How the U.S. Military Made Spam a Global Icon

In 2021, Spam sales reached a record high for the seventh year in a row, making Spam manufacturer Hormel a decent $3.5 billion in sales.

To understand the reason behind Spam's popularity and what that has to do with the U.S. military, we have to step back and start with where Spam itself started.

The Humble Origins of Spam

Spam was initially conceived to make then-undesirable pork shoulder cuts into something profitable during the Great Depression.

Hormel executives decided to hold a naming contest with a reward of $100. Ken Digneau stepped up to plate and named it Spam, a portmanteau for “spiced ham”.

Spam’s ability to survive without refrigeration catapulted Spam into the diets of American troops who were being sent to Asia Pacific during World War 2.

American Soldiers Took Spam on a World Tour

It didn’t take long for Spam to start making its way out of U.S. bases in countries like the Philippines where it was sold at post exchange retail stores located on bases.

The same happened in South Korea where meat was scarce during the war, making the humble Spam the Birkin bag of canned goods.

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