Now coming to food trucks: high-end Spam

admin | May 4th, 2015 - 4:52 pm

In times of economic trouble, Spam flies off the shelves. But now, as the economy improves, Hormel Foods’ canned pre-cooked pork is looking for a new, higher-brow market.

The product has played a bit part in “haute” cuisine since at least 2009, when an LA eatery paired it with foie gras. In 2011, A New York chef put it in a stew at his New York restaurant. Last April, a New York Sushi Bar included Spam fried rice on a $135 tasting menu.

For its part, Hormel seems to be making the most of its newfound foodie hipness, and is looking to capitalize on it with The Spamerican! Tour, launched last week. Hormel says that the product’s appearance on restaurant menus inspired the three-month food truck voyage through 12 US cities, which will feature Spam recipes designed by the Food Network, plus city-specific offerings developed by acclaimed local chefs. San Franciscans can try Spammy tots and Chicagoans get Spam and Jack pretzel sandwich.

A food of convenience from the start

Like it or hate it, Spam has been a pantry staple in America and around the world for almost eight decades. During the Great Depression, the gelatinous pork product was first devised by Jay Hormel, the son of the company’s founder, George Hormel, to solve a labor problem: workers’ demands for full-time, year-round work.

If Hormel was going to pay workers guaranteed wages and promise to make no seasonal layoffs, then Jay Hormel reasoned that those workers should be assigned to tasks previously considered too time-consuming to be cost-effective. For decades, the company had discarded thousands of pounds of pork shoulder deemed unworthy of the effort it required to cut it off the bone. But now, Jay surmised that the cost of additional wages would be offset if Hormel could simply convince customers to buy that scrap meat.

Spam was born. The catchy name for the amalgam of pork, salt, water, potato starch, sugar and sodium nitrite was registered as a trademark in 1937, and an all-out marketing campaign soon followed. Teams of young sales executives dubbed “Spam Crews” and a 60-member female performing troupe called “The Hormel Girls” extolled the product all over the country. George Burns and Gracie Allen promoted Spam on their radio show. By 1940, it was eaten in 70% of America’s urban homes.

Spam, spam, spam, spam

It was World War II that gave Spam its biggest advertisement: Hormel contracted with the military to send more than 100 million pounds of Spam to allied troops stationed abroad. Then, as Europe struggled through the post-war shortages of the 1950s, Spam became a mainstay there as well.

In the 1960s, as the US economy improved, Spam lost some of its popularity in mainland America. But in Hawaii and the Asian Pacific, its popularity only grew. After the war, the US government placed sanctions on Hawaiian residents, limiting the Japanese-dominated deep-sea fishing business that had supplied so much of the islands’ protein, Eater’s history of Spam recounts.

Meanwhile, in Korea and Japan, populations were on the brink of starvation. Shipments of Spam became “an absolute godsend,” food historian Rachel Laudan told Eater, and today Korea is the world’s second-largest consumer (paywall) of Spam, after the United States.

By 1970, Spam was part of the international zeitgeist. It showed up in cuisines around the world, and was immortalized in a Monty Python skit in the UK. That year, the company sold its two-billionth can.

Over the next thirty years, sales spiked during recessions when other meat prices went up (the 1970s Middle Eastern oil crisis, the recession of the early 1980s), and also when food scares made other protein sources look risky (the 1990s’ mad cow disease scare, the e. coli breakout at Jack In The Box), Genoways told Quartz.

The trend held up through the aughts. In 2008, when the American and global economy was contracting, Hormel sold ever more Spam—a nearly 8% increase over 2007, according to data from Euromonitor.

A new strategy for Spam

Now that the US economy is bouncing back, Hormel is working to make sure that Spam sticks around. While sales dipped in the beginning of 2012 as the economy picked up, the product’s strong international sales “drove top-line results for the fiscal year 2012.

And lately, even as the the American economy recovers, US Spam sales are again on the rise. In its latest quarterly filing, the company reported improved sales results in the SPAM products despite lower export results.

