November 16th, 2012

The death of Wonder Bread?

Is it really over? The iconic American trio of Wonder Bread, Ding Dongs, and Twinkies, done in by a strike?

Apparently so:

We deeply regret the necessity of today’s decision, but we do not have the financial resources to weather an extended nationwide strike,” Hostess CEO Gregory F. Rayburn said in announcing that the firm had filed a motion with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court to shutter its business. “Hostess Brands will move promptly to lay off most of its 18,500-member workforce and focus on selling its assets to the highest bidders.”

Those of you more familiar than I am with similar bankruptcy proceedings and their aftermath could say whether there’s a chance the products will carry on under different management and ownership.

As for me, I will mourn just a little bit. The only one of the three products I ever liked was Wonder Bread, the ubiquitous sandwich bookends of my youth. Everybody ate Wonder Bread in those days; I thought it was the only bread in the world. It had a consistency that was mostly air, and very very soft when fresh. My favorite Wonder Bread leisure time activity was to carefully tear off the crusts, leaving the huge and achingly tender center, and then ruthlessly crush that down into a little nub which I then pressed and shaped into a perfect cube that was hardly more than a quarter inch square. When it was just right, I’d pop it into my mouth and savor it.

I recently got into a discussion with my family about that process, and the young people wanted to see it for themselves. So we bought a loaf of Wonder Bread—the first I’d seen in many a decade—and I proceeded to demonstrate. Alas; it just wasn’t the same. Not quite as soft, and nowhere near as succulent as in memory. My guess is that the formula has changed in the intervening years: more preservatives, perhaps?

And now I hear, just a short time later, that the company has gone belly up, victim of a strike. Others will mourn the Twinkie and the Ding Dong, although the nutrition police are probably rejoicing at the demise of the entire troika. As for that 18,500-member workforce that will be laid off, they’ll be getting government benefits to tide them over for a while.

Hostess and the unions had been struggling for quite some time:

The privately held company filed for Chapter 11 protection in January, its second trip through bankruptcy court in less than a decade. The company cited increasing pension and medical costs for employees as one of the drivers behind its latest filing. Hostess had argued that workers must make concessions for it to exit bankruptcy and improve its financial position.

The truth is probably that time has passed Hostess by. Its products were once in every child’s lunchbox. Now, not so much—and do children even carry lunches anymore?

45 Responses to “The death of Wonder Bread?”

  1. David O. Says:

    I believe lunchboxes will be prohibited under Section 243234.323.142.32.4.33.5.3(a) of ObamaCare, but the lunchbox prohibition does not take effect until 2014…

  2. waltj Says:

    I grew up with Wonder Bread and the occasional Twinkie/Ding Dong. I never missed the “balloon bread” once I got to sample better types of bread from delis and real bakeries, and I’m not a chocoholic, so Ding Dongs were not a big deal. But I loved Twinkies, especially when I started living overseas and couldn’t get them regularly. Now, maybe I won’t be able to get them at all, unless another company picks up the product.

  3. Stark Says:

    Wonder Bread as I recall had a glossy picture of William Boyd as Hopalong Cassidy on the sealing stickers applied to the ends of each loaf. Topper was featured along with Hoppy on some versions. The company excelled at both marketing and distribution in the 1950′s. Wonder bread toasted back in the day. My favorite sandwich was cream cheese and jelly on Wonder Bread. It was the softest treat in the world for a child’s lunch in the early 1950′s although, their products did not have a reputation for high nutrition despite their Wonder Bread slogan of “building strong bodies 12 ways”. The other favorite was the cupcake with the surprise inside. Hostess really new how to create market appeal among children.

  4. Lizzy Says:

    My son loves Wonder bread (they now have -or had – a more nutritious version. I’d be lying if I told you I haven’t occasionally indulged in a PBJ on Wonder bread.

    And, yes, lunchboxes are very much still in use (we get ours from LLBean). They come in softer, more insulated styles and are a must for picky eaters who don’t want to eat the school’s hot lunch. Since the food nannies haven’t yet found a way to eliminate this option they have instead focused on micromanaging what we’re allowed to pack in them (specifically, strong suggestions against using sandwich bags & wasteful individually packaged items).

