Truly sweet tooths — or is that “teeth?” — across Bradley County can’t be happy campers. It comes with good reason. Today is the third day in the final week of the Little Debbie discount outlet’s operation in Cleveland.
First came the unwelcome disclosure by snack cake maker Hostess that its longstanding prowess in tummy warmer production was coming to an end, and this meant the demise of every American’s favorite — the coveted Twinkie.
In the world of treats, this was blasphemous news to lunch boxes from corner to corner of the republic. Yet, confection developments went from bad to worse for those who read our Dec. 9 edition. Not only has the beloved Twinkie bit the big one, but in Cleveland — to make matters worse — the 20-year-old Little Debbie discount store is shuttering its doors.
For those who like a discount-priced Little Debbie treat here or a convenient snack there, you’d better hurry. The outlet’s final day in our hometown is Friday.
It’s a doubled-edged sword.
For several years now, U.S. manufacturers have focused on product quality above all else. In some corners, it has trumped profit margin. Whether it’s automobiles, appliances, electronics or ... snack cakes ... domestic enterprises have honed in on innovation in order to improve product quality and save on costs.
In the long term, better quality means happier customers which means more return business and favorable word-of-mouth advertising, and all this spells higher market share and heftier financial rewards. Raising the quality of product and packaging, and maximizing process efficiency, reduces discards and lessens waste, and this is good for the manufacturer.
No less is true for McKee Foods, the baker of Little Debbie delightful treats in Collegedale which also operates discount outlets for secondhand inventory — packaging miscues, damage and other slight cases of confectionary “oops” — in Collegedale, Hixson and Cleveland.
The good news for McKee is quality and efficiency are soaring. The bad news for consumers is they now have access to fewer low-cost rejects. This means less need for outlet stores. Subsequently, McKee is closing the Cleveland location while keeping open the discount stores in Collegedale and Hixson.
Company officials hope Little Debbie loyalists in Cleveland will make the short trek over to the Collegedale store to satisfy their confection cravings.
Of McKee’s production efficiencies that have pulled the plug on the Cleveland outlet, Communications and Public Relations Manager Mike Gloekler told our newspaper, “We don’t have that kind of secondhand inventory anymore. We hate to see it close, but it just makes good business sense.”
The local outlet employs only one full-time McKee associate; the remaining workers are temporary staff. The full-time employee has accepted a job in the Collegedale store. So at the very least, the jobs impact is minimal.
But still, Cleveland area residents who want their Little Debbie fix, at a lower price than at grocery stores, now face the brief trip to Collegedale.
Then again, maybe this is the perfect time to start a lower calorie lifestyle ... eight days before Christmas. Hmmm.
Truly in this new world of competitive enterprise, those who are most efficient are those who will survive to see another day.
In most sectors of business, efficiency rules the day.
But in the kingdom of snack cakes, and for those who regularly peruse its sugary shelves, the taste isn’t so yummy.
Goodbye, Little Debbie.
It was a sweet run.