Why Is Spam So Popular In Hawaii
Spam® products have been synonymous with Hawaii since they arrived on the scene in 1937. But why are these canned pork and ham concoctions so beloved here?
The answer starts with America’s entry into World War II. During this conflict, soldiers ate primarily canned foods because fresh produce and meats could not be transported over long distances. It was during World War II that Spam® products first entered U.S. Army rations.
After the war ended, military personnel stationed at bases around the country brought their newfound appreciation for SPAM® products home with them. When they got off the base, locals began enjoying the same menu items as servicemen. One of the most popular ways to enjoy SPAM® products locally is to add it to your morning omelet or poi.
In addition to being an essential ingredient in many traditional meals, SPAM® also became associated with other cultural aspects of Hawai’i life. For example, “SPAM” signs can still be seen throughout the islands, advertising everything from restaurants to grocery stores. And then there’s the famous SPAM commercials, which aired during prime time television shows in the 1970s and 1980s. They featured characters like Mr. Clean, Mrs. Peppermint (the gum) and Grandpa Gumdrop (gum).
Today you’ll find SPAM® products served everywhere from convenience stores to restaurants, reflecting a demand that is unmatched by any place in the world. This article will take a closer look at how SPAM® came to become such a part of our everyday lives. We’ll start with the history behind the brand and discover what makes SPAM® products so popular in Hawaii. Then we’ll learn about some common uses for SPAM® products today.
A Brief History Of SPAM
1937 – With millions of people hungry and living under wartime conditions, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order No. 8972, creating the National Defense Rationing Board (NDRB), headed by Charles Evans Hughes, former Chief Justice of the United States. The NDRB established guidelines for rationing food and supplies for civilians and members of the armed forces. Among the items that had to be purchased only through the government was canned meat, including SPAM®.
1945 – As the nation prepared for peace after World War II, the Department of Agriculture began marketing SPAM® products directly to consumers nationwide. From 1946-48, more than 1 million cans of SPAM® were sold each week.
1950 – Americans continued eating SPAM®, but now it was marketed as a product for families rather than just one reserved for troops overseas. Advertising campaigns emphasized the versatility of SPAM® products, which could be used as a filling for a sandwich, added to a fruit salad, sliced thin and served with a biscuit or even fried.
1960 – SPAM® had gained enough popularity that it became the official snack food of the 1960 Summer Olympics held in Rome, Italy. At the games, athletes consumed between 2,000 and 3,000 calories per day — much more than they should have — resulting in severe weight gain and dehydration. To help prevent this, the International Olympic Committee provided each athlete with a box of SPAM® snacks every day. Athletes also competed against each other in special SPAM® eating contests.
1977 – SPAM® appeared in movie theaters for the first time when it was shown in “Jaws.” Despite receiving mixed reviews, it remained a hit with audiences, who enjoyed the film and bought the soundtrack album featuring music written specifically for the film.
1980 – A new era dawned with Ronald Reagan taking office. He called upon the skills of his business background, forming a cabinet filled with individuals who ran major corporations and had extensive experience in banking and finance. Although he didn’t know anything about agriculture, Reagan appointed James S. Turner, chairman of the board of the American Can Company, as Secretary of Agriculture. The appointment reflected the growing influence of agricultural interests among politicians.
1990 – After several years of declining sales, the American Can Company went public in 1990. Its initial stock offering raised $1 billion, making it the largest IPO ever conducted up until that point.
1997 – The company changed hands again, when Philip Morris Companies acquired the company in 1997. In 2002, Kraft Foods Inc., parent company of other well known brands like Oscar Mayer, Nestle and Maxwell House Coffee, merged with Philip Morris Companies. That same year, the company introduced SPAM Gold, a healthier version of SPAM® designed to appeal to health conscious consumers.
2006 – In 2006, General Mills Incorporated announced plans to acquire Kraft Foods for $13.9 billion. The deal closed in December 2007, making General Mills the owner of the iconic SPAM® brand.
2007 – In March 2007, General Mills debuted its latest innovation: SPAM® Hot & New. Made without preservatives, SPAM Hot & New has no sodium nitrate, citric acid, propylene glycol, sorbitol or high fructose corn syrup. The label indicates whether the product contains gluten, cholesterol or trans fat. Packaged in clear plastic containers, the SPAM Hot & New line includes five varieties: Original Recipe; Sweet & Savory; Garden Fresh Ham; Cheddar Cheese & Bacon; and Southwest Chicken.
2008 – On Aug. 27, 2008, General Mills reintroduced SPAM® Chunk Light, made from all natural ingredients and low-fat milk.
2009 – In April 2009, General Mills launched SPAM® Tendercrisp, a new variety of SPAM® made with whole grain English muffins. Unlike standard SPAM®, Tendercrisp is baked in muffin tins instead of cans.
2010 – SPAM® continues to grow in popularity, with a 2011 Nielsen study revealing that Americans eat an average of 20 pounds of SPAM® annually. According to Nielsen estimates, that translates to approximately 7.7 million cans eaten daily!
2011 – SPAM® remains the number one brand name in the processed meat category, according to market research firm Information Resources, Inc. (IRI), ranking ahead of other leading brands including bologna, salami and corned beef.
2012 – In July 2012, General Mills unveiled two new additions to its SPAM® portfolio: SPAM® Chunky Grilled Sandwich Thins and SPAM® Mini Bites. Available in four flavors — original recipe, southwest chicken, garden fresh ham and sweet & savory — both products feature extra crispy breading and are available individually or as packs of eight.
2013 – In February 2013, General Mills introduced SPAM® Thin ‘n Crispy, another new entry in the SPAM® family. Like its predecessors, the product features extra crispy breading and comes packaged in individual serving sizes. Flavors include classic, southwestern and garden fresh ham.
2014 – SPAM® celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2014. To commemorate the occasion, General Mills released three limited edition packages highlighting different sides of the company’s rich heritage. These included Classic 100 Years, Hearty 100 Years and Sweet 100 Years. Each package contained a piece of cake topped with a slice of SPAM® Classic, along with a bag of popcorn, candy bar and a coupon good toward purchasing more SPAM® products.
2015 – In September 2015, General Mills introduced SPAM® Chunky Chili Sauce, a spicy sauce seasoned with red pepper and cayenne pepper that adds heat while preserving the distinctive texture of SPAM®.
2016 – In January 2016, General Mills introduced SPAM® Mini Pizzas, a new product targeted to younger customers. Inspired by frozen pizza, each SPAM® Mini Pizza is ready in less than 10 minutes using prebaked SPAM® pizzaboxes. Ingredients include cheese, tomato sauce, lettuce and SPAM® slices.
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