Twinkies: Love Without Substance is just Lust

I hate to be a Scrooge, but we could use a world with a little fewer Twinkies

Last week, the company that makes Twinkies announced they were closing down the business.  Right now, Twinkies are trending high on Twitter, Facebook and even sales on E-Bay are going through the roof.  People are outraged and looking for someone to blame.  It has to be the greedy management who forced bankruptcy.  How could this happen to a Beloved Brand like Twinkies.  But in reality, it’s the consumers who are to blame.  Because no one loved them enough last week to avoid this week’s bankruptcy.


We don’t really love Twinkies.  We just remember Twinkies fondly.

If we did love Twinkies, then sales would be in high growth year over year.  There’s just a bit of lust re-kindled by nostalgia when we realize a part of childhood might be moving on without us.   In general, Brands move along the Brand Love Curve, moving from Indifferent to Like It to Love It and all the way to Beloved Brand status.  Most days, we are totally indifferent to Twinkies, only when our childhood memories are threatened do we remember the love we once had for the brand.  As the Twinkies story falls off the news pages, we’ll return to Indifferent and the brand will continue to die. 

There’s a bunch of brands out there that we have fond memories of, but we are no longer buying.  And Twinkies fits the bill along with Wheaties, Tang,  Orange Crush, Maxwell House and Trix cereal.  I worked as an Assistant Brand Manager on Trix when it had a 0.1% market share, yet retailers kept it on the shelf because of their affection for the silly rabbit.  Yet, Kids hated the cereal and even Moms were mad because they ended up throwing out half eaten boxes of Trix.  I remember my manager thought “maybe we should go for a bigger size”.  Yeah, that makes sense, so they can throw out even more cereal.  (not my brightest boss of all time)  Most of these brands died because the brand got stuck in a certain era, and didn’t have a good enough product to move to the next generation.

Times Have Changed and Twinkies Didn’t

If sentimentalists are worried about why Twinkies are going bankrupt here one reason why. This is the Twinkies ingredient list:

Enriched wheat flour, sugar, corn syrup, niacin, water, high fructose corn syrup, vegetable and/or animal shortening – containing one or more of partially hydrogenated soybean, cottonseed and canola oil, and beef fat, dextrose, whole eggs, modified corn starch, cellulose gum, whey, leavenings (sodium acid pyrophosphate, baking soda, monocalcium phosphate), salt, cornstarch, corn flour, corn syrup, solids, mono and diglycerides, soy lecithin, polysorbate 60, dextrin, calcium caseinate, sodium stearoyl lactylate, wheat gluten, calcium sulphate, natural and artificial flavors, caramel color, yellow No. 5, red #40.[10]

In a world where Whole Foods is in rapid growth, people are watching what they eat and what goes into their bodies.  Does anyone want that list in their digestive system?  Some of these fatty brands have made the move to lower calorie or lower fat options.  Skinny Cow from Nestle is a great new brand that gives people the chance to indulge but only blow 150 calories.  It really taps into the idea that people still want to indulge, but they want to stay in control of their weight.  Twinkies could have easily gotten their product down to 100 calories with a bite size indulgence.  The Twinkies packaging looks like stuck in the 1970s, and I haven’t seen any brand investment or marketing breakthrough in the past 10 to 20 years.

So while Twinkies might be trending this week, I’m sure none of you will be dropping it in your kids lunch bag next to the celery and yogurt tubes.

Twinkies is One More Beloved Brand to fall from Grace

Here’s another story about former Beloved Brands that have fallen off:  How Beloved Brands Fall From Grace

About Graham Robertson: I’m a marketer at heart, who loves everything about brands.  My background includes 20 years of CPG marketing at companies such as Johnson and Johnson, Pfizer Consumer, General Mills and Coke.  I’m the President of Beloved Brands Inc.  and can help you find the love for your brand.  The reason why I started Beloved Brands Inc. is to help brands realize their full potential value by generating more love for the brand. I have a reputation as someone who can find growth where others can’t, whether that’s on a turnaround, re-positioning, new launch or a sustaining high growth. My promise to you is that I will get your brand and your team in a better position for future growth.  I only do two things:  1) Make Brands Better or 2) Make Brand Leaders Better.   To read more about Beloved Brands Inc., visit   Feel free to add me on Linked In at  or on follow me on Twitter at @GrayRobertson1

4 thoughts on “Twinkies: Love Without Substance is just Lust

  1. Great post! I remember brands, like YooHoo!, being very popular when I was younger, but they haven’t been able to change and adapt with the times – they can’t keep up with consumers. Now, that’s not to say that all companies should be chomping at the bit to do whatever, whenever as long as it serves current trends and customer demands. I do think there has to be a balance between rigidity (sticking to WHY you’re in the business – the vision) and flexibility (being able to change with the times). I guess Hostess didn’t find the right balance.

    • Breean, I think as long as you have a good exit plan, you can manage the fad. The gum and toy brands do a great job managing the flavor of the month and finding another to replace the dying one, rather than hanging on to the current for dear life.

  2. Personally i have never seen this Hostess product in Africa, atleast where am living in Uganda(East Africa). Mr. Graham you have explained that one of the reasons for the downfall is that people are nowadays minding a lot about their life and what they should eat, Africa is a little far from this attitude, they kind of care less about their life and they like fancy things and the time for cooking at home is also becoming minimal because of increasing technology related jobs so they are resorting to fast foods and i believe Twinkies will work massively here especially if we partner… haahaa.

  3. Graham – incisive as always. Having worked in the coffee category I can echo your comments around the struggle to remain relevant, when the dynamics of an entire society/culture shift entirely. Howard Schultz’s “Third Place” captured a missing societal need – he just happened to sell wonderfully great, expensive coffee there. For storied brands like Maxwell House in Canada and Nescafe in Europe, reframing themselves in the midst of such significant change is an enormous task.

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