More Spam to Love as Catalog Adds Pages

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Hormel Foods Corp., Austin, MN, mailed an expanded gift catalog last week that's built around the cult status of its luncheon meat product Spam.

The catalog, which offers a mix of Spam-branded apparel, hats, coffee mugs and assorted tchotchkes, grew substantially with the current mailing; the 28-page catalog is 12 pages larger than its last effort.

"It's based on demand by our customers, and we continue to expand the number of items," said Hormel spokeswoman Meri Harris.

A total of 150,000 catalogs went out to the company's growing database of customers, as well as current and retired employees and stockholders. Mowerhouse Color Graphics, Austin, MN, handled design and printing, while copy was handled by Hormel.

The 62-year-old canned meat product, which was originally called Spiced Ham until the company held a naming contest that produced its current moniker, was popular during World War II, but has died down since.

The catalog was first designed in the early 1990s as a low-tech insert in the company newsletter and geared toward Hormel employees. Extra copies were printed, and Hormel began getting requests from nonemployees. Around that time, DirectMark, a Knoxville, TN catalog marketer, produced the first Spamtastic Gifts consumer catalog.

Hormel took over Spamtastic Gifts in 1997 and began to grow the catalog operation, capitalizing on the renewed popularity of Spam-branded merchandise. More design features were added, including pictures of old ads and trivia, as well as an expanded product line. The company plans to mail the catalog two to three times over the next 12 months to a total of 300,000, according to Harris.

Hormel Chili and Dinty Moore Beef Stew don't have the same notoriety as the canned spiced ham. The term spam is understood in the online community to mean unsolicited e-mail.

"It's a nostalgic thing," Harris said. "I think people grew up with it or remember it from their childhood. I think it's coming back again."

The company's Web site - - which launched in August 1998, was redesigned in September to include an online catalog. The work was done inhouse.

Hormel also announced last week plans for an expanded Spam museum, visitor's center and retail store in Austin, MN, by next year. In addition to the public space, that facility will house its catalog operations and other departments.

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