Hormel is talking turkey for latest spin on Spam

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The introduction of new Spam Oven Roasted Turkey marks Hormel Foods Corp.'s latest effort to parlay young people's obsession with the iconic brand name into actual sales.

Hormel's launch in early September of a 100% white, lean turkey version of the 64-year-old canned luncheon meat brand is intended not only to drive interest among current users of Spam, namely those 55 and older, but also to appeal to more health-conscious young consumers. "If you go into a crowd, you see a lot of people under 35 wearing our merchandise -- Spam hats or T-shirts -- but we want to get those people actually to eat the product," said Nick Meyer, product manager for Spam.

LOWER IN FAT

To do that, Hormel will spend the bulk of its $10 million to $15 million advertising budget in 2001 on introducing Spam Oven Roasted Turkey, which carries only 3 grams of fat per serving vs. the base brand's 16 grams and Spam Lite's 8 grams.

Creative for the new TV spots, which break in January from BBDO Worldwide, Minneapolis, features a little girl playing with a see-and-say toy that goes through the litany of noises various animals make -- a cow goes "moo," a duck says "quack, quack, quack" -- before getting to the turkey, who belts out "Spam! Spam! Spam!" Print is still in development.

The extension of the heretofore pork-based Spam into turkey follows the decadelong trend toward the consumption of poultry, which has grown 27% since 1988, Mr. Meyer said. Hormel already sells turkey via its Jennie-O Foods subsidiary, and the marketer has been working for some time to develop a Spam product to capitalize on the trend.

"The deli meat with No. 1 household penetration is ham, which is in 43% of households; and turkey is in 39% of households. So it was natural that we should move into turkey," Mr. Meyer said. The benefit of turkey in the canned form Spam offers, he said, is that "if you buy turkey at a deli, you have to eat it within five to seven days, but you could eat this [Spam] product years from now."

Such thinking is what drove sales of Spam up 6.7% to $120 million for the 52 weeks ended May 13, according to Mr. Meyer -- a time period during which many Y2K-wary consumers stocked up on non-perishables.

LOOKING UPSCALE

Getting people, especially younger, upscale consumers, to try the product will be a focus of Hormel's efforts next year, with a variety of programs set up to build consumption as well as brand loyalty.

Hormel first began to contemporize the brand with a packaging change in 1997 that replaced the picture of a Spam loaf that had appeared since Spam's introduction in 1937 with a more user-friendly Spamburger. That effort was followed by the launch of a continuity program, Spam Stuff, that aimed to build on the cult status of the brand and since has made the merchandise more ubiquitous than the product itself.

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