What do Twinkies and Hamburger Helper have in common?  They are two food items that at different points had significance in my life and years later have been rebranded as they fight for survival in a crowded market place.

Hostess Twinkie supermarket display (Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

Twinkies have been in the news quite a bit lately as they resurfaced a couple of weeks ago following several months in which they were not produced after Hostess filed for bankruptcy.  The golden sponge cakes filled with vanilla cream go all the way back to 1930 and I remember enjoying my share of them as a young teenager along with Suzy Q’s and Sno Balls.

Truthfully I have not had any of those in years although one of these days I’ll give the new Twinkie a shot.  They are smaller than the originals although that’s common today and I’ve heard mixed reviews on the taste.
While those snack cakes take me back to days as a 13 or 14 year old it was a story on Hamburger Helper recently that really had me feeling nostalgic.  It took me back to 1977 when I was attending a broadcasting school in Philadelphia and living with a friend of mine in Warminster, Pennsylvania.

For the most part I was on my own and paying for an apartment, school and travel expenses did not leave much for extras including food.  I discovered Hamburger Helper which was easy and inexpensive to make.  However there were times that I couldn’t afford the ground beef which you were supposed to add and I would make a dinner out of what I jokingly called “helper.”

The "Helper" truck stops in St. Louis (Facebook)

You threw a little water and milk in with the boxed pasta and seasonings and it did the trick...sort of.  There were a few times when I actually added the hamburger but it was not often.  By the way it was an incredibly popular product in the 70’s and it spawned spinoffs like Tuna Helper and Chicken Helper.

Some 35 years after this product helped me get through that school year it too has been rebranded because of declining sales and General Mills has changed the name to…yes you guessed it, “Helper." They are looking to market it to single men between 18-30.

I’m way out of that range but one of these days when my wife is away I think I’ll make some “Helper” with Twinkies for desert.  Throw in an egg cream with U-Bet chocolate syrup and you have a meal fit for a king or someone who doesn’t care about their cholesterol or life span.