Hostess Brands, maker of such iconic snack foods as Twinkies, Sno Balls and Ho Hos, filed for bankruptcy last week - the second time for the company since 2004. In a court filing, the company said it is not competitive, primarily due to legacy pension and medical benefit obligations and restrictive work rules.

Hostess, which has been around since the 1930s, listed its largest unsecured creditor as the Bakery & Confectionery Union & Industry International Pension Fund, the pension fund of one of its main unions. The fund is owed $944.2 million. In total, union benefits, including funds and pensions, account for 16 of the 40 claims.

The Irving, Texas-based bakery group retained Jones Day as its bankruptcy counsel. Eastman Kodak, the Rochester, N.Y.-based imaging giant that has been rumored to be considering a similar filing, hired Jones Day last year.

This second bankruptcy filing begs the question: Is the Twinkie viable in a more health-conscious America?  The consumption of unhealthy snacks is on the decline, according to NPD Group, a market researcher. But industry experts say the value of Hostess' products like Twinkies could make the company worth more than it appears.

After San Francisco Mayor George Moscone and gay Supervisor Harvey Milk were killed by Supervisor Dan White in 1978, White's lawyers said his judgment had been impaired because he had eaten so many Twinkies and other junk foods, the so-called Twinkie defense. White, who was convicted of voluntary manslaughter instead of murder, later committed suicide.

Last year, 36 percent of Americans ate white bread, down from 54 percent in 2000. Hostess bakes Wonder bread, one of the largest-selling white bread brands. Consumption of wheat bread increased 11 percent.

Other healthy snacks, such as yogurt, also have seen increased consumption.

Each Twinkie has 150 calories, 4.5 grams of fat, 20 milligrams of cholesterol, and 18 grams of sugar, and is generally regarded as being empty calories, meaning they have little to no nutritional value, nutritionists say.

Nevertheless, the Twinkie brand still has enormous equity and could be a valuable asset to a reorganized Hostess or to an acquirer, venerable brand expert Clive Chajet told International Business Times.

The brand is very valuable, especially popular among young people, Chajet said in an interview Monday. It's a kids' brand, dripping with all kinds of messages like 'fun,' 'youthful' and other attributes.

Chajet, currently a director of Wendy's, is a New York-based brand expert who created the blue AT&T logo and devised names for dozens of companies such as Continuum Health Care, Allegis Group and Baskin Robbins over many years as CEO of Lippincott & Margulies and currently the Chajet Consultancy.

Whoever maintains the Twinkies brand, though, will have some problems, Chajet warned. The brand will have to keep its relationship with young adults once they grow up so that they keep eating Twinkies. But the question is whether it will be one a day or one a week.

Mixing an advertising pitch for the snack for kids versus one for adults could pose problems, Chajet warned. Nutrition is a separate issue, he said. It is what it is.

Despite the dietary concerns, Chajet told IBTimes the court ought to value the brand as fun-driven and children-driven and make sure it gets into the appropriate hands.

Last time Hostess, then known as Interstate Brands, filed for bankruptcy, in 2004, there was a tussle for ownership. Grupo Bimbo, the largest Mexican food company, tried to buy it, but was rebuked. Instead, Hostess sold a controlling stake in the company to Ripplewood Holdings, a private equity firm, for $130 million. In 2010, Bimbo acquired Sara Lee's bakery operation.

This time, Hostess shopped itself around to other snack food makers such as Kraft, maker of the Oreo, and Campbell Soup, which owns Pepperidge Farms, The Street reported.

The bankruptcy gives Hostess the ability to restructure union contracts. The company reportedly suspended pension payments in December and was struggling to make repayments on loans. In the filing, Hostess claimed between $500 million and $1 billion in assets and more than $1 billion of liabilities. Hostess' 2011 annual losses may be as high as $340 million, the Wall Street Journal reported.

Erik Halvorson, director of communications at Hostess Brand, told IBTimes Monday that production will not be disrupted due to the bankruptcy filing, and no layoffs would result.

Our bakeries will continue to operate as normal, and no bakery moves, closures or layoffs are associated with the filing.  Any future changes would be driven by business conditions, and would result from operational needs, not Chapter 11, he said in an e-mail.