Richmond: Spam had competitors for the World War II home front processed meat market

No attempt is made to pretty-up this 1943 ad for Spam. The beans are caked to the side of the bowl and the slices are kind of plopped in. You have to admire the honesty and this could have been how dinner looked on home front tables at times.

When it comes to Span, one generation’s processed meat is another generation’s junk email.
Spam was invented/created/discovered in 1937, but truly became a household name during World War II, when cuts from the butcher were a luxury and luncheon meats were an alternative for providing that protein the family craved without cutting into the ration points. Besides becoming a staple in the lunch buckets home front war workers, Spam could be in the ration kits of soldiers and support personnel around the world. It remains a familiar presence on menus in Hawaii to this day.
It was the golden age for pork pieces repurposed into a loaf and shaped to fit into a rectangular can that requires a key to open and Spam wasn’t the only contender in the field challenging for the crown. Besides Spam, the entries (alphabetically) included Mor from Wilson & Co. Meats, Prem from the Swift Premium Family of fine foods, and Treet, the horse Armour Star had in the race. All were shipped to our fighting forces overseas during the war and tins were doubtless traded for with the locals for needed commodities.
With the public having acquired a taste for the product, all four continued to market heavily after the war. It may have been one of the “mystery meat” entrees in your school cafeteria.
Mor is gone, from what we can find; Treet carries on under Pinnacle Foods; owner of Armour Star; the Prem brand carries on as well, but Spam is the clear winner, name associations and all.

Col. Sanders wasn’t as big about chicken in 1943, apparently.

A July 1941 ad for Prem shows a couple unaware they will soon be eating the product regulary.

Armour Star went low-budget with this 1945 black and white ad, but knew its audience. It appeared in Family Circle, at the time a free magazine available in chain groceries.


Chris Treadway