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Hostess Twinkie

Hostess-Twinkies-Box-Small

It’s an American icon – But why was it invented? And how did it get its name?

With all the recent news about the Hostess Twinkie, you might wonder how it came about. Well, Inventor James Dewar told me the story during an interview in 1980.

Back in 1930, Dewar was a young manager of the Hostess cake bakery in Chicago – one of many that Hostess had around the country. But like all businesses, Hostess was suffering during the Great Depression.

Dewar was looking for a new snack food to lift sales. He wanted to come up with something like Hostess Cupcakes – a popular item that sold for a nickel.

“I thought if I could come up with another ‘two-pack’ item, something with a real habit, it would be good for us,” he remembered.

Dewar found his inspiration in … strawberry shortcake.

“You know the Twinkie itself? You know the dough part? The sponge? Well, we used to pack six of those in a package. The ladies would buy them and put strawberries on top of them. But, the strawberry season would only last about two months.”

When the machines, pans and molds weren’t being used for seasonal shortcake, they’d be, “down in the basement doing nothing,” according to Dewar.

“So I said, why not take one of these sponge fingers and insert filling?” he remembered.

So Dewar did just that, using a knife to insert cream filling into a few of “fingers,” which he passing around the Chicago office. They were a hit with sales people and staff. So the Chicago plant began making them. Soon others got on the band wagon.

As for the name, Twinkies? That inspiration came on a business trip to St. Louis.

“I saw a big billboard. It said ‘Twinkle Toes Shoes for children. Well we were in the children’s trade too, so I said I’m think going to suggest we call them Twinkies.”

The rest was history. Twinkies became world famous. Dewar went on to invent the nearly-as-famous Susie Q and was soon was promoted to a regional vice president of Hostess. For the next 40 years, he ran eight Continental bakeries across the country, retiring in 1972. He died in 1985.

James Dewar exemplified one of our business axioms for entrepreneurs: Solve a problem within your profession. He invented a new snack food that saw his company through the depression. The Hostess Twinkie.

Now why didn’t I think of that?

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