  5. vanderleun Says:

    I see we are in alignment this AM for lo this was my first item of the day as well. Emblematic, I think. And more to come.

    One of my commenters was right there with this ode:

    “Strike! Said the Union, to get what you want.
    Obama just won, our power we’ll flaunt.

    Hooray! Said the workers, we’ll get what is fair.
    To the street they did run, their signs in the air.

    Stop! Said the managers, have sense, they did plead.
    Eff you! Said the Union, to hell with your greed!

    The factories sat idle, no Twinkies were made.
    Life still went on, the bills had to be paid.

    Bad tidings were heard, from shore to shore,
    Don’t look for the Twinkies, they’re made nevermore.”

    Posted by Mumblix Grumph

  6. I R A Darth Aggie Says:

    I think there is an excellent chance that other companies or individuals will be interested in those brands, as they have value, as well as the recipes for those products.

    On the other hand, I suspect the next jobs report will have an unexpected attached to it.

    Interestingly enough, the Teamsters Union took a new deal to preserve their jobs. The bakers union did not, and proceeded with a labor action which lead to Hostess filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy.

  7. Papa Dan Says:

    I used to be a member of the BCT union and worked at the old Van de Kamps bakery in LA in the eighties. The union was run by morons then as well. Not surprising.

  8. Molly NH Says:

    why wasn t this announced prior to the election?
    My wonderbread favorite was a fluffernutter.
    For those outside NE, it is marshmallow Fluff & peanut butter
    scump dilly ish ous !!!

  9. Lizzy Says:

    Molly, the negotiations had been going on for a while, but the decision to close just happened in response to a strike that started on Nov 9th. Makes you wonder if the BCTGM strikers were emboldened by the pro-union Obama winning re-election.

  10. Roman Says:

    The Trademarks, modern facilities, recipes, etc will be purchased by some evil “venture capitalist” and opened to fill the need for bread and treats. It will hire people at a sustainable wage and market benefits. Just hope that Obamacare does not prohibit prosperity.

  11. T Says:

    Another testament ot the myopia of the unions. Demand then strike worked in the past because we saw an expanding economy well into the future. Now that expansion has been hobbled by regulations and taxes too numerous to mention.

    Pension funds, entitlements, union demands–the list goes on, and yet our electorate, in all its “wisdom” has just voted to strangle the economy with more regulation, taxes and corporate entitlements for another four years.

    The left’s vision of a finite economy is accurate only because their anti-economic policies make it so. My optimism and hope have been dashed and I am beginning to agree with Kolnai that the endo-of-days is near and with Foxmarks outlook that it is ineluctable, so let’s hasten it. By hastening Armeggedon it will not be too distant from the electorate’s decision or Obama’s anti-business policies. It is more likely to create a cause-and-effect relationship now (or at least it’s an easier case to make) than if this should happen 6 or 8 years from now.

  12. southpaw Says:

    Neo I’m appalled you omitted the predominantely chocolate treats, HoHos and cupcakes, in favor of the WHITE bread and baked goods. Do I hear a dog whistle?
    Seriously, those cupcakes will be missed.

  13. neo-neocon Says:

    southpaw: you may recall the fact that alas, I can’t eat chocolate.

  14. Sangiovese Says:

    The parasite eventually kills the host. Then they’re both dead.

  15. expat Says:

    Stark, I love these trips down memory lane. Topper doesn’t come up often these days.

  16. southpaw Says:

    Neo — No, I didn’t know this! I only discovered the blogger with the apple in front of her face after listening to Rush one day about 4? years ago. He was reading something you wrote about Obama being a Colonial or something. So I looked you up.
    I get really bad migraines too, but they seem to be linked to histamines in my case.

  17. chuck Says:

    Everybody ate Wonder Bread in those days

    Not my family. I was the only kid on the block who couldn’t collect the Howdy Doody bread labels. Sigh, it just one of the ways I was left out: margarine instead of butter, Stevenson button instead of Ike, no church on Sunday (atheist), no television, etc. My Dad came from a hard religious background and kept the hair shirt while discarding the religion.

