Ruth & I did 3 industrial tours on our just completed trip. The most fun was the SPAM Museum in Austin, MN, which opened in 2016. SPAM has promoted its products in a museum since 1991.
George Hormel was a gambler. He often played cards for money and lost, but his fortunes turned around when he landed in Austin and went into the meat-packing business. He produced hams, sausages, bacon, and a son named Jay. A World War I vet, Jay followed his father into the meat business and introduced Hormel’s most successful product, not ox joints in gravy but SPAM. SPAM made its first appearance in 1937, and Jay served as Hormel’s President until 1954. In 1944, more than 90% of the canned foods produced by Hormel were bought by the U. S. Government to feed to its armies in Europe and the Pacific. Jay was a master of promotion. When he introduced chili in a can in 1935, he sent a 20-piece Mexican song and dance troupe called the Hormel Clili Beaners around the country to play music and offer free samples of Hormel’s new canned product.
Hawaii consumes more SPAM than any other state, about 8 million cans per year. Former President Obama, who spent a lot of his youth there, is an enthusiastic SPAM fan. The country that eats the most SPAM is Guam. Panama is the biggest consumer of this meat product in Latin America. There are now 15 varieties of SPAM marketed throughout the world. We sampled 4 of them on the tour. The Tocino variety was specifically created for the Philippines. SPAM was introduced in China 10 years ago. Today, 2 Chinese factories produce it and a 3rd manufactures Skippy Peanut Butter, another of Hormel’s successful products. A new SPAM factory is in the works for this country where people praise SPAM’s “meaty, juicy satisfaction”. SPAM is also wildly popular in South Korea, where sales of it are the 2nd largest in the world.
Stopping at this SPAM Museum taught me something about Ruth that I did not know. During the tour, she reminisced about her father Bill, an avid fan of SPAM. He got a taste for it while in the military and continued to eat a lot of it in civilian life. SPAM, according to Ruth, was one of the 1st true convenience foods, and no family fishing trip commenced without it.