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Twinkie maker Hostess at end of line

Twinkie maker Hostess at end of line Andy Wagar loads Twinkies, Ho-Hos and Cup Cakes into a van outside the Wonder Bakery Thrift Shop in Bellingham.

Sat, November 17, 2012 - 9:00 AM

NEW YORK (AP) — Twinkies may not last forever after all.

Hostess Brands Inc., the maker of the spongy snack with a mysterious cream filling, said yesterday it would shutter after years of struggling with management turmoil, rising labour costs and the ever-changing tastes of Americans even as its pantry of sugary cakes seemed suspended in time.

Some beloved Hostess brands such as Ding Dongs and Ho Ho's likely will be snapped up by buyers and find a second life, but for now the company says its snack cakes should be on shelves for another week or so. The news stoked an outpouring of nostalgia around kitchen tables, water coolers and online as people relived childhood memories of their favorite Hostess goodies.

It's a sober end for a storied name. Hostess, whose roster of brands dates as far back as 1888, hadn't invested heavily in marketing or innovation in recent years as it struggled with debt and management changes.

As larger competitors inundated supermarket shelves with an array of new snacks and variations on popular brands, Hostess cakes seemed caught in a bygone time. The company took small stabs at keeping up with Americans' movement toward healthier foods, such as the introduction of its 100-calorie packs of cupcakes.

But the efforts did little to change its image as a purveyor of empty calories with a seemingly unlimited shelf life: Twinkies, for instance, have 150 calories and 4.5 grams of fat. A Ding Dong chocolate cake with filling has 368 calories and 19.4 grams of fat.

CEO Gregory Rayburn, who was hired as a restructuring expert, said that sales volume were flat due to slightly down in recent years. He said the company booked about $2.5 billion in revenue a year, with Twinkies alone generating $68 million so far this year.

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