How WWII Changed Twinkies Forever

Twinkies seem like they'd be a fairly modern invention, don't they? After all, the label practically screams "lab-created from space-age chemicals." Surprisingly enough, these spongy little tubes chock full o'creamy weirdness actually date back to 1930, a time when the manufacturers were probably forced to make them out of actual ingredients, since today's synthetic substitutes may not have been invented.

According to Mental Floss, Twinkies were the brainchild of a man that managed a packing plant that was all set up to make strawberry shortcakes. Back in the day before refrigerated fruit transport, strawberries were still a seasonal item, so those strawberry shortcakes could only be produced for six weeks out of the year when strawberries were available. James Dewar, aka the Twinkie father, decided to make use of a more durable fruit to create cakes filled with banana cream. So what happened to the banana filling? The necessary fruits, it seems, were soon to become a casualty of war.

Wartime shipping issues led to a banana shortage

During WWII, as Houma Today reveals, a large number of cargo ships were requisitioned by the military to help with the war effort. While these ships were still allowed to export their goods, on the homebound route they'd be loaded down with materiel. This arrangement, referred to as "bananas north, general cargo south," didn't exactly fool the opposing forces. They soon figured out what was going on and began targeting even the smallest of banana boats. As a result, the United Fruit Company, as Chiquita was then known, lost more than 20 of its ships over the course of the war. 

Pretty soon bananas were in short supply, except for on the ocean floor where the fish apparently had more than their share (whether or not they wanted them). What was a poor Twinkie company to do? They simply replaced the banana filling with a vanilla-flavored one. The vanilla cream proved to be so popular that it has remained the main Twinkie flavor ever since. This Los Angeles Times article from 2007 does show, though, that throwback banana Twinkies made at least one brief reappearance as recently as 14 years ago.