Spam is sizzling again, and Hormel is smiling

Sales of the once-derided 'ham in a can' are soaring. And a new digital ad campaign aims to put the meat on more plates than ever.

By Bruce Kennedy Mar 1, 2013 4:10PM

SPAM's animated Sir Can-A-Lot character (© Hormel Foods via PR Newswire)It's the canned protein that helped America get through the Depression and fed the Allies as they won World War II. No, it's annoying unsolicited messages in your email in-box, apparently given its name from a hilarious Monty Python skit. No, it's a once-derided mystery meat that's now making inroads with a new generation of consumers and now even has its own spokescharacter, Sir Can-A-Lot...

Turns out Spam (short for "spiced ham") is all of the above.

Strong sales of Spam have helped fatten the bottom line of parent company Hormel Foods (HRL), whose recent first-quarter earnings report was in line with Wall Street's expectations, with overall profits and sales up slightly.

Hormel president and CEO Jeffrey Ettinger says the Spam "family of products" led sales for the company's Grocery Products division -- which saw its overall revenue rise 24% during the first quarter, compared to the same period in 2012. It also had a 13% increase in operating profits for the quarter. Hormel recently acquired another iconic American food brand, Skippy peanut butter.

Part of Spam's new-found popularity apparently goes back to its traditional role -- as a way for cost-conscious consumers to get some meat in their meals without breaking the family budget.

Like the rest of the nation, Hormel has been dealing with higher meat prices for its products. But "despite facing considerable commodity cost pressures, Hormel continues to benefit from a solid brand portfolio of convenient, value-added products," Ken Perkins, an analyst with Morningstar, wrote in a recent research report.

Looking to strengthen its appeal with younger consumers, Hormel has just launched a new digital ad campaign, featuring the animated Sir Can-A-Lot. Using the slogan, "Break the Monotony," Sir Can-A-Lot will "seek out and respond to Internet users suffering from routine meals and boring tweets, addressing many of them personally with a unique web video," the company says.

Hormel has also partnered with Chef Roy Choi, a leader of the current food-truck movement so beloved by foodies, to come up with some unique Spam-based recipes.

Spam has been a longtime staple in Hawaii, Korea and elsewhere around the Pacific Rim. And in the press release, Chef Choi says the canned meat "echoes my passion for connecting the world together in celebrating how many families survived and prospered, seeing the can as a sense of hope and as a delicious mainstay."

He adds: "This recipe creation has allowed me to also more intimately connect with my Korean heritage, Hawaii, and with all immigrant families that made their way to America." 

All that and more, in a can of spiced ham.

