The little girl in the seat of the shopping cart was a good 20 yards away when she unleashed her unsolicited commentary about the return of the Great American Twinkie.
The Twinkie display — 96 boxes of 10, collectively tipping the scales at 129,600 calories — had been set up only minutes earlier in the bakery section of the Arlington Road Walmart in Green.
That would be the Walmart tucked back behind the IHOP and the Applebee’s and the Denny’s and the Red Roof Inn, directly across the street from the Starbucks.
In other words, any Walmart in the continental United States.
Similar scenes no doubt played out across the land on Saturday, and will continue to unfold today and Monday as more stores roll out what is dubbed on the packaging as “the Sweetest Comeback in the History of Ever.”
As you no doubt know by now, the iconic snack, which has the nutritional value of a baseball mitt, has been brought back from the dead, rescued by a couple of private equity firms with sweet tooths, an appreciation for food history and a lust for money.
The Twinkie went down in flames in November when its longtime manufacturer, Hostess Brands Inc., went bankrupt, a victim primarily of ongoing wars between management and labor.
It returns as Hostess Brands LLC in a publicity barrage worthy of the Second Coming.
As the largest seller of Twinkies (for that matter, the largest seller of almost anything), Walmart got a head start over most retailers. But, contrary to media reports claiming Walmart cut a deal to sell the snacks before anyone else, the national grocery chain Albertsons offered them in some stores as early as Thursday.
A Hostess Brands spokesperson told CNNMoney, “Hostess has not, and is not, giving any particular retailer exclusivity or preference to have products first.”
The Arlington Road shipment was delivered about 8 p.m. Friday and broken out at precisely noon on Saturday. The clock read 12:09 when Makenna Kreighbaum, 3, loudly dictated her family’s next purchase.
The rest of the family — Beth and Josh, both 31, and their other daughter, Madyson Foster, 9, of Barberton — may not have been as demonstrative as Makenna, but seemed equally enthusiastic.
“There’s nothing like Twinkies,” gushed Josh. “There’s nothing like them. There’s other things that try to be like them, but they’re not Twinkies.”
His belief clearly is widespread. A worker in the bakery department said five other people had inquired about Twinkies earlier in the day.
The family didn’t come to the store specifically to buy Twinkies, but they were aware of the impending debut. When they heard the announcement over the store’s public address system — “Attention shoppers: The Twinkie is back! Stop by our bakery and take home a box today!” — they wheeled their shopping cart through the turns faster than a NASCAR driver.
You may or may not be pleased to learn that the shelf life of the Twinkie has been extended from 26 days to 45. (Don’t ask.)
Hostess says about 100,000 stores will be stocked with Twinkies by Monday, and 160,000 will carry them by the end of the year — twice the number that carried them during their first incarnation.
If those 96 boxes of Twinkies at the Arlington Road store have been snapped up by the time you read this, never fear. Exactly 388,800 more calories are waiting in the local warehouse — another 288 boxes, ready to be sold for the “everyday low price of $2.98,” as the sign says.
Bob Dyer can be reached at 330-996-3580 or firstname.lastname@example.org.