The “New” Twinkies, reintroduced on 15 July 2013 after a half-year hiatus, deserve a bit of attention. Twinkie the Kid may have been banished from the box artwork, but the new Overlords of Golden Sponge Cake nevertheless seem to think that the world has not yet moved on from the concept of snack cakes.
As several news reports have mentioned, the rebooted Hostess Brands reformulated the Twinkie to extend shelf life to 45 days, a 73% increase over the stated 26-day target of the old product. Also rumored but not exactly substantiated is that the New Twinkie is or will be “smaller” somehow than the Old Twinkie.
Well, the only way to resolve the facts is to directly compare Old and New, duh. Fortunately the wise Management of Browne Crowe Bakes had had the foresight to procure one of the last boxes of Old Twinkies and, after double-wrapping in foil, stash said box in the deep freeze on 16 November 2012. There they were kept at 0°F for 8 months, until the inevitable New Twinkies hit the market.
|Twinkies: New (Top) and Old (Bottom)|
So are the New Twinkies really “smaller”?
Weight of entire Old Twinkies Box of 10: 453.4g; declared net weight 383g.
Weight of entire New Twinkies Box of 10: 459.1g; declared net weight 385g.
Yes, yes, a sample size of one box each makes for a statistical analysis of just about zero significance, but the evidence to date shows no downsizing of the Twinkie... yet.
As an aside, the box width has indeed shrunk to 21mm from 26mm; perhaps this is the source of the downsizing rumors.
Ingredients for a L-o-n-g-e-r Shelf Life
Would there have been blood in the streets if the New Twinkies formula had been changed too much? Perhaps Hostess feared a debacle like the New Coke fiasco (which some suspected as having been a marketing gimmick).
But to meet revenue goals even after post-bankruptcy restructuring and smacking the bakers’ and truckers’ unions, Hostess seemingly had no choice but to make their products even less prone to staling and outright spoilage. Pity, for the result is that the Twinkie has become even less foodlike than before.
Let us glance at the New and Old ingredients declarations, with the deltas highlighted: Added and
Enriched bleached wheat flour:
Thiamine mononitrate (B1)
High fructose corn syrup
Shortening, partially hydrogenated:
Cottonseed and/or canola oil
Sodium acid pyrophosphate
Modified corn starch
Soybean oil New
Mono- and diglycerides
Sodium stearoyl lactylate
Xanthan gum New
Wheat flour New
and the FDA-mandated Nutrition Facts; Old Twinkies label with New annotation:
Serving Size 2 Cakes (77g)
Servings Per Container 5
Amount Per Serving
Calories 290 Calories from Fat 80
Total Fat 9g 14%
Saturated Fat 4.5g 23%
Trans Fat 0g
Cholesterol 35mg 12%
Sodium 400mg 17% 360mg 15%
Total Carbohydrate 49g 16% 46g 15%
Dietary Fiber 0g 0%
Sugars 35g 33g
Vitamin A 0%
Vitamin C 0%
Iron 6% 4%
The bacterial slime Xanthan gum was likely added to compensate for the change in batter and/or cake properties resulting from the changeover in shelf-life extension additives; likewise the non-hydrogenated and ultra-cheap Soybean oil.
If Enriched Wheat Flour content has been reduced (is wheat more expensive than corn starch?)—suggested by the drop in iron content and 1g-decrease in non-sugar total carbohydrate—the xanthan gum would help compensate.
Pulling Out All the Stops: “Freshness” or Bust
The Enzyme ingredient now listed may comprise one or more bacterial and/or fungal enzymes—alpha amylase, lipase, phospholipase, etc.—that modify complex starch-sugar-fat batter chemistries, enhancing initial crumb softness and moisture retention, and retarding the staling that leads over time to brittle, crumbly cake texture.
Such enzymes, heavily promoted over the last 5-7 years or so by the Usual Suspects in factory-food chemicals manufacturing, offer a solution to exactly the production and price pressures that helped drive Old Hostess into the ground.
Something to watch for in future revisions of the Twinkies ingredients labels—well, who doesn’t keep track of them?—would be the disappearance of Enzyme from the list. This does not necessarily mean that they stopped using enzymes, but rather that they were able to change the formulation to permit reclassification of them as processing aids, and therefore don’t have to list them. Sneaky, no?
But then again, given Hostess’ all-out imperative to extend shelf life, “enzyme” is likely to persist indefinitely. It is worth bearing in mind that “enzyme” is in fact an FDA-sanctioned synonym for “fungal alpha-amylase”, an enzyme produced from factory-scale vats of fungus, and that remains active post-baking to retard starch retrogradation i.e. staling.
The Glycerin was surely added as a humectant to attract and retain moisture, again for shelf-life extension. In fact, glycerin has traditionally been added to wedding- and Madeira-cake batters so the cakes stay “fresh” longer. And as the Twinkies’ sugar content seems to have dropped 2g per serving, the glycerin’s sweetness could partially compensate for any loss in sugar-sweetness.
Nahhh... what would be the point?