More on moneyNOW

Mar 1, 2013 8:35PM
avatar cant beat a nice pan fried spamwich.  Get your slices nice & crispy on the outside and soft & juicy on the inside. Reminds me of childhood.
Mar 2, 2013 10:53AM
ever bother to think it is sizzling again is because it is all 90% of the population can afford
Mar 2, 2013 9:45AM
who can afford real meat these days besides politicians
Mar 2, 2013 6:35AM
I think you'll find that sales are up for a number of cheap deli and canned meats like bologna, canned tuna, spam and vienna sausages.  It's the economy that has sparked a return to mystery meats.  I see women with their kids at the Walmart loading their carts up with the cheapest, most filling crap on the planet especially when they put something on sale.  Their brand of boxed Mac N Cheese has sold as low as  19 cents a box.  I'm sure people are also buying more Ramen noodles, rice and beans along with things like spagetti-o's.
Mar 2, 2013 10:52AM
I love to cut thin slices, fry them and eat alone or often make grilled spam and american cheese sandwiches.  I once heard the CEO of Hormel interviewed on the radio.  He jokingly noted that almost everybody loves spam but never wants to  admit  it.  He said he eats plenty of it because he likes it.  Obviously the CEO of Hormel isnt worried about trying to save money.  For me, its not about trying to be frugal but rather a tasty treat.  Sorta like a hamburger.  Sometimes you just gotta get your fix!
Mar 1, 2013 7:06PM
Spam pricing is also up about 26 % in the last 6 months in my store..  now at about  2.79  Mar 1, 2013
Mar 2, 2013 10:50AM
Everybody makes fun of spam but I remember when I was a kid my mother would grind some up with pickles and mayonnaise and make a real tasty ham salad. I have used expensive ham to make the same thing and it didn't taste anywhere near as good. Maybe it's the spices in spam or maybe it's just my poor memory of the past.
Mar 1, 2013 9:21PM
So how come Spam is always much cheaper in Hawaii than it is on the mainland. In fact, it's about the only thing cheaper in Hawaii than it is here on the mainland. ln October I was there and a standard 12oz can was less than two bucks in every market I went to. I have been to Hawaii many times and this has always been the case. Maybe if it was 2 bucks everywhere else, they might really be selling a lot of it!
Mar 2, 2013 11:34AM
I enjoy Spam a couple of times a year,whenever I go camping. It travels well,takes up little space,and can be cooked in infinite ways.
Mar 2, 2013 9:12AM
Regular Spam is STUPID salty , I can barely choke it down .  Spam Lite is a little more reasonable on the sodium , and makes an OK substitute for bacon or ham when sliced and browned as a breakfast meat.  We keep a few cans in our RV  to use while keeps for years and doesn't require refrigeration.  Definitely not a healthy food for everyday consumption, being high sodium, high fat, chock full of nitrates, and heavily processed. Spam is not the key to a healthy body and long life, but, like Smores, is a nice treat around the campfire...or on that vacation to Hawaii. 
Mar 2, 2013 12:09PM
I have been eating SPAM all my life. It is fantastic, especially when sliced thin, fried crispy, topped with cheese and Ketchup between 2 slices of rye toast. I would not eat it everyday or even once a week, but an occasional SPAM Sandwich is great! Try it.
Mar 2, 2013 10:08AM
 When I was growing up in the 50's my father would't have this stuff in the house.Got too much in the navy during the war. It was ham that flunked the physical.
Mar 2, 2013 2:14PM
It's my fav sandwich meat , spam, ( right out of the can ) mustard and a thick slice of onion on white bread . it don't get no better , thin sliced and fried with a little brown sugar sprinkled on top  and you'll throw the bacon out the door lol, and my Mom made a casserole of cubed Spam , a can of green beans and a can of Campbell's cheddar cheese soup, no water added and covered the top with fried onion rings in a can and popped it in the oven for a few and it was to kill for . I love Spam and really love the hickory smoked.
Mar 2, 2013 2:22PM

Remember eating when I was a kid..Could be fixed many ways..Always did like it fried and sandw.


Think my Dad was fond of it ??

When overseas in the 60s....Two things I had sent to me in "goodie box"..Spam & Peanut butter.

Would cook it in a mess kit over a little, fold out diesel pot, burner/cook stove..It was delicious..

Somehow we traded or got cases of Vienna suasages,had them 3 months....Arrrggghhh.

We had enough Roast Beef to feed everyone in 3-4 States...

After getting out and coming home....I didn't eat roast beef, for about 2 years....Arrrgghhh.

Only wanted a .15 cent McDonald's and a Good Peanut butter& Jelly Winch...

Maybe get a can of Spam once or twice a year now.

A lot of us and you don't realize how good you've got it...Spam or otherwise...??

Mar 2, 2013 6:31AM
Mar 2, 2013 1:10PM
Hormel is one of the few canned food companies with a fantastically steady growth record for more than a decade.  It's stock is a little pricey right now at a P/E around 20, but it would be a great buy if it settles back down to it's average P/E of 16.6, where it would feature a 2.3% dividend.
Mar 2, 2013 4:08PM
Love it....make spam samwiches for special ocassions and spam gooooooood...
Mar 2, 2013 10:47AM
Good to know if this world does go post apocalyptic, you will be.... I meant, I'll be having dinner with most of you. Come in, sit down, relax. Here, let me make a nice hot bath for you. ( old Bug Bunny cartoons ring a bell )
Mar 2, 2013 11:28AM
Seem to recall a comedian saying that SPAM was short for Special Processed Alien Meat.
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