Hostess is going out of business

WHEELING – Hostess, the maker of Twinkies and Wonder Bread, plans to go out of business, lay off its 18,500 workers and sell its snack cake and bread brands.

Officials at the Irving, Texas, company said Friday a nationwide strike crippled its ability to make and deliver its products, which also include Ding Dongs, Ho Ho’s and Home Pride bread.

Hostess suspended bakery operations at all its factories and said its stores will remain open for several days to sell already-baked products.

In Wheeling, there were a handful of shoppers browsing the aisles of the Hostess outlet at 2200 Main St. Friday morning. Bob Traylineck grabbed a couple of Hostess orange cupcakes from a shelf of snacks.

“It’s going to be the end of these, isn’t it?” Traylineck said. “That’s a doggone shame; it really is.”

Traylineck said it is his wife who is the fan of the cupcakes, adding she will have to find another confectionery to satisfy her sweet tooth. He expressed his disappointment, too, when he learned Wonder Bread shared the same fate.

A Wheeling store employee declined to comment. The employee provided a phone number for a company official, but messages to that individual were not returned Friday.

The company had warned employees that it would file a motion in U.S. Bankruptcy Court to unwind its business and sell assets if plant operations didn’t return to normal levels by Thursday evening. The privately held company filed for Chapter 11 protection in January, its second trip through bankruptcy court in less than a decade.

“Many people have worked incredibly long and hard to keep this from happening, but now Hostess Brands has no other alternative than to begin the process of winding down and preparing for the sale of our iconic brands,” Gregory F. Rayburn, chief executive officer, said in a letter to employees posted on the company website.

He added all employees will eventually lose their jobs, “some sooner than others.”

“Unfortunately, because we are in bankruptcy, there are severe limits on the assistance the (company) can offer you at this time,” Rayburn said.

Thousands of members of the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union went on strike last week after rejecting in September a contract offer that cut wages and benefits. Hostess said the company is unprofitable “under its current cost structure, much of which is determined by union wages and pension costs.”

Hostess has said production at about a dozen of the company’s 33 plants has been seriously affected by the strike. Three plants were closed earlier this week. Hostess had already reached a contract agreement with its largest union, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters. The company, founded in 1930, was fighting battles beyond labor costs. Competition is increasing in the snack space and Americans are increasingly conscious about healthy eating. Hostess also makes Dolly Madison, Drake’s and Nature’s Pride snacks.