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Twinkies quietly reclaim shelf space in stores

Fans’ reaction is very low key

Harry Maccardell of Quincy bought a box of Twinkies, along with a box of Hostess CupCakes, at Walmart in Quincy.

JOSH REYNOLDS FOR THE GLOBE

Harry Maccardell of Quincy bought a box of Twinkies, along with a box of Hostess CupCakes, at Walmart in Quincy.

Twinkies returned to the shelves of selected stores earlier than expected Friday, the first step in a campaign celebrating the revival of the iconic Hostess brand.

But the hype wasn’t creating much of a stir at a Walmart in Quincy, where consumers strolled past the display of Twinkies, Donettes, and CupCakes, seemingly indifferent to the sugary treats and what the new Hostess ownership has self-dubbed “the Sweetest Comeback in the History of Ever.”

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“I could care less,” said Susan Vignoni, 68, of Braintree, one of dozens of consumers who acknowledged the revival of the spongy treats and moved on.

The scene contrasted with the mood eight months, ago when scores of consumers took to social media to mourn the death of the brand and raided grocery shelves for the last Twinkies.

Amid the outpouring, investment firms Metropoulos & Co. and Apollo Global Management swooped in and bought the bankrupt Hostess company for $410 million.

The firms have eliminated about 15,000 union workers, whose fight with the company aided its demise, reduced the number of plants by more than half, and created a more efficient distribution model.

Hostess was scheduled to return to the shelves on Monday, but some stores jumped at the chance to surprise fans by debuting the product a few days early. Walmart stocked the brand in 1,600 stores, and it appeared in about 150 Shaw’s grocery stores on Friday.

But at least so far, consumers’ reaction to the return of the Twinkie isn’t nearly as strong as their widespread sadness over its temporary death.

Bob Goldin, executive vice president at Technomic Inc., a market research firm in Chicago, said the apathy consumers are showing isn’t surprising.

“I used to eat them all the time when I was a kid, so, yeah, I fondly recall it, but I haven’t had one in 40 years,” he said. “That’s what it was for most consumers. It’s not that we were eating them; it’s that we remember eating them.”

He said Hostess can’t rely on nostalgia alone this time around and needs to do something more than just announce the treats’ return.

“They’ll get a lot of curiosity for a very short time,” he said. “Unless they do anything more proactive to promote and market the brand, they won’t keep it though.”

CupCakes and Twinkies indeed piqued the curiosity of Suzan Glynn, 58, who picked up a few boxes from Walmart in Quincy to take on a family vacation. The Marshfield native said she rarely bought Hostess products, but was still sad when they disappeared from the shelves. “When they were gone, it was like a part of your childhood was gone, too,” she said.

Globe correspondent Emily Overholt contributed to this report. Taryn Luna can be reached at taryn.luna@globe.com.
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