IT is a brand of canned cooked pork that first went on sale in the 1930s before going on to become the focus of a Monty Python sketch in later years. Much maligned in recent times, Spam is now enjoying a resurgence - but why?



In its dark blue wrapper with 'SPAM' in yellow capitals above an image of the block of meat, it is an instantly recognisable tin on supermarket shelves around the world. The pre-cooked canned meat is made by US firm Hormel Foods in its home state of Minnesota, introduced back in 1937 with the aim of increasing sales of pork shoulder - a cut of meat that did not sell well. Hormel say that the name was invented after a staff competition, with the brother of a company executive coming up with “Spam”, popularly thought to be an abridgement of “spiced ham”.


It’s much maligned?

It has been over the years, with the fact it was regarded as a low cost meal introducing some culinary snobbery into the mix, while wartime soldiers apparently joked it was “meat that failed the physical”. Then in the 1990s, amid the rise of email, its reputation sparked the use of the term “spam” for unsolicited emails.



It did find fame with Monty Python in 1970 when the iconic comedy troupe featured a sketch in their Flying Circus series, portraying vikings singing "Spam, spam, spam, spam, lovely spam!’ And in 2006, Hormel Foods even sponsored the Python's Spamalot musical.


It had some famous fans?

Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher once recalled having enjoyed it as a teenager on Boxing Day, 1943, describing it as a “wartime delicacy”, adding: "I can quite vividly remember we opened a tin of Spam luncheon meat. We had some lettuce and tomatoes and peaches, so it was Spam and salad.” And it also has regular fans - more than 100,000 people a year visit the Spam museum in Austin, Minnesota.



Growing in popularity after the war, it is available around the world, particularly popular in Hawaii and In South Korea, where it was introduced by the US army during the Korean War, when food was hard to come by. And last December, Hormel revealed Spam sales had hit a record high for the seventh year in a row, hitting $3.5bn (£2.65bn) in the three months to the end of October 2021.



Amid the surging cost-of-living crisis, it seems shoppers are turning to the tinned meat even more so than before. Waitrose have announced sales are up by 36 per cent.


Anything else?

Waitrose’s Food & Drink report said the “use-it-all trend” and a shift to slow cooking was likely behind rising sales of other products too such as beef shin, ox cheek and lamb neck - up 23%, 9% and 4% respectively, while fish heads are up by an “incredible” 34% on last year.


The cost-of-living crisis is biting?

A poll for Waitrose found that 72% of consumers are now “more mindful” about their grocery budget and more than a third are “very concerned” about how they will cope in the coming months. Some 32% said they looked out for special offers more than ever before. Waitrose executive director James Bailey said: “The events of the last year have created a difficult backdrop for many people and like all supermarkets we’ve had to judge the mood and react. We’re seeing some big changes.”


What about that old “snobbery”?

It’s been shunted out of the way by social media, with Spam a trending ingredient on TikTok videos.