SPAM®, the canned meat Monty Python sang about and the meat product whose name is now used to label unwanted bulk e-mail messages, is about to celebrate its 75th birthday.
Hormel Foods Corp. is putting on the birthday bash at its Austin, MN processing plant where it now turns out 110 million pounds of SPAM® per year. Hormel promises a “Spamtastic” event on July 28, headlined by The Temptations.
This description is probably fitting for a product with its own museum (also in Austin) that hails SPAM® as ” a war hero, pop culture icon, and an American institution.”
One story goes that the name came from actor Kenneth Daigneau, who attended a drinking party where Hormel put up a $100 prize for whoever could come up with the best name.
Whether or not this is true, SPAM®, short for spiced ham, was born that year – some say just in time – as the new canned meat turned out to be just as critical in winning World War II as the landing crafts known as Higgins Boats or the famous Willy’s Jeeps.
An army travels on its stomach. During each week of the war, Hormel delivered 15 million cans of SPAM® to Allied armies around the world. Hormel’s wartime marketing slogan for SPAM® was a “miracle in a can.”
Few Americans returned from the war claiming to have developed a taste for SPAM®. Most considered it as nothing more than part of the C-ration diets that they hoped never to have to eat again.
But throughout Asia and the Pacific it was a different story. As the war’s end neared and the American military began distributing food to local populations, SPAM® was the most sought-after offering.
Korea, the Philippines, Okinawa, Saipan, Guam and Hawaii all emerged from the war liking SPAM®, and continue to demand it today.
Monty Python did not get around to satirizing SPAM® until 1970 when the British comedy trope aired a skit and song about a man trying to order something for breakfast that did not contain SPAM®.
It made such an impression that almost 25 years later, the name stood out when a moniker was needed to describe unwanted e-mail and other messages, now including text messages.
Hormel tired swimming against the tide for several years, objecting to the use of its SPAM® trademark for calling out the unwanted on the Internet. It finally settled on just asking that SPAM® be capitalized when referring to its meat product and written in lower case when referring to unwanted messages.
Today the canned meat comes in 12 varieties, including Classic, Classic Singles, Less Sodium, Oven Roasted Turkey, Jalapeno, Bacon, Cheese, Hot and Spicy, Black Pepper, Hickory Smoke, Lite, Lite Singles, and SPAM® spread.
SPAM® has also been among Hormel’s most problem-free products from a food safety perspective. The last recall of the product on record was in 1998 when metal fragments got into some SPAM® at its Fremont, NE plant (where the product is also made) causing Hormel to recall 18,000 cans.© Food Safety News