A milestone for Spam

Published 10:39 am Friday, May 11, 2012

Spam was trademarked May 11, 1937, and Hormel will celebrate the canned meat’s ‘birthday’ July 5. -- Photo provided

Spam’s 75th birthday bash isn’t until July, but the canned meat hit another milestone today. On May 11, 1937 — exactly 75 years ago — Hormel Foods Corp. registered the trademark “SPAM” for its spiced ham.

“The Spam brand has been loved by millions of families for 75 years. The fact that recipes from all around the world have been passed down from generation to generation is a testament to the relevancy of the Spam brand,” said Nicole Behne, Spam brand product manager.

In 1936, Geo. A. Hormel & Company devised a recipe for a 12-once can of spiced ham. But the new product was quickly copied by competitors, according to Hormel, so then-president Jay C. Hormel decided to coin a brand name with a distinct identity. Hormel says it offered a $100 prize for the best name, and Kenneth Daigneau, actor-brother of Hormel Vice President Ralph Daigneau, came up with Spam.

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Hormel soon began a marketing campaign, and radio commercials played across the country. During World War II in 1941, Hormel shifted to wartime production, and Spam became a staple for Allied troops, Hormel says, and as production increased, the canned meat gained notoriety as “the ham that didn’t pass its physical” and a “meatball without basic training.”

But Spam survived, and Hormel sold 1 billion cans of Spam by 1959, 3 billion by 1980 and 4 billion by 1986. According to Hormel, more than 122 million cans of the Spam family of products are sold worldwide each year, including 90 million in the U.S. Hormel says Hawaii has the highest consumption of Spam per capita.

“Spam products evoke a sense of community and inspire creativity. Consumers are always coming up with new and exciting ways to eat Spam,” Behne said. “Hormel Foods is very proud of its all-American iconic brand.”

To celebrate 75 years of Spam, Hormel launched its first campaign spokescharacter, “Sir Can A-Lot,” in TV and online commercials this year.

In addition to the campaign, the month of July will contain important milestones as the brand recognizes its 75th birthday on July 5 — when the first can of Spam rolled off the factory line. Hormel Foods will honor the community and home of the Spam brand in Austin with a late-month festival full of entertainment and history.