On Monday July 15 the iconic Twinkie returned to shelves across the US for the first time after the Hostess Brands bankruptcy in November 2012.
The return came with a mega marketing campaign under the tagline ‘the sweetest comeback in the history of ever’ – comprised of social media efforts, dedicated blogs and pages encouraging consumer interaction and huge outdoor ads in Los Angeles and New York.
“I think it’s a terrific, terrific marketing campaign,” said Dr Richard George, chair and professor of Food Marketing at the Haub School of Business at Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia.
“You never get a second chance to make a first impression. I think they’ve done quite a nice job. Look at all the PR they’re getting – they’re getting a ton of media coverage worth millions of dollars,” George told BakeryandSnacks.com.
“The retailer wants it back on the shelf, the consumer wants it and the media want the story – it’s the perfect storm.”
However, the new owners need to tread carefully and ensure a solid re-establishment before working on line extensions, like gluten-free variants, George warned.
Gluten-free Twinkies could happen, but shouldn’t just yet…
The idea of a gluten-free variant is a possibility, he said, but now is not the right time.
“I get nervous when companies try to do line extensions like that. They’re trying to go after the millennial and generation Y, but they should go slow…They need to get Twinkies back on the rails first,” he said.
“I’d take some time if they want to develop a gluten-free version. I would engage with my consumers for a name too. With social media, consumers can give feedback to the brand – I would make sure I engaged the consumer back to the brands; ask questions.”
George said that if a Twinkies gluten-free version did happen it would need a different name to avoid confusing consumers. It would also need to be unique, he said.
“Line extensions are what I call the chicken syndrome – it’s just extending, extending and not bringing anything unique to the market,” he said.
The most important thing right now for the owners must be getting Twinkies back on the shelves, George said.