Thursday, March 23, 2000

No ho-ho: Twinkie shortage on the way

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        The nation's latest crisis has a name: The Great Twinkie Shortage of 2000.

        Twinkie lovers from Maine to Washington, D.C., are finding the supply of the cream-filled pastry is dwindling, along with Ho Hos, Ding Dongs, Fruit Pies, Cup Cakes, Ring Dings and Devil Dogs.

        And while a truckers' strike in Pittsburgh seems far away from Cincinnati — 4.5 million Twinkies away if you laid them end to end — the distributors of the snack cakes could pull the plug on the Tristate as early as Friday.

        That means Twinkie lovers, and thousands of people who hanker for specific bread and bakery treats, may have to switch brands for a while.

        First signs of distribution problems are expected here over the weekend, said Roger Insprucker, president of Cincinnati's Teamsters Local 114 and co-author of Ohio's bakery agreement with truck drivers.

        The strike, which resulted from a pension-based contract dispute with Interstate Brands in Pittsburgh, moved into Akron on Wednesday and was expected to extend to Toledo, Columbus and Cincinnati on Friday. About 350 local drivers would be affected by the walkout.

        In addition to Twinkies and other Hostess and Dolly Madison brand snack cakes, Interstate produces Wonder and Butternut breads, both baked in Tristate plants.

        In a survey of several local grocery and convenience stores Tuesday, managers and clerks said they had not been alerted to the threat of delivery disruptions but they expressed little concern, should shelves go bare.

        “I'm not taking it seriously,” said Nicee Turner, a cashier at the Hostess Wonderbread Thrift Store in Western Hills. But she has noticed Twinkie lovers are stocking up.

        Interstate, based at Kansas City, Mo., sells about a half billion Twinkies a year, said Mark Dirkes, senior vice president for marketing. The Twinkies brand will be 70 years old next month. Most are sold in the familiar cellophane twin pack for about $1.

        At the Hostess thrift store, Ms. Turner said she expects business will slow down for a while, but the Twinkie shortage won't affect her personally.

        “I don't like Twinkies,” she said. “I like Zingers.”


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