SOME LOVE IT; some won’t give it a
chance. Wherever you happen to land on
the Spam spectrum, the canned pork
product isn’t going anywhere; in fact, it’s
celebrating its ;;th birthday this year.
With ; billion cans sold in the product’s lifetime, this shelf-stable protein has
created a global legacy and is often credited as a lifesaver in times of strife. But
there needn’t be a food shortage to enjoy it;
Spam fans have created a near cult following for the foodstuff, as it continues to
thrive in the mainstream.
The Connection chatted by phone with
top leadership from Hormel Foods (the
creator of Spam) to get the lowdown on
ho w the famed food makes ;; look so good.
From necessity comes ingenuity
So what is Spam? Spam Classic has six
ingredients: pork with ham, salt, water,
potato starch, sugar and sodium nitrate.
While it started with Classic, today there
are ;; different Spam products, with flavors like teriyaki, jalapeño and garlic.
Hormel Foods, which has been in busi-
ness for ;;; years, developed Spam in
;;;;, toward the end of the Great
Depression. The canned, shelf-stable food
proved to be vital for the millions of
Americans with limited access to refrig-
eration and protein. Today, Hormel Foods
markets the Spam acronym as Sizzle Pork
And Mmm, but company leaders admit
that the actual meaning is company lore.
Brian Lillis, Spam brand manager,
says Spam’s timely formation was key to
satiating troops during World War II.
“With the passing of the Lend-Lease Act
back in ;;;;, the U.S. agreed to provide as
much aid short of war as possible to our
allies who were already immersed in the
conflict; and so for Hormel, this meant
shipping up to ;; million cans of meat per
week overseas,” says Lillis. “By ;;;;, more
than ;; percent of the company’s canned
foods were shipping for government use.”
A good example is Panama, where
Spam is still popular, driven by the fact
that the U.S. had control over the canal for
over ;;; years. The same holds true in
Puerto Rico, islands in the Caribbean and
the South Pacific, South Korea and Japan,
Spam is still used in disaster relief situations and areas of the world where food
scarcity is a problem.
Spam fans and foods
Spam has taken on a much more light-
hearted tone over the years. Tongue-in-
cheek tchotchkes and wearable Spam gear
have become mainstream. The Spam
Museum is one of the main attractions in
Austin, Minnesota, Hormel Foods’ head-
quarters. Lillis says, “As we like to say, it’s
about ;;,;;; square feet about square
meat right in downtown Austin.” In honor
of Spam’s ;;th birthday, the company
even constructed a Spam tiny house that
toured the U.S.
Hawaii hosts an annual Spam festival
(aptly titled the Spam Jam) that showcases
creative preparations of the meat. Common
preparations include Spam-and-egg breakfast dishes, fried rice and sandwiches. But
fans have created all sorts of exotic dishes,
including Spam pho and Hawaii’s infamous
Spam musubi: a sushi roll of rice, nori and
a slice of fried Spam. It’s often celebrated
for its versatility.
Despite its practicality, you don’t have
to be in famine to have a feast with Spam.
If you’re not already on the bandwagon,
perhaps a simple Spam slider (pictured
above; recipe on
Spam.com) could convince even the strongest skeptic. C
Hormel’s canned classic turns 80
Spam a little
or Spam a lot?
COMPANY: Hormel Foods
CEO: Jim Snee
HEADQUARTERS: Austin, Minnesota
PRODUCTS AT COSTCO: Spam Classic,
Spam 25% Less Sodium, Spam Lite (
selection varies by location).
QUOTE ABOUT COSTCO: “The relationship has been fantastic between Costco
and Hormel Foods. Our partnership has
been rooted in the common values that
both companies have. I think that’s really
helped our relationship flourish over the
last 40 years.”
—Mike Cahill, director of club
and emerging channels, Hormel Foods
Above: Spam OG Slider
(the recipe can be
below: Spam Classic,
and a vintage Spam
OUR DIGITAL EDITIONS
Click here to tour the Spam Museum.