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Gone in the Twinkie of an eye

With everything that's going on in the world, the thing that seems to have caught the most attention -- surpassing even a sex scandal involving the resigned chief of the CIA -- was word that Twinkies may not be around for the apocalypse after all.

Those spongy little cakes with mysterious filling have been around for generations, unchanging in a sea of change by consumers. They also had a special place in pop culture based on the mythology that whatever was in them wouldn't spoil, and if a great cataclysm ever struck, they, at least, could be counted on for plenty of empty calories in a post-apocalyptic world.

The Twinkie, along with its brethren the Ding Dong and Ho Ho, was struck down from a number of causes, with the final precipitating factor being a labor strike.

Officials with Hostess Brands warned striking workers that failure to return to the job Thursday would result in a shutdown of operations and liquidation of assets. Labor didn't blink and on Friday company officials announced what for many consumers was the unimaginable -- Hostess, with brands dating to 1888, was closing its doors for good.

The labor problems may have been the final straw, but the company was already in trouble. It had a roster of sugary, high calorie products that did not change as consumers became more health savvy and started looking at numbers like calories and sugar and fat content. Labor costs rose in an increasingly tight market and management -- there were a half-dozen management teams in the past eight year -- was in turmoil for years. Whatever the recipe is for creating a Twinkie, those management, labor and product factors were certainly ingredient for a recipe for business failure.

The company entered Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection for the second time in a decade earlier this year. On Friday, it filed a motion to liquidate with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court. With Thanksgiving on a few days away, closing will throw 18,500 people out of work.

So, what happens now?

Chances are the brands will return in some form. The names Twinkie, Ding Dong and Ho Ho will be purchased by some company and they'll resurface on store shelves. Despite all of Hostess' problems, Twinkies still generated $68 million in sales this year. Somebody will pay for the branding.

We venture to predict, however, there will be a slew of comments from customers who will say once the Twinkie is reintroduced that it may be called a Twinkie and look like a Twinkie, it doesn't taste as good as a "real" Twinkie.

After all, nothing can compete with nostalgia when it comes to pleasing a palate.