Twinkies' Maker Hostess Going Public. Snack Cakes for Everyone!

Twinkies' Maker Hostess Going Public. Snack Cakes for Everyone! ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images
Twinkies' Maker Hostess Going Public. Snack Cakes for Everyone! ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images

Perhaps you remember the headlines from 2012: "Twinkies Are Gone, and It's All Our Fault", "Goodbye To My Twinkie Days" and "The Hostess Twinkie: 1930-2012?".

The stories bemoaned the bankruptcy of the company that sold the staple of American lunch boxes. And when Twinkies really did disappear from shelves after the company liquidated, we had to confront the cold, hard reality of a life without the delicious blend of polysorbate 60 (an emulsifier) and diacetyl (a butter-flavor compound). Which led to even more headlines like, "Twinkie Crisis 2012: Could We Live In a World Without the Beloved Treat?".


The answer, apparently, is no.

Because despite the half-year absence of the Twinkies (and other Hostess snack products) from stores between 2012 and 2013, Hostess is not only back in business, but ready to go public with its shares.

What spurred the sugary sweet resurgence?

First off, don't call it a comeback. Because it's important to note that Hostess Brands LLC — the company that is going public — is not the same as Hostess Brands Inc., the company that created the treats. Those 2012 headlines? They weren't wrong: Hostess Brands Inc. was no more. The company filed for bankruptcy and completely liquidated.

And that was (potentially) good news for investors, who could buy specific brands of the company (brands that included Wonder Bread and Nature's Pride) without having to take on a lot of other legacy agreements or contracts the company had. (Think pension plans and the like.) Investment companies Metropoulos & Co. and Apollo Global Management teamed up and bought the cake brands (Twinkies, Ho Hos, Ding Dongs, to name a few). In April 2013, the team received the rights to the recipes, the empty factories and the brand names.

What happens next is pretty much a business school lesson in how to turn around a failing product. While Twinkies had a reputation for lasting through a nuclear apocalypse, they actually had a shockingly short shelf life: 26 days. The new Hostess Brands created a recipe (yes, using a lot of processed ingredients) that allowed for a 65-day shelf life. It changed its delivery system. It automated processes. In short, it created a new company, but kept the extremely valuable and beloved names.

It was those names, of course, that caused people to practically riot in the street when Twinkies made their triumphant "return" to the shelves in 2013. It seems that the absence of the treat only made the heart grow fonder, because in 2014 they earned $78 million more in earnings than projected.

Which leads us to our biggest question: Can we be Twinkie investors?

The answer is ... kind of. Instead of doing its own initial public offering (IPO), Hostess Brands has sold a majority stake to a publicly traded affiliate of the investment firm Gores Group. (Essentially, the investment firm went public last year in order to acquire companies, as opposed to the other way around.) However, Hostess will still have its own listing on the Nasdaq.

Of course, you could always invest by simply buying a box of Ding Dongs. The return is also pretty sweet.