Spam was brought into the world by Jay Hormel (son of George Hormel, who founded the Hormel company in 1891) and Hormel sold it’s first cans on July 5, 1937.
There was a naming contest for the name of this new product and Ken Digneau came up with the name ‘Spam’ as a blend of ‘spiced’ and ‘ham’ and won the $100 reward. Ironically neither ‘spice’ nor ‘ham’ is an ingredient in Spam.
Spam consists of pork, salt, water, sugar, potato starch and sodium nitrite. It was created as a way to peddle the then-unprofitable pork shoulder.
There were lots of advertisements for Spam targeted at housewives who could use a cheap, quick meal with little prep work. At the time, it was the only canned meat product on the market that needed no refrigeration. However, people were hesitant at first about a meat product that didn’t need to be refrigerated.
However, during World War II, America shipped out over 100 million cans to feed the U.S. military fighting in the Pacific. It remains popular in areas in the Pacific theater of war where U.S. soldiers were stationed, including Hawaii, the Philippines and Guam.
Spam was also shipped in aid packages to devastated parts of Europe, including Britain and Russia, and to Korea and Japan (post-war). Today, Korea is the world’s second largest consumer of Spam after the United States. In fact, Spam is seen as a luxury item in Korea and is a popular gift for the Lunar New Year.
Hormel produced it’s billionth can of Spam in 1959. By 2007, it had sold 7 billion cans of Spam.
In the early 1970’s, ‘Spam’ became a generic trademark used to describe any canned meat product containing pork, such as pork luncheon meat.
Spam is produced in Austin, Minnesota (aka ‘Spam Town USA’) and in Fremont, Nebraska. Austin, Minnesota also has a restaurant with a menu devoted exclusively to Spam recipes called ‘Johnny’s SPAMarama Menu’.
Spam was featured in a classic 1970 Monty Python sketch. The term ‘spam’ used for unwanted e-mails originates from this sketch.
Weird Al Yankovich created a parody of REM’s song ‘Stand’ called ‘Spam’.
Spam has expanded into numerous types of offerings and flavors including Spam Spread.