The maker of Twinkies -- a tiny snack cake beloved by generations of Americans -- filed for bankruptcy protection Wednesday, but vowed to keep its baked goods flowing to hungry consumers.
Hostess Brands, which produces the iconic packaged cream-filled cake that has appeared in countless millions of lunch boxes since it was launched in 1930, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in a New York court.
The Irving, Texas-based company owns a stable of brands that are, at least at home, as American as Coke and McDonald's.
Verifying its bona fides as an essential symbol of American culture, then-president Bill Clinton put a Twinkie in a time capsule, according to the Hostess website.
The super-sweet Twinkies entered the popular lexicon three decades ago as a derisive term for an improbable legal defense.
The infamous term "Twinkie defense" was coined by observers during the 1979 trial of Dan White in the murders of San Francisco mayor George Moscone and openly gay supervisor Harvey Milk.
A defense witness said White had binged on Twinkies before the shootings.
Hostess also owns Wonder bread, a soft, sliced and vitamin-enriched bread which was, according to the firm, the first 100 percent natural bread available across the United States.
A mainstay of beloved peanut butter and jelly or luncheon meat sandwiches, the company claims Wonder bread inspired the saying "the best thing since sliced bread."
Hostess baked goods rely on preservatives to promote a long shelf life, making them convenient choices for the grab-and-go eating habits of many Americans.
Other iconic cake brands include Sno Balls, Ding Dongs, Donettes and Drake's Coffee Cake.
Fans have no need to despair just yet.
Hostess said it did not anticipate any disruptions in the manufacturing and delivery of any of its bread or cake products.
"Hostess has some of our industry's most powerful and resilient brands," Brian Driscoll, president and chief executive, said in a statement.
"With generations of loyal consumers, numerous iconic products and a talented and experienced workforce, Hostess Brands has tremendous inherent strengths to build upon."
It announced a pledge of $75 million in financing from a group of its lenders to allow the company to continue routine operations while restructuring. The financing is subject to court approval.
The bankruptcy came after the firm failed to win concessions on union contracts.
Hostess employees about 19,000 people and operates 36 bakeries and 565 bakery retail outlets throughout the United States.
The Chapter 11 filing came less than three years after Hostess completed a reorganization after filing for bankruptcy protection in 2004.
Hostess said it was forced to file for court-supervised bankruptcy protection Wednesday because its cost structure was not competitive, mainly due to legacy pension and medical benefit obligations and restrictive work rules.
The US economic downturn added to the pressure from heightened competition, squeezing cash flows, it said.
Hostess said previous efforts to restructure, including the Chapter 11 case that was completed in February 2009, were "insufficient."
"The company's cost structure left it poorly positioned to respond to a worsening economy, increased competition and consolidation in the industry that has given other bakery companies major economies of scale and workforce advantages," it said.