Hostess fans stockpile treats as iconic company closes doors

(CBS News) SEATTLE -- Following the announcement Friday that the maker of legendary American treats like Twinkies and Devil Dogs was going out of business, the panic buying commenced at Hostess stores across the country.

"I had to get here to get some Twinkies," a customer in Los Angeles laughed. "But they're out of Twinkies."

In Chicago, which saw a run on Ding Dongs and Devil Dogs, one fan said, "When you have that late-night sweet tooth, this satisfies it, this will cure it."

Jeff Yeelit was after Snowballs and Wonder Bread in northern California.

"I grew up eating these, but my kids haven't, so we came up and I said, if they're going out of business, they've got to at least try them," he said.

Hostess products were a lunch box favorite, but the company ran into trouble as consumers -- mostly parents -- moved to low-fat and low-carb treats. In 2009, Hostess was taken over by a private equity firm and two hedge funds.

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"The demand is there for the products," said Hostess CEO Greg Rayburn. "The problem is, you have to be able to make them at a profit."

This week, the bakers union went on strike when Hostess asked for another cut in wages and benefits.

Maree McDonald was a Hostess employee for 37 years.
Maree McDonald was a Hostess employee for 37 years.
CBS News

"I was a Twinkie straightener for awhile," said Maree McDonald, who worked at the Seattle bakery for 37 years. "And then I went on to pies because nobody wanted to do pies. ... It was a living, and everything I have is because I have this job."

The company warned workers it would go out of business if the strike didn't end by Thursday night. On Friday, Hostess Brands ceased operations and began to lay off more than 18,000 workers.

Asked why the bakers would want to put themselves out of work, McDonald said, "Between taking away the pension and taking away wages, making us pay more for medical, you really are getting minimum wage by that time."

Hostess workers will lose their jobs, but the company's owners could profit by selling its famous brand names for others to make. Twinkies, which have a reputation of lasting almost forever, may survive even this.

  • John Blackstone

    From his base in San Francisco, CBS News correspondent John Blackstone covers breaking stories throughout the West. That often means he is on the scene of wildfires, earthquakes, floods, hurricanes and rumbling volcanoes. He also reports on the high-tech industry in Silicon Valley and on social and economic trends that frequently begin in the West.

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