  18. n.n Says:

    The unions, public and private, demanded compensation for the consequences of inflationary policies which they supported.

    There is little motivation to address causes, when treating symptoms is profitable in perpetuity. Incidentally, this was the cause of corruption of civil and human rights businesses, including labor unions.

  19. Ira Says:

    One good thing coming out of this is a union’s making the argument against card check.
    http://www.teamster.org/content/teamsters-bakery-workers-should-hold-secret-ballot-vote-hostess

    The important parts are shown here:

    TEAMSTERS: BAKERY WORKERS SHOULD HOLD SECRET BALLOT VOTE AT HOSTESS
    November 15, 2012

    * * *
    Without complete information, BCTGM members voted by voice votes in union halls. The BCTGM reported that over 90 percent rejected the final offer and three of its units ratified the final offer.
    * * *
    We may never know [what the BCTGM members really want] unless the BCTGM members, based on the facts they know today, get to determine their fate in a secret ballot vote. Teamster members would understand that the will of the BCTGM Hostess membership was truly heard if that was the case.

    So, a union, perhaps accidentally, speaking out AGAINST “Card Check.”

  20. LisaM Says:

    Atlas shrugs. I wonder how many more of these we’ll be seeing. So many companies, towns, cities, states, etc. are at the tipping point.

    My Italian grandmother made homemade bread every single day for 5 kids. My dad used to talk about what a treat they thought it was to get store-bought bread.

  21. holmes Says:

    Let’s see, bakers, bakers…where have they come up before?
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lochner_v._New_York

    Oh yes. The dreaded Lochner decision! An overreaching scheme to protect the larger manufacturers in the name of safety that was struck down and to which liberals point to as an activist SCOTUS!

    Holmes dissenting.

    http://www.commentarymagazine.com/article/the-lochner-ness-monster/

    Sorry, just jogged my memory.

  22. Kurt Says:

    Lizzy wrote: Molly, the negotiations had been going on for a while, but the decision to close just happened in response to a strike that started on Nov 9th. Makes you wonder if the BCTGM strikers were emboldened by the pro-union Obama winning re-election.

    I think that may have worked both ways. I suspect that the unions felt emboldened by Obama’s victory and that the company’s owners decided that with Obama getting a second term, they were going to cut their losses and get out of the business now before unions get any more power and before taxes, insurance, and various other costs get even worse under a second Obama term. I expect we’ll see more of this sort of thing over the coming years. Unions who refuse to work with management of struggling companies in the next few years may find that more of their members are going to end up out of work.

  23. Charles Says:

    Molly NH – Yes to fluffernutters!

    Wow, I haven’t had one in decades . . .time to go to the store to get the ingredients as my mouth is watering for one right now. And, of course, it has to be on wonderbread or else it isn’t right . . .

  24. blert Says:

    And so ends the tale of a company that invented sliced bread…

    And white bread… as in really white.

    For, back in the 20s bleached flower was still rather new. It’s charm, beyond deserts, was in highlighting pest infestations within flour barrels and such.

    Hence, white = purity.

    However, it was so white that it lost nutrition.

    Wonder Bread solved that by adding back Vitamin D — the first to do so — and advertising nationally that their product was the healthiest for children.

    Vitamin D ended rickets and pellagra — common scourges for the young and the imprisoned.

    Now, it’s all heading down the memory hole.

  25. Ira Says:

    First they go after the “old” white men, now they get rid of the oldest white bread.

  26. thomass Says:

    “Those of you more familiar than I am with similar bankruptcy proceedings and their aftermath could say whether there’s a chance the products will carry on under different management and ownership.”

    Yes; I expect them all to be back.

    I liked a competitor’s version of the twinkie better anyway. They call them cloud cakes and they don’t have the funky aftertaste of the twinkie.

    There is a whole political angle to the story too full of irony. The VC / creditor players were mostly union friendly democrats. They did not sell out to greed either. They tried to make nice with the union but just couldn’t accommodate them. One of the involved unions voted 85%+ to strike… even though the strike was the final nail in the company / their jobs…

  27. rickl Says:

    I read somewhere (probably at Ace’s) that there’s a petition at whitehouse.gov demanding the nationalization of the Twinkie industry.

