My father loved it. Ate it all the time. And he was in the army in 1945, where I imagine they had a lot of it.

I haven’t had it in 20 years, at least, and never purchased a can myself.

How about you guys?

The Conversation-

While you might think of Spam as a basic canned meat, it’s actually one of the greatest business success stories of all time: Since Hormel Foods Corporation launched the affordable, canned pork product in 1937, it’s sold over eight billion cans in 44 countries around the world.

On July 5, Spam celebrates its 80th anniversary. It’s fitting that this comes only a day after the birthday of the United States. The product is up there with Coca-Cola, McDonald’s and Pizza Hut as one of the most distinctive American brands of all time.

As a consumer behavior researcher, I believe Spam’s widespread success can be attributed to two factors: it addressed a real need, and also formed an emotional connection with its consumers, by tapping into American ideals like ingenuity and resourcefulness.

Spam ‘hits the spot’

Spam isn’t exactly the most exciting product.

The original recipe included chopped pork shoulder meat with ham, salt, water, sugar and sodium nitrite. (This remained unchanged until 2009, when Hormel added potato starch in an effort to eliminate one of the product’s less attractive features: the gelatin layer created by the cooking process.) At the time it was introduced, it was the only canned meat product on the market that needed no refrigeration. This feature gave Spam a significant competitive advantage.

Hormel also created buzz around its new product by sponsoring a name contest to promote it.

The winner was an actor named Kenneth Daigneau, who was awarded US$100 for coming up with the name “Spam.” (He was also the brother of Hormel’s vice president, so there may have been a bit of nepotism involved.)

‘Cold or hot…Spam hits the spot!’ Classic Film/flickrCC BY-NC

Anointed with its new name, the product was buoyed by a heavy advertising effort that emphasized its versatility. For example, in 1940, Hornel fielded submissions from Spam fans to create a 20-page recipe book featuring 50 ways of incorporating the canned meat into meals.

Homemakers readily embraced Spam, and it became a popular lunch and breakfast meat. But sales really took off during World War II. Over 150 million pounds were used in the war effort, making Spam a cornerstone of troops’ diets. (Soldiers also used Spam’s grease to lubricate their guns and waterproof their boots.) In each country where they were stationed, American soldiers introduced it to the locals, giving foreigners their first taste of Spam.

Since then, Spam has become a sought-after product in many countries around the world, especially those that have faced economic hardship. Because it’s cheap, filling and has a long shelf life, it addresses a real need.

As American as apple pie?

But how did it become such a cultural icon?

In a 2012 paper, marketing researchers Rajeev Batra, Aaron Ahuvia and Richard P. Bagozzi developed a model of “brand love.” Based on studies on consumers’ brand attachment, they showed that in order to form meaningful attachment with brands, consumers need to experience them in ways beyond simply buying and using the product.

Hormel seemed to intuitively understand these ideas. Simply selling a cheap, useful product wouldn’t be enough. In creative and humorous ways that went beyond traditional advertising, they appealed to consumers by positioning the brand as a patriotic food that reflected American ingenuity – with a streak of eccentricity.


64 Comments on Spam

  1. Spam, the other white meat😜

    I’ll task the wife with spam sammitches and chips now, lol!!!

    We eat the 25% reduced sodium version.

    Probably once a week? Never had it in the Navy. They were canned ham freaks and horsecxck lovers.

    Spam fried rice baby!!!!

  2. I remember hearing or reading a report about how they are batshit crazy about spam in Hawaii. They can’t get enough of it there.

  3. Hawaiian Swineapple – Core and peel a pineapple, stuff with Spam, wrap with bacon, indirect heat on the grill. MMMMMmmmm

  4. @Organgrinder, I’ve read that Hawaiians consume more SPAM than any other state. I prefer the Bacon Spam (has more flavor) but it is not readily available in our supermarkets (northern Vermont). The wife hates it! Her folks served it a lot while she was growing up and glares at me if I even mention the name. OTOH I still prefer a good serving of Haggis with my eggs.

  5. I am allowed to cook this once a year. And what a joy it is!

    I pan fry 10mm thick slices until they are a lovely golden brown. Then I eat them in a sandwich with bread and Duke’s mayonnaise. And all of this is washed down with Mountain Dew.

    My wife actually leaves the house for this ritual. She can’t stand it.

    I am really learning to love this blog.

  6. Just bought some a couple of weeks ago (first time in years). It’s good stuff and way better than the Vienna sausages my dad used to force on my when mom was out of town.

  7. Hawaiians got hooked on it after WWII and that state is one of the biggest consumers for the product, or so I read once in an article about SPAM.fried rice. First can I ever bought was to try this recipe. Dice it up and pan fry it until carmelized for your fried rice. You know what, it was good. Really healthy I’m sure.

