NEW YORK (AP) _ Twinkie lovers, get ready to go bananas.
The sweet treat known for its golden spongy cake and its creamy vanilla center is returning to its roots with banana-creme filling _ the flavor that first made the snack a hit with sweet-toothed people more than 70 years ago.
Hostess, owned by Kansas City, Mo.-based Interstate Bakeries Corp., began selling the banana-creme snack cakes last week at retail stores nationwide. The filling tastes just as sweet as the standard vanilla but with a subtle hint and smell of banana.
Old-timers may remember the taste from the pre-World War II years. From 1930, when the Twinkie was first invented, to the 1940s, Twinkies were filled solely with banana creme. But a banana shortage during the war forced Hostess bakers to replace it with the vanilla flavor.
Hostess has reintroduced the flavor during limited-time promotions in the past, but always took the treat off the shelves when the promotion ended.
The company was finally persuaded to make the flavor part of its lineup for good after Hostess offered it for four weeks last year for the release of the movie ``King Kong.'' Total Twinkie sales jumped 20 percent during the promotion.
The flavor got high marks from Amanda Reid, 29, who was taking a break Tuesday from her litigation consulting job in midtown Manhattan. After biting into the Twinkie, she pronounced it ``banana-y.''
``You can still taste the original Twinkie flavor underneath it,'' she said. ``It almost makes it seem like it's a little bit healthier than a regular Twinkie.''
The fruit flavor may make banana Twinkies taste like a healthier snack, but according to the nutritional information, there's little difference between the banana and vanilla flavored versions, which contain 150 calories each.
Hostess sells more than half a billion Twinkies each year.