating expenses. In turn, the money inevitably supported the executives’ own bonuses. (This practice is not illegal in the US, just tacky.) "
posted by the man of twists and turns at 12:52 AM on December 13, 2012


And yet if I took $20 out of the till I'd go to jail. Filth.
posted by Pope Guilty at 2:15 AM on December 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


In brighter economic news, pitchfork and torch futures are looking good.
posted by localroger at 5:20 AM on December 13, 2012


Were these payroll deductions or employer contributions? It seems if they were payroll deductions, it'd clearly be illegal to do that.
posted by Devils Rancher at 7:43 AM on December 13, 2012


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