By Chris Isidore @CNNMoneyFebruary 27, 2013: 12:36 PM ET
NEW YORK (CNNMoney)
Wonder Bread is closer to returning to store shelves. Can Twinkies be far behind?
A $360 million bid by baker Flowers Foods(FLO) for Wonder and most other bread brands of bankrupt Hostess Brands has been accepted and will be announced later Wednesday, according to a source familiar with the negotiations. Any deal would be subject to approval by the bankruptcy court and regulators.
Wonder Bread, Twinkies and other Hostess products have not been produced since November, when the company filed with the bankruptcy court to liquidate its business following a crippling strike by the Bakery Workers union.
The exact timing of the return of Wonder Bread to shelves has yet to be determined. A Flowers spokesperson was not immediately available for comment.
Flowers was designated as the leading bidder for Hostess' bread business on Jan. 11. Besides Wonder, the bid included Nature's Pride, Merita, Home Pride and Butternut bread brands, as well as 20 bakeries.
When it made the bid, Flowers said the purchase is in keeping with its plans to grow its bread business and reach more customers.
On Jan. 30, a joint $410 million bid by Apollo Global Management(APO) and Metropoulos & Co. was similarly tapped as the leading bidder for the iconic Twinkies brand, the Dolly Madison line of snacks, as well as five bakeries and some of the equipment.
Also in January, McKee Foods Corp. was tapped as the leading bidder with its $27.5 million offer for Hostess' Drake's brand and some of its equipment. Drake's products include Ring Dings, Yodels, Devil Dogs and Yankee Doodles, as well as its coffee cake.
A final decision on those two bids are still pending, as is a separate $30 million bid that Flowers has made for Beefsteak bread, the one bread brand not included in its winning bid.
Anthony Michael Sabino, a business professor at St. John's University, said Flowers' bid for Wonder Bread was high enough to chase away interest from other potential bidders. The other products have apparently drawn more interest, meaning there will likely be auctions to determine the final purchaser, which could delay those products' return. Still, Sabino thinks Twinkies could be back on shelves by the time school starts in the fall.
"And not a moment too soon, with Americans hungering for a comfort food they never believed they would have to do without," he said.
Each of the bidders already has a track record selling baked goods and other food products.
Flowers owns the Nature's Own and Tastykake brands of products.
Metropoulos has experience turning around financially troubled food brands. The firm's food holdings include Pabst Blue Ribbon beer, and in the past have included Chef Boyardee canned pasta, Bumble Bee seafood, PAM cooking spray and Gulden's Mustard, all of which it eventually sold to ConAgra Foods Inc(CAG).
McKee, a privately held company, is best known for its Little Debbie brand of snacks.