    Sounds a bit tongue-in-cheek to me. At least I hope so. It’s getting harder to tell.

  28. kcom Says:

    I haven’t eaten a Twinkie in years (didn’t really like ‘em much even back when) but I have indulged in the occasional Suzy Q the last year or two. I will miss them a bit if they disappear forever. My favorite Hostess treat growing up was definitely the Ding Dong (followed by its close cousin the HoHo).

  29. holmes Says:

    Fortunately we, the taxpayers, will pick up the tab for their unemployment benefits (which shouldn’t be allowed if a company closes due to a strike you called) and for their pension guarantees. I wonder what seniority level most of the workers had; my guess is they were ready to retire by and large anyway, at least those in the union.

  30. Mrs Whatsit Says:

    My mother baked our bread, so Wonder Bread was a rare and marvelous treat. As for Hostess Twinkies, or Hostess Anything — unheard of in our whole-grain healthy home, and therefore mysteriously delectable. However, I too peeled the crusts off my bread, homemade or not, and pressed the soft white inside into a snug finger-dimpled cube. Mmm. I may have to go shopping.

  31. Gary Rosen Says:

    Two words:

    Hostess Snowballs

  32. Wry Mouth Says:

    “My favorite Wonder Bread leisure time activity was to carefully tear off the crusts, leaving the huge and achingly tender center, and then ruthlessly crush that down into a little nub which I then pressed and shaped into a perfect cube that was hardly more than a quarter inch square. When it was just right, I’d pop it into my mouth and savor it.”

    You are Not Alone.

    Also, after crust-removal, you could pinch down the edges on your peanut butter-and-jelly sandwich, making a pretty effective communion wafer-thin treat. Nowadays, they sell “uncrustables,” but meh. Handmade were better.

  33. Oldflyer Says:

    FNC did a very short peice on the Hostess contract complexity this evening. Stifling. Apparently, different contracts for different bakeries in different states, so myriad provisions for management to run afoul of. In some areas trucks that carried Twinkies could not carry Wonder Bread, different contracts.

    Too bad to see an American Icon go, although I went whole grain a long time ago, but good riddance.

    As for the former employees; “Let them eat cake”.

  34. Don Carlos Says:

    blert:
    Vitamin D does not ‘cure’ pellagra. Niacin (a B vit) deficiency causes pellagra.
    Vit D does not ‘cure’ rickets, which manifests as altered (permanent) bone anatomy, such as tibial bowing. Vit D deficiency causes rickets.

    I’m not picking nits here. An insulin deficiency is expressed as Type 1 diabetes, but insulin injections don’t cure it, for example. There are chemicals which we just cannot live without, whether made by our own bodies or evil corporations.

  35. beverly Says:

    Folks: there’s a lot more to it. Watch how this plays out very closely. (Politico, via Rush Limbaugh)

    “RUSH: Hey, Twinkie fans, all is not lost. All is not lost. Are you ready for this? I have some news here from The Politico. “A new White House petition wants President Obama to nationalize the ‘Twinkie industry,’ saving the popular junk food from possible extinction.” It’s a website called “We the People.”

    “We the undersigned, hereby request Barack Obama to immediately Nationalize the Twinkie industry and prevent our nation from losing her sweet creamy center.” The website is “We the People.” You know who runs it? White House.

    So the White House has a petition up that many people may not know is a White House petition. As far as people are concerned, it’s some interested citizens who are begging President Obama to bail out the Hostess company, thereby paving the way for Obama to go in and do it, responding to public demand, when in fact it’s a White House plan from the get-go.

    So let’s say it happens. Politico’s ready to write the headline: “Obama Saves Twinkies.” Get ready for it. In fact, this was predictable. I should have predicted it when the program began today, ’cause it’s just too easy.

    There’s no way Obama’s gonna compromise with the owners and save it, but he’ll be glad to nationalize it. I mean, this is chump change compared to an automobile company.

    And then after a while, sell it to the union, or give it to the union like he did General Motors, and then proclaim the Twinkie industry saved. Don’t laugh. Snerdley’s in there laughing. It has happened. It happened with Chrysler. It happened with General Motors.

