Drake’s Twinkie-like snack cake brand Zoinks! will also be “brought out of retirement” and will join other Drake's products in stores throughout the northeast of the US in the coming weeks, McKee Foods' corporate communications director Mike Gloekler told FoodNavigator-USA.
The recipes and packaging will remain the same although the Hostess logo will be replaced by a McKee Foods logo.
Collegedale, Tennessee-based McKee Foods - best known for its Little Debbie snack cakes - paid $27.5m for Drake’s brands including Devil Dogs, Ring Dings, Yodels, Yankee Doodles, Sunny Doodles, Funny Bones and Drake’s Coffee Cake earlier this year along with the equipment to make them from a former Hostess factory in New Jersey.
By the time we got hold of the recipes in April, there weren’t any products left to compare to
Around 12 trailer loads of kit have been transferred to McKee facilities in Tennessee and Virginia, said Gloekler, who said that so many extra staff were recruited to cope with the volume surge McKee experienced immediately after Hostess went bust last November that it has not had to bring in new staff specifically for the Drake’s re-launch.
The biggest challenge has been ensuring the products taste exactly as fans remembered, he said. “By the time we got hold of the recipes in April, there weren’t any products left [on the market for benchmarking purposes] to compare to, so from an R&D perspective, we had to start from scratch.
“We had to test our products with Drake’s loyalists and fine tune recipes right down to how much of the cream filling from Devil Dogs people expect to get on the inside of the wrapper.”
Before Hostess went bust, we were being outsold by Drakes 3:1 in parts of New York City
It has not been a problem getting the products re-listed, he said. “Retailers want them back.”
Meanwhile, McKee has been generating some excitement around the re-launch on social media channels and via advertising in mass transit systems in the northeast, he said.
“Before [Hostess went bust], we were being outsold by Drakes 3:1 in parts of New York City.”
So will bringing the Drake’s brand back reverse all the gains that McKee has seen for its Little Debbie products in the months following the Hostess collapse?
“We don’t think so,” said Gloekler. “There were folks that converted to Little Debbie products and there will be those that are specifically looking for the Drake’s brand, but we’re not too worried about cannibalism.”
The first Drake’s products - Devil Dogs, Ring Dings, Yodels, Drake’s Coffee Cake - will be available in supermarkets, supercenters, value retailers and convenience stores throughout the Northeast starting Monday September 23.