(First of two parts)
Rummaging through some papers the other day, I found a copy of my college’s newspaper from 1990.
On the sports page was a column I wrote about a taste test I conducted between Hostess and Drake’s dessert cakes. Granted, it was the April Fools’ issue, but it is slightly disconcerting to realize that neither I nor the sweets have matured much in two decades.
Here is the article:
Once upon a time, someone invented sugar. Then, some other guy invented the way to make chocolate. On the next day, we had all those different desert cakes. Sweet.
In New York and some other parts of the country, the two major participants in the food wars are Drake’s, made by Drake Bakeries, Inc. of Wayne, N.J. and Hostess, engineered by the Continental Baking Company of St. Louis.
To compare the wonderful world of sweetsville, I ventured to University Food Market, where I observed the two competitors in full battle. Both Drake’s and Hostess were well represented, with colorful and enticing packaging.
After careful study, I realized that one brand controls the market for a specific dessert. For example, the Twinkie, Hostess’s “golden sponge cake with creamy filling,” is world famous, while Drake’s alternative, the Zoink, a “creme filled sponge cake,” occasionally needs the full extent of its 75-year shelf life. Interestingly, as we will see later, the Zoink, as judged by this college junior, beat the Twinkie in a taste test.
Other examples of domination exist. Drake’s Yodels, the company’s best-selling product in 1989, are far more popular than Hostess’s Ho-Ho’s. In addition, Drake’s does better with the Ring Ding than Hostess does with the King Don.
Furthermore, Hostess bakes Crumb Coffee Cakes and Suzy Q’s, while Drake’s counters with Coffee Cakes and Devil Dogs, respectively. Each company makes Fruit Pies, but in both cases, the “fruit” label must be questioned.
Certain cakes have no competition. Hostess’s Sno-Balls are unchallenged, as are Drake’s Funny Bones, a “frosted peanut butter creme filled Devil’s food cake.” Sounds nutritious.
(Tomorrow: The taste testing)