  8. Fry an egg just until it won’t run, 2 slices of fried spam (regular or low sodium) between 2 buttered slices of toast. Best dang breakfast sandwich.

  9. It seems to Taste Better or Worse , Depending where You Are Phsically !
    Camping in Baja Spam Seems Like Jesus Delivered it Himself !
    But in My Home Sram Seems To Have Been Deilivered By My Dog !

  10. My grandmother would fry slices of Spam and slices of corn mush, put the Spam between the fried mush with a fried egg and make a sandwich. A little maple syrup and maybe some ketchup on top…. it was delicious and I would always ask for more…. mind you, it wasn’t scrapple delicious… but it was darn close.

  11. Core a pineapple? Blasphemy!!!!😫😫😫

    There’s more fiber there than a 2×4!

    Fried and with mayo on wheat bread.

  12. coat it with pure cinnimon, then press it in brown sugar ….bake 45 min @ 350…… OMG..ITS PURE HEAVEN

  13. Bret Aldridge – That’s the truth. A friend of mine lived in Hawaii for a few years and they used it in everything. There are several Hawaiian restaurants in Las Vegas and she goes there all the time.

  14. Breakfast sandwich, I’m with F4U Corsair on this one; but in addition to the fried egg, fried Spam slices ( I like the Black Pepper version), i also had a slice of cheese to the sandwich.

  15. In Hungary right after WW2, US C-47s and other cargo planes occasionally dropped food parcels containing Spam. It was considered [and called] “Isten hozott”, which directly translates into “brought by God”, and also figuratively as “welcome”. It was considered a great delicacy, especially when rotten horse flesh was the main meat on the menu. When my grandmother finally escaped after the 1956 Revolution, what she could do with it, you wouldn’t believe.

    There will always be a can of Spam in my cupboard to remind me that things weren’t always as good as they are now,how great the USA is in helping to feed its former adversaries and how great cooks can be under some of the worst circumstances.

    …And, yes, I have it several times a year, usually in scrambled eggs and as a hearty sandwich.

  16. Last time I tried the Adkin’s diet some 15 years ago I bought three cans…

    Never could bring myself to eat it… Gave it away in a food drive for the poor

  17. My wife slices them in to small sticks, then puts them on a baking sheet and bakes them until they are almost crispy. Then she puts them in the fridge and I eat them for breakfast with scrambled eggs. She hated Spam for years, but after 38 years of fixing them for me she’s grown to like them.

  18. I’ bought it once. I bought a can of regular,light & turkey. Liked them all with the turkey being my favorite. The problem I had was the salt. I basically found them inedible because of the insane saltiness.

  19. Dad was a Pacific WWII vet and enjoyed it. Growing up, it was a staple in our home. Partly it was good and partly it was economical to feed 4 children.
    We learned to love it or sat at the table until our plate
    was clean. I learned to eat many things I didn’t particularly enjoy after a few hours sitting at the kitchen table.
    I have a can in the pantry now, I’m the only one who will eat it my wife doesn’t possess the ritzy culinary palate as I do.

  20. I like Spam and have some about once a month, usually sliced into approx. 10 mm slabs a la Austrian Buzzkill, and then wrapped in flour tortillas with a bit of shredded cheese. Sometimes with Tapatio hot sauce. Quite good!

  21. Wasn’t going to comment but no one specifically mentioned it:

    Good old spam, fried, rye toast, DUKE’s mayonnaise, 1 slice of tomato, and a Healthy 1/2 inch slice of VELVEETA cheese – now you are talking American samwich!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  22. Sliced 1/4 inch thick, fried, and served with eggs, Boston baked beans, or put on grilled cheese sammies. I keep my pantry well stocked with Spam and other canned meat/fishes just in case…

  23. If you’re into prepping, SPAM is a must for food lockers. It has a long shelf life – okay a forever shelf life. Also, it’s a main staple of Hawaii, Hawaiians love the stuff and can be found in grocery stores with huge displays of it. It’s the one product muzzies won’t touch – along with bacon. More for me!

  24. The Ballad of Jed Spampett

    Come and listen to a story ’bout a man named Jed
    Poor white trash, kinda crazy in the head
    Then one day as he was shootin, at some food
    Up from the ground came those cans of blue

    Spam that is
    Pink and sweet
    Mystery Meat

    Well the next thing you know, he could feed the whole clan
    When out of the woods popped a Hormel man
    He said Spamabama is the place you oughta’ be
    So they loaded up the truck but only got to Antrey

    Hill folks that is
    Make you squeal!!!
    Bubba ville!!!

