Wager reveals a Sno Ball's chance at longevity

  • Article by: BILL WARD , Star Tribune
  • Updated: February 8, 2012 - 2:54 PM

Surviving, if not thriving, is a piece of cake for Hostess products.

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Hostess Sno Ball

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Hostess, the maker of Twinkies, Ho Hos and Ding Dongs, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy last month. No matter how the company's future plays out, its products will be with us for a good long while, if a friendly wager between two Twin Cities attorneys is any indication.

About 20 years ago, Michael Taylor and Bob Thavis decided to make a bet that became a bizarre science experiment: Just how long would a Hostess Sno Ball last?

"The expiration date is Feb. 26, but it doesn't have a year on it," Taylor said, "which is what prompted the bet."

Two decades later, the object in question, stored at the Leonard, Street and Deinard offices in Minneapolis, is only slightly the worse for wear.

"It's not good-looking. There's a little bit of mold, but it still has some sponginess to it," Taylor said. "I'm amazed that it hasn't shrunk or gotten hard as a rock."

For decades, Hostess products, which have an official shelf life of 25 days, have been the brunt of jokes about their longevity, perhaps because of their ingredients list.

In his book "Twinkie, Deconstructed," Steve Ettlinger describes 39 ingredients he found in that guilty-pleasure food. Among them: cellulose gum, mono and diglyceride, sodium stearoyl lactylate and polysorbate 60. The only actual preservative is sorbic acid, a petroleum extract.

Taylor and Thavis have no plans to give their Sno Ball -- now older than Miley Cyrus -- a taste test.

"It's under lock and key," Taylor said. "When I retire, I will give it to a young associate."

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