This is not a Twinkie—it's the Japanese banana take on one

January 11, 2012

This is not a Twinkie. It's a Tokyo Banana, a fine-crumb sponge cake filled with banana custard, said to be the best-selling edible souvenir of the capital of Japan. Each cake is meticulously individually wrapped, then beautifully boxed in sets, making them perfect for travel, within the country to other prefectures, or even overseas.

The original Twinkie was filled with banana cream and invented just outside of Chicago.

Legend has it that in 1930, a baker named James Dewar at the Continental Baking Company in Schiller Park noticed that the machines used to make strawberry cream filled shortcakes sat idle when the berries were out of season, so he came up with the idea of a banana cream filled snack cake, which he called the Twinkie. But then came World War II when bananas were rationed so he swapped bananas for vanilla and the rest is food history.

Legend has it.

Legend has it that Dewar started out as a horse-drawn carriage pastry delivery boy in 1920, but worked his way up until he became Continental's plant manager—his position in 1930—and eventually regional vice-president of Hostess until 1972.

So he was not simply a baker who invented the Twinkie.

Hostess filed for bankruptcy so Twinkie mugshots have been making the rounds of food news, but it's not a simple snack-sized story. Even NPR quoted "Nearly 36 million packages of Twinkies were sold in the year ended Dec. 25, down almost 2 percent from a year earlier, according to data from SymphonyIRI Group, a Chicago-based market-research firm" from the Wall Street Journal.

Foodies rejoice!

But that's only part of the WSJ quote. The next sentence: "The data captures sales from supermarkets, drugstores, mass-market retailers and convenience stores, but exclude sales from Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and club stores."

I wonder what the sales including Wal-Mart, Costco, and Sam's would be? Anyone else?

The WSJ story also said, "In a statement during its filing the company said it 'is not competitive, primarily due to legacy pension and medical benefit obligations and restrictive work rules.'"

So this is not a simple Twinkie story either.