Twinkies: They’re Back, But Still Dead

by Alyssa Oursler | June 24, 2013 2:32 pm

Great news, everyone!

Twinkies — the cream-filled processed dessert whose funeral everyone was planning to attend — will be back on shelves[1] in less than a month now that Hostess Brands has emerged from bankruptcy.

Let’s be honest, though: The sudden popularity for Twinkies was nothing more than supply and demand. We thought they were going to be gone forever, so we wanted them more than we normally did. After about two months of being on the shelves of every Safeway (SWY[2]) and Kroger (KR[3]) out there, I doubt people will be clamoring as much as they have been to shove the treats in their wobbly shopping carts, much less their mouths.

And the reason is simple: We increasingly want to be healthy.

OK, let’s not get carried away. We at least want to feel, or seem, healthy. But Twinkies can’t even let us pretend.

As consumers attempt to become increasingly aware of what they put in their bodies[4] — hence the rise of organic grocer Whole Foods (WFM[5]), explosion of Mexican “food with integrity” chain Chipotle (CMG[6]) and popularity of faux-healthy dessert fro-yo — there’s no way Twinkies will make the cut.

And the trend doesn’t end there.

Just consider the cupcake fad, which thankfully seems to have peaked. I ranted against the cute, tiny snacks[7] a little under a year ago, begging investors to forever stay away from Crumbs Bake Shop (CRMB[8]). Since then, The Wall Street Journal reported[9] that the “cultural and economic phenomenon” is crashing (amen!), Forbes took it a step further[10] a couple weeks ago, pointing to juice cleanses as their replacement … and CRMB is down 60%.

Forbes, for one, referred to cupcakes as “calorie-bombs” — while I would add that they are also grossly overpriced. Nearly $5 for 500 calories of sugary icing and sprinkles? That hurts my wallet and my beach body.

Juice — not just any, but “the dense, cold-pressed stuff that is made by pulverizing mounds of ingredients like kale, beets, ginger, spinach and kohlrabi,” as The New York Times aptly explained[11] — has the complete opposite effect. It’s as cool as cupcakes, but includes at the very least a mirage of health benefits. (Futurist and marketing consultant Faith Popcorn told Forbes: “There’s this aura of health in juice. People aren’t really juicing or detoxing. They’re just buying juice. It’s like hanging your clothes on a treadmill.”)

Plus, if folks don’t realize how many calories are packed into a cupcake, they will soon thanks to coming federal legislation that will require chains with over 20 outlets to post calorie counts. Hence Starbucks‘ (SBUX[12]) recent move to front-run the inevitable[13]. The beverage chain is adding counts to its menus, even in places it’s not yet required, while McDonald’s (MCD[14]) made a similar move late last year.

Not that Starbucks has much to worry about. It’s primed to cash in on the juice trend, as it purchased Evolution Fresh[15] in 2011 and rolled out its first Starbucks-owned juice bar not soon after.

No wonder Dunkin Brands (DNKN[16]) — a company whose main two brands sell ice cream and donuts — is trying to be more like Starbucks. The Dunkin Donuts side recently declared itself a “beverage” company[17] in an attempt to shift consumers away from the unhealthy snack prominent in its stores, name and new breakfast sandwich[18].

The bottom line: Even if we want treats, we don’t want to admit that we want treats. Dunkin Donuts is trying to avoid a McDonald’s-like reputation[19] … and, heck, so is McDonald’s via healthier offerings like an egg-white sandwich.

So sorry, Twinkies. While we’re happy you survived (I guess), that doesn’t mean we want you in our pantries.

As of this writing, Alyssa Oursler was long MCD.

  1. will be back on shelves:
  2. SWY:
  3. KR:
  4. aware of what they put in their bodies:
  5. WFM:
  6. CMG:
  7. I ranted against the cute, tiny snacks:
  8. CRMB:
  9. The Wall Street Journal reported:
  10. Forbes took it a step further:
  11. as The New York Times aptly explained:
  12. SBUX:
  13. recent move to front-run the inevitable:
  14. MCD:
  15. purchased Evolution Fresh:
  16. DNKN:
  17. declared itself a “beverage” company:
  18. new breakfast sandwich:
  19. McDonald’s-like reputation:

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