    ‘Osama is dead; General Motors is alive.’ Yeah they’re Twinkies, I know Michelle is out there campaigning against Twinkies, but that’s a minor concern to be overridden. I’m telling you, don’t be surprised if it happens. ###”

    http://www.rushlimbaugh.com/daily/2012/11/16/ding_dong_18_500_hostess_jobs_dead

  36. expat Says:

    In the interest of fairness, shouldn’t the laid off employees continue to pay union dues from their unemployment checks? Why should people still working have the entire burden of keeping Obama friends?

  37. Molly NH Says:

    This company closing down, laying off 18,000 plus ancillary individuals who lost their work, totally fits the Lefts plan. More middle class Americans on government benefits, more guaranteed Lefty votes (even from those rare amongst them with conservative leanings ).
    Obama continues to make inroads in diminishing the prosperity of middle class Americans. To the
    Left there is too much in America, too much freedom, too many business catering to the needs & whimsies of too many Americans with too much money to spend who believe that “all men were created equal”. The Elitest Left wants you to know your place & be mired in it !

  38. R Says:

    On January 17 2011 we warned Hostess to diversify into a line of gluten free products from at least one production plant conversion or face bankruptcy within 24 months. They ignored the warning. Told you so Wondertards. You could have corned the market.

  39. thomass Says:

    R Says:

    “On January 17 2011 we warned Hostess to diversify into a line of gluten free products from at least one production plant conversion or face bankruptcy within 24 months.”

    Pfft. Dead on arrival if they did without using non gmo corn…

  40. liz Says:

    Check out the hostess website for FAQs for employees.

    http://hostessbrands.info/employee-faq/

    Apparently, there is a wind-down budget that approved by the lenders as well as various laws which impact the former employees.

    For example, you may not get paid for expenses incurred, no payment for vacation/sick leave accrued but not taken, no severance pay, lose the unvested portions of your 401K (assuming that they mean the employer contribution part), lose the unused portion of your HSA accounts, even the amounts that you paid in since this is part of the IRS regs.

    There seems to be a lot of questions on the COBRA health continuation depending on where you got the health insurance. For those on the defined pension benefit program, there may be a problem since it was underfunded and now goes to the gov’t program, which is probably close to bankrupt.

    And since the bakeries were in many different states, there are different rules for each state and some may not allow for unemployment payments if you were on strike.

    I also read that the lenders and venture capitalist group were heavy democrat donors – can’t find the link now..

  41. RandomThoughts Says:

    Never mind Hostess. Life just hasn’t been the same since Woolworth’s (complete with their lunch counter) closed their doors.

    In all seriousness though, this is just one in a long list yet to come of companies killed by their own union workers. Hey, better to crush the employer that pays you than to make concessions, right?

    Insanity.

  42. blert Says:

    Don Carlos…

    Wonder Bread had more than Vitamin D…

    Remember “12 different ways”?…

    My sloppy.

    It IS true that Wonder Bread and Wonder Flour ended pellagra, nationally, within less than a year.

    It confounded the medical community at the time.

    This was at a time when many still considered vitamins to be a health-nut con. They were not introduced by the medical profession, you see.

  43. jms Says:

    I suspect that if you included a Twinkie in your child’s lunchbox today the school would call Child Protective Services on you.

  44. Surellin Says:

    Don’t fear that kids don’t know Twinkies, Neo. When I told my son, age 12, that Hostess was out of business, he insisted that we go down to the store, RIGHT NOW, and buy up the last of the Suzy Qs. Regrettably, they were out of Suzy Qs and Twinkies both. The clerk said that he was going to grab one of the remaining two packages of Twinkies for himself, but a customer wanted both of them because “I have children”.

    Re: the change in Wonder Bread – maybe because they switched to corn syrup? I can’t find an ingredient list from the Howdy Doody era, but it now uses corn syrup, and that didn’t take off until the 70s in most foods and drinks.

  45. Cheryl Says:

    For the last 25 years all I have bought is Wonder bread, loved the chocolate donuts and all the treats. This is aweful!!! One question the workers were on strike, DO THEY HAVE JOBS TODAY??? Union isn’t always the best. Wish you could work something out…

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Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.
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