There are several explanations for this, including high beef prices and persistently stagnant wages. But it doesn’t hurt that Spam has found a new, unexpected foothold in the market, largely thanks to its fans among high-profile chefs.

A LA-based chef grew up with Spam in Taiwan, states that because it was an import, it was “more of a reward than a day-to-day [food].” In college, though, it became a “go-to product.” Then started cooking with it professionally around 2012, and when she stopped, customers complained. Now she’s making her Kimchi SPAM Musubi Puffs for The Spamamerican! Tour. “Culturally and internationally, it’s something we’re familiar with.

Of course, Spam’s renaissance may just be a passing moment of food nostalgia, and whether or not Hormel can successfully leverage its foodie credibility remains to be seen. But food trends often originate with chefs before working their way into American kitchens. The Spamamerican! Tour looks like Hormel’s attempt to move that process along.

Source:, 4-22-2015

Building Breakfast Business

admin | May 1st, 2015 - 4:50 pm

Breakfast business continues to rise and shine at restaurants. Last year, 32 percent of family-dining restaurants cited it as their most successful day part, according to NRA’s 2015 Restaurant Industry Forecast. And many limited-service operations see it as a top target for improvement this year, including 21 percent of quickservice and 13 percent of fast casual restaurants.

Expanding into the breakfast day-part makes financial sense for many restaurants.

But it’s important to conduct a cost-benefit analysis, and make sure adding a day-part makes sense for your brand and your customer base.

If you’re looking to build breakfast business, try out these tips:

  • Feature grab-and-go options. “Breakfast is very much a grab-and-go meal. People tend to eat in the car or at their desk at work. Breakfast sandwiches and breakfast burritos are favorites with the commuting crowd. About two-thirds of restaurant morning meals are eaten off-premise.
  • Avocado Toast – Thick-cut whole grain toast topped with fresh smashed avocado, EVOO, lemon and sea salt. Served with two basted eggs. Make it fast and fresh. With consumers typically rushed at breakfast time, it’s no wonder that quick service accounts for 79 percent of total restaurant morning meals. Even at tableservice restaurants, guests expect a quick pace at breakfast. Guests know they won’t have to wait around long for their food. An emphasis on prep work and batch work helps the scratch kitchen keep up with the crowds.
  • Offer ethnic flair. Ethnic-inspired breakfast items top the list of breakfast/brunch menu trends, according to the National Restaurant Association’s What’s Hot in 2015 chef survey. The “Chickichanga,” a nonfried version of a chicken chimichanga. Increased interest in breakfast helped drive rapid growth.
  • Brew up business. One way to improve your breakfast business is to serve a better variety of coffees, including options such as lattes or espressos. The morning meal is very much a beverage-driven occasion. High-margin beverages can boost your bottom line.
  • Day Glow – All natural fresh juiced carrots, oranges and lemons with a hint of organic ginger juice. Consider expanding juice offerings.
  • Serve breakfast all day, if logistically feasible. Nearly three-quarters (72 percent) of all adults wish restaurants would offer breakfast items throughout the day, according to the NRA Forecast. At a local Annapolis Restaurant, which opened in 2014, guests enjoy breakfast specialties, including eggs Benedict, pancakes, and the restaurant’s signature chicken and waffles, all day. Come dinnertime, about half the guests opt for breakfast items instead of the menu’s traditional evening fare, which includes meatloaf, salmon and short ribs.
  • Be consistent. Breakfast offers a huge potential for repeat business, because many people get entrenched in morning routines. Some customers come in every single day. Repeat customers expect your restaurant’s eggs, pancakes and hash browns to be prepared a certain way. Train staff to follow consistent recipes and cooking procedures, and you’ll keep guests coming back, morning after morning, he says.

Source:, April 2015

Sandwich of the Month

admin | May 1st, 2015 - 12:55 pm

May 2015 Sandwich of the Month

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