Friday, November 16, 2012

No More Zingers: Dolly Madison Closes Shop

In the movie Zombieland the character Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson) was on a quest for Hostess Twinkies in the wake of the zombie apocalypse. I can imagine how he would feel if he existed in the real world, now that Hostess Brands has ceased operations. Indeed, the media today has been filled with the news that there will be no more Twinkies, no more Ding Dongs, no more Ho-Hos. What the media seems to have missed and what is more alarming to me is that there will be no more Dolly Madison products, no more Zingers, no more Donut Gems, no more Dolly Madison fruit pies.

The origins of the Dolly Madison brand go back to the founding of Interstate Bakeries Corporation (IBC) in Kansas City, Missouri in 1930 by Ralph Nafziger. The company sold bread packaged in gingham--the forerunner of Butternut Bread. The year 1937 would be a historic one for IBC. The company would merge with Schulze Baking Company from Chicago. It was also the year that Ralph Nafziger conceived a new brand for IBC, which he called "Dolly Madison" after famous First Lady of the United States Dolley Madison. He conceived his Dolly Madison snack cakes as “Cakes and pastries fine enough to serve at the White House.”

Over the next few decades Dolly Madison would expand its product line. It sold angel food cakes, devil food cakes, brownies, and so on. It would eventually add creme cakes similar to rival Hostess Twinkies to its line of items. Eventually called "Zingers," it may have become the best known product sold by Dolly Madison. In the early Seventies Dolly Madison began a long association with the comic strip Peanuts. Dolly Madison would sponsor the many Peanuts television specials over the years. They also used the Peanuts characters extensively in their advertising. They even featured the Peanuts characters on their packaging. For instance, different Peanuts characters would appear on the packages of Dolly Madison snack pies:  Snoopy on the blueberry pie, Charlie Brown on the cherry pie, Linus on the apple pie, and so on. The company's association with the Peanuts characters would last into the Eighties.

As to rival Hostess, its origins went back to Continental Baking Company. The Continental Baking Company began as the Ward Baking Company in 1849. It was in 1921 that William Ward, the founder's grandson, renamed the company "Continental Baking Company." In 1925 Continental Baking Company bought Taggart Baking Company, the maker of Wonder Bread. The purchase would make Continental the biggest baking company in the United States. It was also in 1925 that Continental introduced the "Hostess" brand for their cakes. It was in 1930 that a baker for the Continental Baking Company in Schiller Park, Illinois, James Alexander Dewar invented the Twinkie. It would not only become the most famous product in the Hostess line, but probably the most famous product Continental manufactured besides Wonder Bread.

While Continental Baking Company would be a giant in the baking industry, it would eventually be bought by rival Interstate Bakeries in 1995, the maker of Dolly Madison products. Once owned by two separate companies, rivals Dolly Madison and Hostess were now owned by the same company. Unfortunately, things would not go smoothly for the company. Interstate Bakeries filed for bankruptcy in 2004. It emerged from bankruptcy in 2009 and was renamed, horror of horrors for Dolly Madison fans, Hostess Brands Inc. To make matters worse, Zingers would in some areas be manufactured bearing the "Hostess" brand. It was almost as if it was Continental who had bought Interstate and not the other way around.

Unfortunately, the company would fare no better. In January 2012 Hostess Brands Inc. filed for bankruptcy. Today they announced they were closing their doors. In other words, both Dolly Madison and Hostess would be no more.

Regardless, while many are mourning the passing of the Twinkie, I am more concerned about the passing of the Zinger. When I was growing up my parents bought Dolly Madison products almost exclusively (the occasional Little Debbie snack was an exception).  For now there is a Dolly Madison store in our county and we would go there every week to buy several packages of Butternet Bread (still in a package with a gingham pattern), as well as various Dolly Madison snacks. Sometimes it was Zingers. Sometimes it was the Donut Gems (little miniature donuts). Sometimes it was the fruit pies. It was always the Zingers I loved the best. No other snack cake ever tasted quite so good. In fact, I would not eat a Twinkie until I was an adult and I must confess I did not like it. Twinkies may have come before Zingers, but they were not nearly as good.

While the media seems obsessed with the thought that there will be no more Twinkies, I am more concerned that there will be no more Zingers. Indeed, I hate seeing all of the Dolly Madison products cease to exist. While I really would not care if Twinkies are never manufactured again, I am really hoping that some company will buy the Dolly Madison brand and the various products that go with it. I really hope I have not seen the last of Zingers.


Unknown said...

I agree with you completely. Also, thank you for the history lesson.

Unknown said...

I agree with you completely. Also, thank you for the history lesson.

AH3RD said...

Apparently we haven't seen the last of Zingers. Hostess, anyone? 😋

Irene said...

My dad sold Dolly Madison cakes in the late 1940-50's. I purchased the cakes until they stopped making them. The cakes made now by Hostess do not compare with Dolly Madison in flavors and the creams used in fillings. Bring the original back and you will succeed.

Unknown said...

My mom worked in the Dolly Madison plant for 6 years in KC during the late 40s and 50s.