Wonder Bread

Despite the fact that Twinkies and other Hostess treats are back on store shelves, there currently are no plans to reopen the local outlet store that previously housed those and other food items.

St. Clair R-XIII School District Superintendent Michael Murphy told The Missourian on Monday that he has not been contacted by anyone associated with the newly reorganized Hostess company about re-renting the facility where the former Wonder Bread/Hostess Cakes outlet store was located. That store, at 440 E. Gravois Road at the intersection of Bardot Street, closed in November after the parent company went bankrupt.

“There has been no contact,” Murphy said, adding that, “I think Wonder Bread Corp. is no more.”

The local school district owns the building where the outlet store used to operate. After it closed, Murphy and school board members discussed the facility’s future.

“We plan to use the facility for educational purposes,” Murphy told The Missourian this week, adding that he also has no plans to contact the new Hostess Brands LLC.

There have been talks during school board meetings about how the building will be utilized. Several options have been on the table.

For 52 years, the Wonder Bread/Hostess Cakes outlet operated in St. Clair before it closed late last year. When the store closed, 13 local jobs were lost.

As customers rushed to the local outlet to buy remaining products, a one-day sales record was set on Friday, Nov. 16. The store’s last day was the following Monday.

Out of Business

Hostess Brands Inc. went out of business in November after striking workers across the country crippled its ability to make snack cakes, including Twinkies and Ding Dongs as well as its Wonder Bread and other items.

The company had warned employees that it would file a motion with U.S. Bankruptcy Court at that time seeking permission to shutter its operations and sell assets if plants didn’t resume normal operations by a preset deadline.

At the time, the closing meant a loss of about 18,500 jobs nationally.

“This has been a vital part of the community for a long time,” St. Clair Wonder Bread/Hostess Cakes Manager Susie Brown said at the time of the store’s closing.


However, the company is back up and running under new owners and a leaner structure. Representatives recently had said the plan was to have Twinkies and other snack cakes back on shelves starting this past Monday.

According to the Associated Press, based on the outpouring of nostalgia sparked by its demise, Hostess is expecting a blockbuster return for Twinkies and other sugary treats, such as Cup Cakes and Donettes. The company said the cakes will taste the same but that the boxes will now bear the tag line “The Sweetest Comeback in the History of Ever.”

“A lot of impostor products have come to the market while Hostess has been off the shelves,” said Daren Metropoulos, a principal of the investment firm Metropoulos & Co., which teamed with Apollo Global Management to buy a variety of Hostess snacks.

In unwinding its business, Hostess sold off its brands in chunks to different buyers. Its major bread brands including Wonder were sold to Flowers Foods, which makes Tastykakes. McKee Foods, which makes Little Debbie snack cakes, snapped up Drake’s Cake, which includes Devil Dogs and Yodels.

Metropoulos & Co. and Apollo bought Twinkies and other Hostess cakes for $410 million.

The trimmed-down Hostess Brands LLC has a far less costly operating structure than the predecessor company. Reports stated some of the previous workers were hired back, but they’re no longer unionized.

Hostess also now will deliver to warehouses that supply retailers, rather than delivering directly to stores, said Rich Seban, the president of Hostess who previously served as chief operating officer. That will greatly expand its reach, letting it deliver to dollar stores and nearly all convenience stores in the United States.

Previously, he said Hostess was only able to reach about a third of the country’s 150,000 convenience stores.

Production also was consolidated, from 11 bakery plants to four — one each in Georgia, Kansas, Illinois and Indiana. The headquarters were moved from Texas to Kansas City, where Hostess previously was  based and still had some accounting offices.

In the months since they vanished from shelves, the cakes have been getting a few touchups as well. For the Cup Cakes, the company is now using dark cocoa instead of milk chocolate to give them a richer, darker appearance.

Seban stressed that the changes were to improve the cakes, not to cut costs. Prices for the cakes will remain the same; a box of 10 Twinkies is expected to cost $3.99.

Looking ahead, Seban sees Hostess expanding its product lineup. He noted that Hostess cakes are known for three basic textures: the spongy cake, the creamy filling and the thicker icing. But he said different textures — such as crunchy – could be introduced, as well as different flavors.

“We can have some fun with that mixture,” he said.