Ray Calleja, founder of iconic Maltese cheesy snack Twistees, passes away

Twistees founder, avid golfer, and chairman of major Maltese foodstuffs company, passes away

Ray Calleja, Twistees founder
Ray Calleja, Twistees founder

The founder of the iconic Maltese snack Twistees – Ray Calleja – has passed away.

Strand Palace Agencies Ltd and Tastees Manufacturing say Calleja, who was chairman of the companies, passed away on 9 January 2020. His funeral will be held on Saturday 11 January in Ibrag.

Twistees is a brand of Maltese snacks now widely exported around the world. Together with Tastees, the yellow rice-based snack occupies its place as the king of Maltese snacks, for its crunchy, cheesy taste.

Calleja was two-time captain of the Royal Malta Golf Club. “He will be greatly missed by his many, many friends at the club,” said RMGC chairman Paul Stoner. “A lifelong contributor to the welfare of the club, Ray was the first to volunteer, offer support, sponsorship, his attendance and indeed in the tougher early years, to put his hand in his pocket. By his own admission Ray was not the greatest golfer the RMGC has ever seen, but he certainly ranks as one of its greatest members.”

Twistees’ first production was back in 1975 at the Darrell Lee Foods factory in Marsa, which was established by Calleja. Calleja took over from the late John Calleja and oversaw the opening of manufacturing plants producing various confectionery products under the TOPSY brand.
The cheesy snack became one of the first snacks to be baked and not fried, with no artificial ingredients or colourings.

In 2007, Calleja’s son Steven started to export Twistees under the brand name of Tastees to Canada, United States, Germany, Australia, Finland and Libya.

The most popular form of the snack are the original Cheesy Twistees, with Smokey Barbeque Twistees, Twistees Lite and Chicken Twistees added to the range over the years.