First produced in 1937 by Hormel Foods, a Minnesota-based slaughterhouse company, Spam was intended as a way to sell surplus pork shoulder.
To this day, it only contains six ingredients: pork, salt, water, potato starch, sugar, and sodium nitrate, which helps with preservation.
Spam was initially marketed to soldiers. By 1941, more than 100 million pounds were shipped abroad to feed allied troops during World War II, and large quantities were also sold to countries suffering as a result of the conflict.
In his memoirs, Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev writes that “without spam we wouldn’t have been able to feed our army.”
British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher recalled serving spam and salad to friends over Christmas in 1943, along with “one of our very precious tins of fruit which we’d saved from the pre-war days.” Decades later, when she was living in Downing Street, Thatcher still bought a can of Spam as part of her regular supermarket shop.