Utah customers delighted by Twinkies' early return to Wal-Mart
As soon as LuLu Anzo spotted the stacks of Twinkies at a Wal-Mart store in Salt Lake City on Friday, she broke into a smile.
"I deep fry them until they're golden brown," said Anzo as she pulled her cart up to the Twinkies display. "Then I put a scoop of ice cream on top and some syrup. It tastes great."
Starting Friday, the world's largest retailer began selling the snack cakes at about 1,600 stores. About 3,000 of its 4,000 U.S. stores should have them by Sunday morning a day before Hostess had said the spongy yellow cakes would start hitting shelves nationwide after a months-long absence caused by bankruptcy.
"Our customers are extremely excited," said Wal-Mart spokeswoman Veronica Marshall. "Twinkies are an American icon, so it's exciting to be bringing them back."
Hostess, now under new ownership, said in a statement that it shipped out products to give retailers the same opportunity to display the product on Monday.
"Hostess has not, and is not, giving any particular retailer exclusivity or preference to have products first and is making a great effort to fulfill orders equally and timely to everyone," the company said in a statement.
But Marshall said Friday that Wal-Mart is the only retailer she's aware of that's already selling them on a national level.
"The product was in our distribution centers, and we went out early," she said.
The Utah-based grocery cooperative Associated Food Stores will get its first delivery of Hostess on Monday and will begin shipping the treats to stores as soon as possible. Associated Foods serves more than 400 independent grocery stores throughout the Intermountain West. Among its members are Harmons, Winegars, Reams and Kent's. Associated also operates 43 corporate-owned supermarkets under the Fresh Market, Macey's, Dan's, Lin's and Dick's banners.
The new owners of Hostess have said the company will be freezing Twinkies for about 10 percent of its retailers upon request, which lets stores stamp their own expiration dates on the cakes.
Notably, Hostess has also said that Twinkies will have a shelf life of 45 days. That's nearly three weeks longer than the 26 days the previous company had stated for the cakes. Hostess says the changes were made under the previous owners, and longer-lasting cakes hit shelves right before the company went out of business.
By late next week, stores will also have Hostess Mini Muffins and fried Fruit Pies. Coffee Cakes, Ho Hos, Orange CupCakes, Suzy Qs and Zingers will be available by August. Sno-Balls will arrive in the fall.
Before declaring bankruptcy last year, Hostess employed about 600 people in Utah at two bakeries, nearly a dozen retail stores and nine depots. Those were among 18,000 jobs nationally wiped out when a judge gave approval for the company to liquidate.
Hostess sold its various brands piecemeal, with Twinkies and other Hostess cakes going to private equity firms Metroupoulos & Co. and Apollo Global Management, which are known for fixing ailing brands then selling them for a profit.
In Utah, United States Bakery of Portland-Ore., better known as Franz Bakery, received approval from the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Manhattan to buy the Salt Lake bakery, five depots and seven stores in the state.
Another firm, Georgia-based Flowers Foods, has gotten approval to buy the Ogden plant, 19 other U.S. bakeries and five Hostess bread brands, including Wonder bread.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.