NEW YORK " Spam.
Not the e-mail kind, but the lunchmeat kind " which is now available in turkey and low-sodium varieties " is returning to more tables as food costs continue to soar and consumers become more budget-conscious.
Analysts say that more Americans are turning to meat products like Spam " which averages $2.62 for a 12-ounce can " as a substitute for other, costlier lunch meats as they try to save on groceries and extend already-stretched food budgets. Hormel Foods Corp. said sales of its product have risen nearly 9 percent in the past 24 weeks.
David Winslow, 76, of Long Island, said he isn't surprised by that. He was introduced to the pork/ham lunchmeat during World War II, when "meat was rationed, so Spam was welcomed in our family ... "
Spam, which Winslow said he enjoys to this day, "goes pretty far for the money. ... It's solid, like cheap steak, very cheap steak."
Spam was royally spoofed in a Monty Python film and the Broadway musical "Spamalot," yet in real life, such canned meat products are served once every two weeks in one out of 20 households, said Harry Balzer, an expert on food and eating trends with The NPD Group in Chicago. What's more, Spam is now available in a variety of forms, including "lite" and single-slice versions.
For some, Spam is more than a food. "It's part of the culture," said Carolyn Wyman, author of "SPAM: A Biography: The Amazing True Story of America's Miracle Meat!"'
"It was invented during the Depression, which is one reason it did so well," she said. Not only does it cost less than a T-bone steak, "it's got such a big flavor that a little goes a long way," especially when cut up in casseroles.
Bill Krol, a communications manager from Long Island, said he enjoys the turkey version every now and then as an accompaniment to scrambled eggs, and that its low cost is not a consideration. He noted that he and other underground Spam enthusiasts liken the meat to pigs-in-a-blanket: people may scoff at them, but they're the first hors d'oeuvres devoured at cocktail parties.