Twinkies Are Back. Smaller. Stabler. Less Unhealthier?

Twinkie Comeback

Photo: Scott Eells/Bloomberg

Twinkies, the iconic American junk food are back. For those of you who did not notice their absence from supermarket shelves, here’s a quick update. Early in 2012, Hostess, the manufacturer filed for bankruptcy citing increased labor costs and an inability to negotiate with unionized employees. And thus these sponge cake chemical wonders disappeared from the shelves.

However, this is America, and Hostess was acquired by a private equity group. They restructured the company and brought in new low wage employees – so that we can continue to ingest this wonder of modern food processing. The new Twinkie product is slightly smaller than the old one (an eighth of an ounce), and has a longer shelf life. We thought a hundred years was long enough… But from an ingredient perspective, nothing has changed.

In a press release yesterday, the new Twinkies owners were thrilled to announce “The Sweetest Comeback in the History of EVER!”

Sweet? Yes. Good for humans? No.

Take a look at the ingredient list:

Enriched Bleached Wheat Flour [Flour, Reduced Iron, B Vitamins (Niacin, Thiamine Mononitrate (B1), Riboflavin (B2), Folic Acid)], Corn Syrup, Sugar, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Water, Partially Hydrogenated Vegetable and/or Animal Shortening (Soybean, Cottonseed and/or Canola Oil, Beef Fat), Whole Eggs, Dextrose. Contains 2% or Less of: Modified Corn Starch, Glucose, Leavenings (Sodium Acid Pyrophosphate, Baking Soda, Monocalcium Phosphate), Sweet Dairy Whey, Soy Protein Isolate, Calcium and Sodium Caseinate, Salt, Mono and Diglycerides, Polysorbate 60, Soy Lecithin, Soy Flour, Cornstarch, Cellulose Gum, Sodium Stearoyl Lactylate, Natural and Artificial Flavors, Sorbic Acid (to Retain Freshness), Yellow 5, Red 40.

Some key highlights:

  • 37 highly processed ingredients
  • 9 teaspoons of sugar
  • high fructose corn syrup
  • hydrogenated oils
  • controversial artificial colors
  • multiple chemical additives

This is a comeback we wish would not have happened.

Inside a Twinkie

  • Fistuk

    I count only about 30 ingredients, some of which are not highly processed, such as water. Where do you get the 37 highly processed ingredients?
    I by no means would ever eat a twinkie, but such exaggeration only ruins your own credibiliity

    • Fooducate

      Count individual ingredients inside the parentheses.

      We by no means would ever dismiss a thoughtful comment, but such trivial nitpicking certainly ruins our own self control.

      • Fistuk

        OK, I could see the 37, total ingredients, but they are not all highly processed.
        Trivial nitpicking? This article is trivial nitpicking!

        • Kelli

          This “food” is a chemical slurry held together by half a dozen gums and conditioners.

          Out of the nearly 40 ingredients there are only about a dozen that I would consider safe and choose to consume.

          • Fistuk

            A dozen? That much? Other than water, eggs and baking soda, I don’t see anything else on the list that is safe.

          • Kelli

            It was a generous estimate. And I included things like animal shortening and corn syrup (often used in homemade confections) in my list. Maybe not my first choice of ingredients but still in the real food category.

          • Fistuk

            corn syrup, is GMO (unless organic) – which means its heavily processed before it’s even harvested. Afterwards it’s further processed. Far from real or safe.

          • Kelli

            The reason I don’t have a problem with corn syrup is because it is a food that you can make in a home kitchen. I’m not saying it’s healthy by any means and the corn syrup used here is probably GMO. The presence of corn syrup usually indicates a low quality food, but corn syrup isn’t a deal breaker for me (I do avoid HFCS because that is not something you could produce in a home kitchen).

            I’m not really sure why you’re spending so much time breaking down people’s criticisms of a junk food. Sure not all of the ingredients are “highly processed,” but the laundry list of questionable ingredients points to a food people probably shouldn’t be consuming, at least not regularly.

          • Fistuk

            I am not breaking down people’s criticism of junk food. Quite the contrary – I actually spend a lot of time criticizing junk (I call it “junk” as opposed to “junk food” since that’s what it is. It is not food). When an article is poorly written, written with an extreme view, or written with unnecessary exaggeration, it becomes a joke and loses credibility. It’s just as bad as companies who claim their products to be “natural” when only a fraction of the ingredients are natural. “37 highly processed ingredients” is not the same as “37 ingredients, most of which are highly processed” or “over 30 highly processed ingredients”. The first is an untrue claim and allows for people to claim “BS”. It’s such claims that allow these evil corporations to sue for libel. I am just looking out for the readers who take such articles literally and seriously and don’t know how to differentiate fact from fiction.

          • The only logical person here

            Just because you can’t pronounce the name of a ingredient or don’t know what it is means that ingredient is bad.

            For example Thiamine Mononitrate is just another name for vitamin B1. However Sodium Acid Pyrophosphate IS bad for you (in certain cases) do some research before you talk.

        • mike

          This is what a fat person would say because they refuse to accept the truth that processed food are not good for you… 30, 37, 3, 8, 400.. it doesnt matter the number. What matter is that, and what this article is trying to say is, this shit isnt good for you. the end… fool

        • Cora Curry

          Thank God. A Twinkie Defender. I agree. That water is not highly processed.

          • Fistuk

            I’m in no way defending Twinkies. How is that what you understood from what I said?

  • EVIL food scientist

    And nobody remembers that the reason the twinkies went away in the first place is that the investment group that owned Hostess decided to give themselves huge bonuses and raises while asking for concessions from the union workers that made the products?

    Then they said they were bankrupt, so they could shed the union contracts, reshuffled the deck (sold the parts of the company essentially back to themselves under a different corporate identity) and started manufacturing with a non-union workforce?

    That’s a bit more concerning than “A shelf stable frosting filled cake has sugar and fat and preservatives!!”

    • Fooducate

      Actually we mention this in the post.

  • Chef Mike in Burlington ON

    Twinkies were never real food, no more than Pringles ruffles or tostitoes are, but sadly lots of you mordibly obese American brethren think they are part of A normal diet, thank your lobbiests and spineless politicians for that…

    • Jim

      “Obesity in Canada is a growing health concern, which is “expected to surpass smoking as the leading cause of preventable morbidity and mortality … and represents a burden of Can$3.96 (US$4.16/€2.85) billion on the Canadian economy each year.” … 61% of the population of Canada is overweight. … Take your American hating rhetoric somewhere and stuff it in your fat ass.

    • Joe

      Oh, like Canada has no “lobbiests.” How about your “lobbiests” and spineless pols who are pushing GMO alfalfa? Care to showcase that about your fair nation? Canada is really no better than the US for having a morbidly obese populace.

  • Jim

    HONESTLY, do you really think that ANYONE considered Twinkies healthy? This article is a mute point. People eat Twinkies because they like the way they taste, not because they think they are healthy. We know EXACTLY what Twinkies are, and we just don’t care. Sorry to burst your bubble.

    • Joe

      As long as we’re nitpicking, the word is MOOT. Not MUTE. “Moot” means, essentially, unworthy of further discussion. “Mute” means unable to speak, or reduced in volume. I bet you wish I’d mute my nitpicking, but this is the Internet, so it’s a moot point, dude.

  • johnanthonyca

    I read an article on about high sodium snacks elevating blood pressure in kids and I can see some sodium in the ingredients above. The return of the Twinkie is kinda scary. Children are eating this on a daily basis. Who knows what would happen to their bodies.