Twisties is a snack food product available in Australia, New Zealand (marketed under a different name), and many Asian countries: Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Brunei, Malta, Mauritius, Papua New Guinea and Fiji, among others. It was launched in 1950 by the General Foods Corporation. The brand name is owned by The Smith's Snackfood Company. While originally an Australian-owned company, Smith's was acquired in August 1998 by Frito-Lay, the second largest producer of snack foods in Australia, which in turn is owned by PepsiCo. In Malaysia, since Danone Malaysia has been acquired by Kraft, Twisties is now a product of Kraft Malaysia.
In the early 1950s Melbourne businessman Isador Magid imported a Rotary Head Extruder from the USA. He formed the Twistie Company and experimented with corn in an attempt to create a new snack food. He was unsuccessful and agreed to sell the machine and the brand in 1955 to Monty Lea from Darrell Lea for £12,000. Monty and his brother Harris experimented with the machine further using rice and various flavourings. Twisties became popular in Australia. Some of its early success was attributed to promotional activity that included advertising the product on Graham Kennedy and Bert Newton's TV show In Melbourne Tonight. One of the earliest products advertised on that program. After an unsuccessful attempt to launch Twisties in the UK and competition for shelf space in Australia the Lea brothers agreed to sell the Twisties brand to the Smith's Snackfood Company.
Twisties are produced by feeding a mix of milled corn, rice, wheat and water into a machine known as a rotary head or random extruder. This machine cooks the mix at high temperature and pressure whilst forming the pieces. This process results in the characteristic Twisties shape with the knobbly surface and squiggly shape. After forming, the pieces are oven baked before being flavoured with a coating of seasoning and vegetable oil.
During the 1990s the texture of Twisties was altered, resulting in a smoother finish, and may have coincided with the acquisition of The Smith's Snackfood Company by Frito-Lay.
Twisties were originally available only in cheese flavour, but chicken flavour was introduced and became a standard part of the product line. There have also been flavours in various countries as diverse as Toffee, Tomato and Salmon Teriyaki.
Twisties have been advertised for several years with the well-known slogan "Life's pretty straight without... Twisties." Typical television advertisements play on the slogan by showing people in mundane situations being transported to surreal and exciting environments when they eat Twisties.
Twisties are claimed to be the "number one extruded snack brand" by Smith's.
Twisties are also sold on the Italian market with the name Fonzies. Fonzies are pale yellow in colour, because they do not use the bright orange food colouring that normal Twisties use. Fonzies are baked, not fried. Although sold in Italy, Fonzies are produced in Germany by LU Snack Foods GmbH. In the GCC countries, they are also sold with the name "Fonzies", produced by Kraft Malaysia.
In Australia, bacon flavour Twisties were produced briefly in the early 1970s, but were not a success and were withdrawn from the market after only a year. Twisties has recently released cheddar flavour Zig Zag twisties.
Twisties in New Zealand are different from the Australian variety. Called 'twisties', they were manufactured by Bluebird Foods Ltd and are only available in cheese flavour. They are less dense than the Australian variety, and their shape is more 'twisty'. In New Zealand the Australian Smith's variety are not widely available.
Twisties advertising has almost completely stopped in the last decade in comparison to its past promotions. Twisties' largest (and most expensive) campaign ever was between 1982-1983 with its "Twisties jumper" - Lillian Darrell, a famed actress of the stage and screen, played the role of an old woman knitting a Twisties jumper straight from a sheep. The promotion included free knitting patterns and free bags of Twisties. Other promotions were attempted afterwards, but they resulted in little success.
- Business review weekly: BRW 13 (26-34): 43. 1991. "Its products are sold under the Australian brand names Twisties and Cheezels in Asia; in Europe, Twisties are sold under the Fonzies brand and Cheezels are marketed as Yonkers."