Brent Koster bought four boxes of Twinkies on Friday.
He bought them — 40 individually packaged creme-filled snacks in all — to ensure that his 15-month-old daughter would grow up knowing what a Twinkie was and how a Twinkie tasted. He bought them so any future Koster children might also experience the joy of the fat-laden treats.
After hearing the news Friday morning that Twinkie's parent company, Hostess Brands Inc., had ceased operations and was filing for bankruptcy, Koster was afraid that his daughter's generation wouldn't get to experience Twinkies and other Hostess snacks.
“From a kid's perspective, it's like the ultimate in decadence,” said Koster, a marketing manager at Goodwill Industries in Omaha.
The 82-year-old company announced Friday morning that it would halt production and lay off most of its 18,500 employees. The decision followed a weeklong labor dispute between Hostess Brands and the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union.
Hostess Brands had struggled for years prior to the strike as labor costs and ingredient prices climbed while American diets changed and sales declined.
The announcement triggered consumer nostalgia and runs on Hostess snacks. Some Omaha stores reported that their stocks had dwindled by midmorning, and eBay also was seeing increased Twinkie traffic.
Koster, 38, still has fond memories of his mother buying Twinkies at the local Wonder Hostess store when he was growing up in Oklahoma. Twinkies always had exactly the same smell and texture, Koster said. There were filled with an amount of creme that was off-putting to an adult but delicious to a child, he said.
And although he has not had a Twinkie in years, he planned to share one with his daughter, Edith, on Friday night. The rest he planned to save for emergencies.
“I'm going to want a Twinkie at some point,” he said, “and I definitely want to share that with my kid.”
He's not the only one.
“We saw an absolute rush for sales this morning,” said Paul Christensen, assistant store operations manager at the Hy-Vee Supermarket at 7910 Cass St.
By 10 a.m., every Twinkie in the store was gone, Christensen said. By 5 p.m, a just few Hostess products — others include Cupcakes, Ho Hos and Zingers — remained.
The Wonder Hostess store at 13908 S Plaza, had similar business Friday morning. There, too, Twinkies were the first item to sell out.
And on eBay, 10-packs of Twinkies, Zingers and other Hostess snacks were listed for $60 or more.
But Twinkies were still plentiful in some parts of Omaha. Terry Jackson, manager of store operations at the Hy-Vee at 3505 L St., said that as of late Friday afternoon, few people had stopped in to seek out Hostess products and the shelves remained relatively full.
And at Quik Trip, 1704 S. 72nd St., assistant manager Joe Beasley hadn't noticed an upswing in the sale of Hostess snacks.
“These things happen. We move on,” said Richie Graham, an associate professor in the University of Nebraska-Lincoln libraries.
Graham, 37, has a deep affinity for Hostess Twinkies, Fruit Pies, Ho Hos and other snacks, in large part because of the advertisements the company ran in comic books in the 1980s. The ads, which themselves were comics, often featured popular superheroes foiling criminals using Hostess snacks.
Graham enjoyed Hostess products as a child, particularly the Cupcakes. But as he grew older and Twinkies and junk food in general began to get a bad rap, he stopped eating them. He didn't think his children, Lincoln, 9, and Henry, 7, had ever had a Twinkie, save for a deep-fried version at the fair.
“It's so ingrained in me that it's such an unhealthy snack,” he said.
Even so, he guessed he wasn't alone in waxing a bit poetic about them.
“We're so nostalgic,” he said, referring to Generation X'ers like him and Koster.
Chris Klemmensen, 33, of Omaha grew up with the snacks. His dad was a mechanic for Hostess Brands, and he remembers going to work with him and helping himself to the treats. Klemmensen said he still picks up Hostess snacks sometimes — he figured he'd had a Hostess Cupcake in the past week.
Twinkies — as well as Ho Hos, Sno Balls, Fruit Pies, Cupcakes, Donettes and Zingers — will still be available for at least a few days. Hostess Brands has said it will continue to deliver inventory that was baked prior to Friday's announcement.
Gregory F. Rayburn, chief executive officer for Hostess, told Bloomberg News he was hopeful someone would buy the brands, allowing them to live on.
Graham, meanwhile, said he didn't need Twinkies to actually be available to remember the snacks he loved as a child.
“I still have my comic books, and they're still in my comic books,” he said. “I can choose to remember them as they were when I was a kid.”
This report includes material from Bloomberg News.
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