    Well now it’s time to say goodbye to Jed and all his clan
    And they would like to thank you folks for chockin’down that Spam
    Your all invited back ‘ere morn to this localaty
    To take a shot and see if ya got a case of dispepsy

    Gas pain that is!!!
    Moan and groan
    Get the Rolaids !! Ya hear?!

  25. Spam, a hand that didn’t graduate basic training.
    After hearing you guys I might experiment with some of these ideas.

  26. I like Spam, especially grilled while the eggs fry. Unfortunately I cannot eat a whole can, well maybe I could if I tried. So I spend a little more for the convenient single serving pouches to get my fill. I have gotten the wife and kids to eat it, but that involves setting up the deep fryer to make Spam fries.

  27. It’s amazing how popular this is in foreign countries.

    GIFT BOXES on many holidays include cans of SPAM. –Not what I would consider “special event” type of food. . .

  28. I love Spam. Always have since Boy Scouts.
    It toasts nicely over a small fire.

    I average a couple cans a month for weekend breakfasts. Great with eggs. Also great with real Confederate Grits. Pour the Grits over the fried slices, or dice the fried Spam and mix it into a bowl of Grits. Good stuff.

  29. My mom would slice it, bread it and fry it like chicken cutlets. That was dinner with mash potatoes, and a vegetable. I loved it.

  30. Wikipedia has a “K Rations” article listing all the ingredients of WW2 K Rations, C Rations etc. Really interesting reading Spam was included although not always listed by brand name.
    In addition to SPAM, the Pentagon meal planners gave a big boost to Big Tobacco. Cigarettes and matches were included in every ration package.
    Interesting to contrast with today’s MREs (culturally and nutritionally) as well as the German and other armies’ rations of the period. Much of modern nutrition was built upon the experience of WW2.

  31. My mother tasked our cook to find a recipe that could make Span edible..FAIL. Then in 1963 I had Fried rice Spam with egg, peas and carrots at a Chinese restaurant…very small chunks of Spam but a lot of them and it was great with no Soy Sauce.

  32. My wife is Filipino, and Span is a popular product there. Not cheap compared to other options, but seen as a high quality, American product. I don’t worry about sodium myself, but the low sodium does taste better.

  33. I use it as small meat chunks
    in a Chef Salad with a sweet
    salad dressing like French.
    The salt/sweet taste is outstanding. I also use it as back-up lunch
    meat for when I run out of deli.
    Sliced thin with tomato etc.
    on a sandwich, the salt isn’t bad.

  34. Vietnam 1968 for Marines in the bush it was about a close to Prime Rib as you could get. And cooked over a open fire usually fueled by C-4.

  35. Haven’t had spam in decades. It wasn’t popular in our house as a child probably because dad had enough for a life time with K and C Rations.

    Bacon Spam? May have to give that a try. Thanks for the recipes and tips.

  36. Tried some about 30 years ago. Blecch! Couldn’t finish even one can.
    I prefer canned corned beef for sammies.

  37. I like the odd spam sandwich or slices with Kraft Dinner (chilled corned beef slices are great as well). Up here I’ve only ever seen one type of spam not all the varieties that @Dan Ryan Galt put the link up for you lucky bastards. I don’t why there is such a hate on, it’s just cooked and formed pork shoulder the same stuff your pulled pork sandwiches are made form (except the slow cook/smoke and barbq sauce stuff). I wonder how a couple of tins through the smoker, shredded and a decent barbq sauce on a soft, fresh bun would taste?

  38. Hawaii is the only place where I have been that McDonalds has Spam on the menu. Spam Mc Muffin, IIRC. Now i have to open a can for lunch. By the way, contrary to popular belief, Spam does have an expiration date. I exceeded it once, and learned my lesson. Never again.

  39. Everyone has to try Spam, it’s a conversation in a can! Look at all these comments.
    I like it in stir fried rice with a little pineapple.

  40. Pan fried Spam, whole wheat bread, salad dressing, cheddar cheese, lettuce and tomato slices – delicious.

  41. I enjoyed Spam and eggs this past weekend. Nature’s most perfect food, each can contains “everything but the squeal”.

  42. I would not eat it on a boat.
    I would not eat it with a goat.
    I do not like it here or there.
    I do not like it anywhere.

    You can have mine, Spam I Am.

  43. Ok, first I’ve heard of breaded spam. Gonna have
    to task the wife with that one!
    My sammitch and chips was great! 🙂 The reduced sodium
    one for us has the best all around flavor.

  44. As a devout prepper, SPAM is main-stay in my pantry. I have at least 5 flavours in stock and always look forward to finding that can that’s near it’s expiration so I can have it for breakfast with a couple sunny-side-up eggs.

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