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How WWII saved the Twinkie

Posted by mandyf on March 11, 2012

The Twinkie snack cake is one of the best known snacks in the world – and it has World War II to thank for that. As odd as it may seem, the Twinkie was not always a hit with kids. Or adults. Actually, most people strongly disliked the original Twinkie.  When it was first released in 1933 by the Continental Baking Company, it was a somewhat dismal failure. James A. Dewar, the actual inventor of the Twinkie, had a different vision of the snack as we know it today. If it had not been for WWII, that vision may have died and generations of kids may have never had the chance to enjoy one of the most durable snack foods ever made.

The original Twinkie Demar developed was the traditional yellow cake, but inside, the cream filling was strawberry shortcake. It was the depression era and money for snacks was tight if available at all, so they came out in packages of two for a nickel. Sales were okay in some areas for very brief stretches, and the economy did have something to do with them not being better, but strawberry filling wasn’t as popular as had been hoped for. Another problem was that using strawberries did hurt the profit margin. The other problem was that strawberries were seasonal, and when out of season that was the end of the Twinkie.

Dewar played around with some different ideas and finally decided to try a banana cream filling. Bananas provided a better bang for the buck, and they were more readily available. The banana Twinkie wasn’t too terribly popular either though. It sold enough to continue being produced, but it was a product Continental Baking could live with or without. Then the US became actively involved in WWII and everything changed.

When the US entered the war, rationing was a fact of life. Bananas, like so many other things, became an item that the government demanded for the war effort. That meant that the Twinkie, an item not deemed necessary for the war effort, was not going to have an overflowing supply of bananas to make their sort of tasty snack cake. Absent of a solution, the Twinkie was headed for the chopping block. Dewar wasn’t ready to give up on the Twinkie though, and pretty much out of options from the fruit world for a filling, he had a revelation – why not just squirt vanilla cream in the cake and forget fruit completely?

After years of marginal sales, the fruitless filling Twinkie was an almost instant hit. Even after the war ended and fruit was plentiful again, Continental Baking knew better than to mess with a good and cheaper thing. The Twinkie became popular enough that Continental, who also made Wonder Bread, used the Twinkie as the product that would serve as their advertising vehicle on the Howdy Doody Show. That just made the Twinkie even more popular until every kid had to have Twinkies waiting for them in their lunch and when they got home.

 

If you're at least 40, you know Twinkie the Kid

Not long after that, the now legendary shelf life of the Twinkie reached the public. As many recall, the 60’s was the Cold War and bomb shelters were springing up all over the country. Canned foods, and Twinkies, became a staple item many stocked their bomb shelters with. Who cared if your Twinkies were in storage for ten years? The word on the street was they would last 5 times that long.

In actuality, they say Twinkies are really only good for 25 days, but the urban legend has lasted for so long that the truth seems more like fiction to most. Currently, the Twinkie is considered perhaps the most iconic American snack food ever produced. Better than a half billion Twinkies leave the assembly line each year, and Twinkies hold the distinction of being the best selling product in the history of Hostess Foods.  Had it not been for WWII, the Twinkie may not be here today.

 

 

Egon knows things about Twinkies - he's a scientist!

For some fun facts about the physical and chemical properties of the Twinkie, stop by the page created by Rice University students detailing their many Twinkie tests.

Source:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A46062 -2005Apr12

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16 Responses to “How WWII saved the Twinkie”

  1. Thanks for the history lesson on the Twinkie, Never knew this, very interesting.

  2. J. B. King said

    Thanks for the story on the Twinkie

  3. Thanks for the info about Twinkies 🙂

  4. Reblogged this on lastbabyboomer.

  5. Still Like Twinkies , probably Always Will . Had a Fried Twinkie at Iowa State Fair last Summer . pretty good

  6. I do remember Twinkie the kid. I also remember them being advertised on Wonder Rama…Now that dates me as be a little bit older than 40.

    Banana filled Twinkies now that is something I would try.

    Thanks for the blog…its a good read.

  7. mandyf said

    Ya Know – I was on Wonderama a few times! With Bob Mcallister (I think his name was). I sang that song “Oh Gee It’s great To BE a Kid” with him once. You are the first person I’ve run across that has mentioned that show in ages!

  8. I had no idea that the Twinkie had this history. I thought it was a 1960s invention.

  9. That was very educational for me, Amanda. Thank you very much!

  10. sallykwitt said

    Very interesting! You rock….

  11. mandyf said

    Thanks Sally. I like the offbeat stuff

  12. txwikinger said

    Reblogged this on txwikinger's blog.

  13. primaqea said

    Interesting story! Tnx for sharing!

  14. cadsmith said

    The originals sound tasty.

  15. I also was on the show but Sonny Fox was the host. I do not think you are quite that old.I was born in NYC

  16. mandyf said

    I was in Duchess County. It was such a huge deal getting to the show, but a couple times a year my folks went through the torture of it to get me there.

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