PBR Owner Making a Bid for Twinkies

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The private-equity firm that owns Pabst Blue Ribbon beer is planning to bid on the Hostess cake brands division – which includes Ding Dongs, Ho Hos, Drake’s Devil Dogs, and…Twinkies. Could a PBR-like revival be in the snack cake’s future?

PBR and Twinkies may not seem similar. One is a cheap-but-popular beer, especially beloved in hipster urban neighborhoods. The other a once-pervasive childhood staple with a bit-role in the Hostess bankruptcy proceedings. But both are iconic legacy brands that were once very much in demand. PBR has been revived. Twinkies ain’t doing so well.

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For PBR, 2001 was the low point. After winning awards more than a century earlier (we’re talking 1880s) and seeing production peak in 1977, the brand began a slow decline into obscurity. Over a span of about 25 years, Pabst went from making 18 million barrels to 1 million. That was right before the company discovered a subset of Americans who were really into Pabst. Namely, hipsters. They appreciated that PBR didn’t market itself the way that the Bud Lights of the world, with their ubiquitous ads, were doing it. So PBR pounced, as it were, targeting areas in New York and Portland with offbeat ways of spreading the brand — it sponsored bike polo tournaments or supported local bands – while being careful not to overdo it. It appeared as if the brand wasn’t trying, a guiding ethos of their target audience.

The revival of the PBR brand spurred private equity firm C. Dean Metropoulos & Co. to buy Pabst in 2010. Metropoulos has a history of buying flagging brands, including Chef Boyardee and Bumble Bee Tuna.

The firm is now eyeing Twinkies. Back in November, it was reported that Metropoulos was interested, but Bloomberg News is now saying the firm is officially in the middle of the bidding process.

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The question is what the Metropoulos would do with the brand and whether it would try a PBR-style revival. Clearly, Twinkies’ traditional target audience would be different: kids and the parents who fill their sack lunches.

But if we could give Metropolous two words of advice, it’d be this: hipster moms. The same college-aged women who helped spur PBR’s revival in the early 2000s now likely have children. Start by pairing Twinkies alongside PBR at select bars: $1 a can, 50 cents a Twinkie. Being a little tipsy will make it much easier for them to ingest the snack cake. This will not only immediately boost Twinkie consumption, but those buzzed moms may even get emotional while eating the yellow snack, triggering thoughts from their childhood and inspiring them to give their kids a Twinkie every now and then.

Good luck with the bid, C. Dean Metropoulos & Co. And you’re welcome.