85 years of spam

Image: calimedia / Shutterstock

This Tuesday (5 July 2022) marked 85 years since the iconic tinned Spam brand was launched.

Jay Hormel and Minnesota-based Hormel Foods Corporation introduced the Spam brand in 1937 with six ingredients: pork with ham, salt, water, potato starch, sugar, sodium nitrite. The goal was to create a convenient and affordable protein with an extended shelf life. The Spam brand got its name from Ken Daigneau, the brother of a Hormel Foods vice president, after he won a contest and $100 for naming the product.

During World War II, more than 100 million pounds of Spam luncheon meat was shipped abroad to feed allied troops. The product also reached England and the countries of the Asian Pacific, where rationing and American GIs made the canned meat a necessity but was then adopted as a star ingredient in several popular dishes.

In no way would I remember Spam from WWII. That being said, Spam does remain hugely in my memory as a childhood treat, not only through taste; there was something satisfying about the way it would thunk out of the uniquely shaped tin. My brother and I would either have Spam fried with some home made potato chips, or as an alternative to corned beef hash (corned beef being another tinned staple). Nowadays it features far less in my meals, although my fiancé did buy some last year for sandwiches.

Spam has largely retained its vintage-looking packaging throughout the years. However, the product is more than just a source of nostalgia on a global slow-down. Quite the opposite. According to Hormel Foods, in 2022, 12.8 cans of Spam products are consumed every second. The brand has also hit several other milestones recently, including:

  • Over nine billion units sold across 48 countries;
  • 11 different varieties featured in hundreds of delicious and creative recipes;
  • Seven years of consecutive record sales;
  • Almost 500,000 visitors to the Spam Museum, which can be visited in person or virtually.

The ingredient has also been seen trending on TikTok as a recipe ingredient, with users recommending it for breakfasts and Asian-inspired dishes.

“From recipes passed down from generation to generation to family get-togethers, people’s connection to the Spam brand is deeply rooted in longevity, versatility, convenience and cultural heritage,” said Steven Venenga, vice president of marketing for the Spam brand. “While we celebrate all that the Spam brand has accomplished, the most important achievement is the inspiration and joy this little blue can has given its fans in the kitchen and beyond.”

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