News Column

Bell May Have Tolled for Ding Dongs

Nov. 20, 2012

Marc Valero, Highlands Today, Sebring, Fla.

Do you have a yearning for Twinkies, Ding Dongs, Ho Hos or other sweet snack that Hostess made for years before closing down last week?

Another food or bakery company will likely pick up the iconic brands, but in the meantime, as supplies dwindle on supermarket shelves, you'll soon have to pay higher prices.

One box of 10 individually wrapped Twinkies, with the chocolate cream filling, is being offered on eBay for $9,800. Another person is offering 15 boxes of 10 Twinkies with the original creme filling for $347.90.

The Sebring Sweetbay Supermarket received its last shipment of Hostess products last week.

The usual delivery didn't come Friday, the day after the bakery closure was announced, said Sweetbay Store Manager Paul Laferriere.

The Hostess Brands products are pretty much cleaned out, he said. The Twinkies and cup cakes are gone. They only have one shelf left with a few odds and ends such as doughnuts and Devil Dogs.

"If I had to guesstimate, somebody is going to buy Hostess, buy that brand and they will bring them back," Laferriere said. "It's just too well-known a thing for somebody not to buy it."

He ate some of the Hostess products when he was young, Laferriere said.

For him it's an American tradition.

Laferriere said he heard they are on eBay for $400 to $500 a box.

"It's crazy," he said. Hostess Brands includes the brand Hostess (Ding Dongs, Ho Hos, Sno Balls), Drakes, Dolly Madison, Wonder, Merita and Nature's Pride.

According to Hostess, the board of directors authorized the wind down of its brands to "preserve and maximize" the value of the estate after one of the company's largest unions initiated a nationwide strike that it said crippled the company's ability to produce and deliver products at multiple facilities.

The company determined on the night of Nov. 15 that an insufficient number of employees had returned to work to enable the return of normal operations.

The wind down means the closure of 33 bakeries, 565 distribution centers, approximately 5,500 delivery routes and 570 bakery outlet stores throughout the United States, according to Hostess.

CEO Gregory Rayburn issued a statement saying: "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." Hostess Brands route drivers Jose Perez and Tim Williams were among those who were losing their jobs in Highlands County.

Williams and Perez, along with District Manager Angel Sala, met at the Merita Bread Bakery Outlet on State Road 64 West in Avon Park to drive three of the delivery trucks to the Orlando bakery.

"A lot of people made the wrong decisions," Sala said. "It was a very rough day for me last Friday. I had to sit everybody down and let them know what is going on."

The Avon Park bakery outlet will be open for about one more week, he said. All the fresh products they still have will come to the outlet and will be sold for half price.

Williams, who has worked nearly six years for the company, said he was informed Saturday he would be out of a job.

"I didn't think it would happen so fast," he said. "We are in a little bit of a shock. It was awesome working for the company that we worked for."

Perez said, with no money coming in, he will be heading to the unemployment office.

A few large food/bakery companies have shown interest in buying the company, including Mexican-based Grupo Bimbo, ConAgra Foods (Banquet, Chef Boyardee, Hunt's) and Flowers Foods Inc. (Nature's Own, Sunbeam Bread and Bunny Bread).

Source: (c)2012 the Highlands Today (Sebring, Fla.) Distributed by MCT Information Services

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