SPAM first entered the American consciousness in 1937, right at the time that the Great Depression still had a grip on the economy. Because of the Depression and high unemployment rates, families weren’t able to afford groceries, especially fresh meat. Fresh pork at the time was expensive, so Hormel came up with the idea of the canned meat product. The product itself is made from pork shoulder, which was previously thrown out, and the executives at Hormel wanted to reduce this waste. On Spam’s website, you can find the ingredient list, which consists of pork with ham, salt, water, potato starch, sugar, and sodium nitrite. SPAM was popular almost from the beginning and sales increased during World War II with the military buying 150 million pounds of SPAM for soldiers to eat.
The universally recognized blue and gold can emblazoned with the SPAM name has become a staple in cupboards around the world. The name itself has sent sleuths out trying to figure out if it’s an acronym or just a product name. Kenneth Daigneau, an actor at the time is thought to have come up with the name after entering a company-sponsored contest. He was also a brother to one of the executives at the company and ended up pocketing $100 for the naming. Many believe that SPAM stands for simply, spice ham, although naming conspiracies continue to abound. SPAM has continued to be popular in the United States but also has a worldwide following. For the US, Hawaii has the greatest appreciation for the canned pork product, consuming seven million cans every year. Elsewhere in the world, South Korea holds second place, consuming the meat in a sushi roll called a kimbap. In the Philippines, SPAM has a restaurant called, SPAMJAM. The restaurant serves everything from SPAM hamburgers to SPAM nuggets and even SPAM spaghetti. There are also contests around the world where people experiment with various SPAM recipes.
While SPAM Classic remains one of the most popular varieties, other flavors have been produced over the years. These include SPAM Lite, SPAM Bacon, SPAM Turkey, SPAM Teriyaki, SPAM Cheese, SPAM Garlic, SPAM Black Pepper, SPAM Hickory Smoke, and Spam Portuguese Sausage. But SPAM doesn’t stop at just having a product line, they also have a museum in Austin Minnesota, which is where the brand originated. The museum covers the history of the iconic brand and also carries cookbooks with a variety of SPAM recipes that have been tried over the years. The SPAM website even has a gift shop to stock up on a variety of SPAM branded products. SPAM can even be found in the Smithsonian after the company donated their packaging to the museum in 1998. The SPAM website details how the product is made, which includes grinding the pork and ham, then adding the ingredients to flavor it, and finally bringing it to the correct temperature. After that, the mixture goes to the canning line and is packaged. The cans are then vacuum sealed and cooked and cooled for 3 hours while in the can. Labels, packing, and shipping are the next steps for SPAM to leave the factory. SPAM continues to be a popular food item in all its forms and even McDonalds and Burger King offer SPAM on their menus.