Spam Gets Its Rightful Place on the Web

Finally, Spam has a fan club on the Internet. It comes courtesy of a new Web site at from — who else — Hormel Foods Corp., maker of the canned-meat product since 1937.

For several years, Hormel has been inexplicably quiet as its trade name, coined in the 30s as a combination of the words “spiced” and “ham,” became the pejorative term used for bulk unsolicited commercial e-mail.

How does Hormel feel about the evolution of “Spam” on the Internet?

“It's something we have very little control over,” said Meri Harris, spokeswoman for Hormel, Austin, MN. “Anytime something comes up that shows our product's image, we are asking that it be removed unless they have permission from our legal department,” she said.

Last year, Hormel tried unsuccessfully to stop one-time self-proclaimed “Spam King” Sanford Wallace from using the word in promotions for his unsolicited bulk e-mail company Cyber Promotions.

So the fight for Spam's image continues. “We want people to know the actual story behind Spam, not what somebody else puts out on the Net,” said Harris, adding that there are thousands of references to Spam on the Net and “some of the sites are pretty disgusting.”

For $15, Spam fan club members get a plastic membership card, an official membership certificate, a T-shirt and a quarterly newsletter called “A Slice Of Spam.”

As for whether Hormel will market Spam with spam, Harris said, “I doubt that very much.”

Wallace, who in May renounced his role in helping flood the Internet with millions of unsolicited commercial e-mail messages, said he would consider joining Hormel's Spam fan club “as long as they don't send me any of their product. I'm sitting on about 900 cans of the stuff.”

Wallace said friends and foes still give him Spam. “Most people bring desert or flowers when they show up at your house,” said Wallace. “People bring me Spam.”

And what exactly is Spam? “Pork shoulders, ham, salt water and sodium nitrate,” said Harris. “Now the Spam Lite has some chicken in it.”

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