SPAM and spam – a quick guide

4 minute read

It’s easy to confuse SPAM and spam – so here’s a quick guide.



SPAM (it’s a capitalised letter tradename) was first introduced by Hormel Foods in 1937 to address the needs of delivering fresh meat during WW II. Ken Daigneau, brother of one of the company executives, won $100 in a competition to name the product – popular belief is that it is an abbreviation of spiced ham or shoulders of pork and ham, it’s main ingredients, although the SPAM website refers directly to Chopped Pork and Ham.

SPAM is now sold in over 40 countries worldwide with 10’s of billions of sales. There are many SPAM festivals around the world, including Hawaii where it has something of a cult status. There’s even a dedicated SPAM Museum in Austin, Minnesota (before you rush off – it’s temporarily closed but is due to open again in May 2016).

Contrary to popular belief SPAM (the original – there are lots of similar products!) is marketed as a high quality meat product containing little else than its basic ingredients. And if you were wondering, a classic SPAM contains around 180 calories per 56g serving so the average male could feast on 10 portions per day (there’s a ‘lite’ version if you’d like to eat more).

And spam…

There’s debate as to the origin of spam as a term for junk or unsolicited email. Some refer to the accidental email delivery of Richard Dephew and the complaint by Joel Furr way back in 1933, but popular culture attributes the widespread adoption to the Month Python sketch of 1970. The sketch features a restaurant who’s entire menu is SPAM (the food), a choice which is enthusiastically lauded by a group of Vikings sitting in the corner (really!).

The word, in it’s communication context, was added to the New Oxford English Dictionary in 1998, defined as ‘irrelevant or inappropriate messages sent on the Internet to a large number of newsgroups or users’ although today it’s also commonly used to describe any form of unwanted communication.

Although levels of email spam have increased significantly over the years it’s arguable that the increasing adoption and effectiveness of email filters means that to the average user it’s now seen as less of a problem. Nonetheless, estimates are that over 80% of emails sent are officially unsolicited. That’s over 200 billion email messages every day.

The term Permission (in the context of Permission Marketing) was first coined by entrepreneur Seth Godin in his 1999 publication ‘Permission marketing: turning strangers into friends, and friends into customers’ as an effective alternative to ‘interruption’ marketing. Permission is now defined as the legal position for many countries across the world and although the legal situation is far from harmonised as a core concept, it is central to (UK/EU) legislation like the Data Protection Act, The Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations and guidelines like the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations – there’s a handy guide here.

All that information has made me hungry, so back to the food version – here are some tasty SPAM recipes, direct from the manufacturers themselves. Enjoy