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The Ding Dong is a chocolate cake produced and distributed in the United States by Hostess Brands and currently owned by private equity firms Apollo Global Management and Metropoulos & Co; it remains in production and distribution in Canada from Saputo Incorporated under the name King Don. Ding Dong production resumed in the United States on July 15, 2013 after an absence from American store shelves. It is round with a flat top and bottom, about three inches in diameter and a little more than an inch high, similar in shape to a hockey puck. A white creamy filling is injected into the center, and a thin coating of chocolate glaze covers the entire cake. The cake was originally wrapped in a square of thick aluminium foil, enabling it to be carried in lunches without melting the chocolate glaze.
The Ding Dong is similar to other cream-filled cakes such as Arcade Vachon's Jos. Louis introduced before 1934. Hostess began marketing its Ding Dong in 1967. The name was given to coincide with a television ad campaign featuring a ringing bell. Hostess went out of business on November 16, 2012, stopping all production. In June 2013, the new Hostess Brands reopened a Kansas product plant and announced that Ding Dongs production will resume on July 15, 2013.
The company marketed the snacks on the East Coast as Big Wheels, to avoid confusion with the Ring Ding, a similar (and pre-existing) treat by Drake's Cakes. The names were consolidated in 1987, when a short-lived merger of Drake's with Hostess' parent company (then Continental Baking Company) briefly resolved the Ring Ding/Ding Dong conflict. When the merged company broke up, however, Hostess was forced to cease, once again, using the Ding Dongs name in areas where Ring Dings were available. The compromise sound-alike name King Dons lasted until Interstate Bakeries Corporation, which had recently merged with Hostess' parent company, bought Drake's in 1998. The Hostess product was then sold under the name Ding Dongs throughout the United States, although it was still sold as the King Don in Canada.
Hostess created the King Ding Dong cartoon character to advertise the Ding Dong: an anthropomorphized Ding Dong sporting a crown and sceptre. He was similar to other Hostess characters Captain Cupcake, Happy HoHo Twinkie the Kid and Fruit Pie the Magician. Where King Dons were marketed, the character, like the product, was known as King Don. In areas that used the Big Wheel name, the character was an Indian chief named "Chief Big Wheel."