The votes are in for Refrigerated & Frozen Foods’ 2016 Readers’ Choice Best New Retail Products contest, part 2. Congratulations to Hostess Brands, Inc., Kansas City, Mo., for taking fifth place with 354 votes for its deep-fried Twinkies.
Marina Mayer, editor-in-chief of Refrigerated & Frozen Foods and the creator of the Best New Retail Products contest, talked exclusively with Ellen Copaken, vice president of marketing, to discuss more in-depth about the contest, the “winning” product and what’s in store for the future.
Refrigerated & Frozen Foods: First off, congratulations on being named one of Refrigerated & Frozen Foods’ Top 5 Readers’ Choice winners in 2016. What does this recognition mean to you, your company, your products and your consumers?
Ellen Copaken: Innovation has been a core platform for Hostess Brands’ growth strategy, so we are honored to be recognized for our breakthrough innovation. More importantly, we know our consumers will be delighted to find Hostess in the frozen snacks aisle with the State Fair favorite, Deep Fried Twinkies, they can now bake and serve at home.
Refrigerated & Frozen Foods: Your new retail product—deep-fried Twinkies—was nominated by Refrigerated & Frozen Foods’ editor-in-chief, Marina Mayer. What features does this new product hold that would allow it to even be nominated? What makes it different from other products on the supermarket shelf?
Copaken: A staple at fairs, amusement parks and restaurants across the country, Hostess Deep Fried Twinkies are a fun and convenient way to enjoy this iconic dessert in the comfort of your own home. The product bakes up in the oven or toaster oven in minutes, and delivers a crispy funnel cake coating around the crème-filled Twinkie sponge cake.
Refrigerated & Frozen Foods: Why develop this type of product?
Copaken: We developed this product in response to consumer demand and popular food trends. For years, people have been deep frying Twinkies, candy and other confections, so we wanted to make this treat more widely available and eliminate the prep that comes with battering and frying foods.
Refrigerated & Frozen Foods: What goes into developing a new product?
Copaken: We spent months experimenting with different batters—flavors, textures, cooking times—to see what would best complement the Twinkie and deliver on the State Fair experience. We also explored multiple flavors of crème filling, and think there’s no end to the Deep Fried Twinkie flavor extensions we can bring consumers in the future.
Refrigerated & Frozen Foods: Any unique features to the product’s packaging?
Copaken: The packaging is user-friendly (bag-in-box), similar to other frozen snacks and appetizers found at the grocery store.
Refrigerated & Frozen Foods: This new product raked in 354 votes, placing fifth. How did you go about accruing so many votes? What was your plan?
Copaken: Since voting for the top frozen product was conducted electronically, we realized that using our owned social channels would be an effective conduit for Hostess fans to learn about the contest and vote. We promoted the contest twice on Twitter and three times on Facebook. Our fans showed tremendous support for the Deep Fried Twinkie, and thrust Hostess into the Top 5 several days prior to the end of the contest.
Refrigerated & Frozen Foods: What is on the horizon for your company come 2017?
Copaken: Product innovation will continue to be a primary focus in 2017 on a few fronts in particular. Consumers can expect to see innovation specifically for Twinkies, our most iconic snack cake. Hostess will also continue to expand its presence in the frozen aisle, building on the excitement of Deep Fried Twinkies. And finally, due to the escalating popularity of peanut butter, we’ll be incorporating this favorite flavor into a number of exciting new products.