When the news broke on Friday that Hostess Brand was going out of business I had the same reactions as everyone else. First, this was the end of the company that provided every childhood snack I ever had after T-ball practice, not to mention the widest array of snack-based sexual euphemism (Ho-Hos, Ding-Dongs and Twinkies) for me and my friends during 4thlunch. And then a second thought hit me: “Wow. I haven’t eaten a Hostess snack in a million years!” And while I’m pretty sure I wasn’t not unique in these thoughts the public reaction to the end of the brand; crazy ebay auctions for Twinkies and rushes to the store to buy Zingers and Ding-Dongs and the like strikes me as rather odd. The recession has brought upon the death of literally dozens of major companies near and dear to American culture, if anything the end of Hostess brand is something we all could have predicted years ago.
The Great Recession has not been so great for a lot of businesses, many of which were staples of American pop culture for at least the Boomers and Generation X. In the last 5 years alone we’ve lost CompUSA, Bennigan’s, Olan Mills (I probably took every family photo for the first 7 years of my life at Olan Mills), Borders, KB Toys, Midway games (they made Mortal Kombat, Spy-Hunter, Ms. Pac-Man and Rampage!), Blockbuster, and Hollywood video. I can scarcely think of a Christmas, date or family gathering over the last 20 years of my life that didn’t involve one of those companies. When Blockbuster went under, I was bummed, I have no desire to get Netflix. When Borders went bankrupt it totally disrupted my work schedule because I couldn’t find a local place to grade papers in quiet anymore. I think KB Toys going under is the reason I never really trusted Mitt Romney. Outside of Hollywood and Blockbuster each of the aforementioned businesses going under was a surprise to me. But not Hostess, we should’ve seen that coming a mile away.
The cute explanation for why Hostess went under is because of changing tastes in America. People are more health-conscious in this Post-Supersize me world and a constant diet of snack cakes is no longer the rule of the day. When Sgt. Al Powell and John McClane were waxing philosophical about four month old Twinkies in 1988 it was cute. Nowadays Michelle Obama would’ve broken through the window on a zip-line and forced Papa Winslow to drop down and give her 20. But that’s not the case here. From all accounts the CEO of Hostess says that demand was not the issue, the company was profitable, Hostess is going bankrupt over a labor v.s. management battle. Bakers from the company went on strike and refused to give even more concessions to management in their new labor contract. Hostess which was in it’s second bankruptcy filing decided they’d rather liquidate all assets and brands because the employees refused to be the scapegoat for executives financial mismanagement. Sound familiar? Much as we’d love to say Hostess is gone due to changing cultural values of appetites the company is dying for the same reason the economy has ground to a halt in this recession. Large corporations screw up, but after decades of cuts and bending over backwards workers refused to play ball. The executives at Hostess will be fine, the 18,000 employees take it on the chin.
The famous brands from Hostess will be bought my some other huge conglomerate, probably in the next month or so, and re-released to huge fanfare next summer. These brands have value, they’re not going anywhere. Unfortunately 18,000 jobs are, and most Americans are more concerned about hoarding a snack they haven’t eaten in 20 years than another example of corporate abuse run wild in this country.