Hostess said it has filed a motion with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court to close its businesses and sell its assets.
The company is dealing with a nationwide worker strike. Thousands of members of the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union hit the picket lines last week in several cities after rejecting in September a contract offer that cut wages and benefits.
Striking workers plan to continue to picket just in case a last-minute deal can be made between the bakers union and the privately held firm that owns Hostess.
"We want to hold off. If we abandon this picket, the company can bring back people and place them on these jobs. It's not over until it's over," said bakers union spokesman Salvador Perez.
Hostess had already reached a contract agreement with its largest union, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters. On Thursday, Hostess warned that it would liquidate if the strikers didn't return to work.
"We deeply regret the necessity of today's decision, but we do not have the financial resources to weather an extended nationwide strike. Hostess Brands will move promptly to lay off most of its 18,500-member workforce and focus on selling its assets to the highest bidders," the company said in a statement.
Word that Hostess is moving to liquidate assets and close up shop prompted many people to head to a Hostess outlet store in Glendale in search of the iconic childhood treats.
"It's the American way. We grew up on Twinkies and Ding Dongs," said Marva Lea of Burbank.
But shelves were already empty well before noon, dashing the hope of some parents who wanted to give their kids the experience of a Twinkie before they disappeared.
The best hope for the employees is if someone buys the privately held company. But even if that happens, they would still need to renegotiate a new contract.
"Our hope is that someone does invest money instead of pulling out money the way they have in the past," Perez said.
Now, they will have to file for unemployment and hope a new owner is on the horizon who will be willing to make a deal to keep this iconic American snack on store shelves.
"We understand that there is someone out there that might be interested in this company," Perez said. "This is a company that's been here for many years."
Hostess filed for Chapter 11 protection in January, its second trip through bankruptcy court in less than a decade.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.