Spam can 

PICTURE: Qwertyxp2000/Wikipedia/CC BY-SA 4.0

It’s been the subject of more puns than we could shake a stick at (notably by British comics Monty Python), but that ‘meat of many uses’, Spam, this year marks it’s 80th birthday.

Spam – which is basically pork and ham - was first introduced in the US in 1937 by the Hormel Foods Corporation and gained popularity around the world thanks to its use during World War II when more than 100 million pounds of the luncheon meat were shipped off to feed Allied troops. It remains particularly popular in Hawaii.

The name, which is attributed to Ken Daigneau, brother of a Hormel Foods vice-president (who won $100 for doing so), remains something of a mystery. While Hormel claims the meaning of the name is “known by only a small circle of Hormel Foods executives”, that hasn’t stopped people speculating with popular suggestions that it is an abbreviation of ‘spiced ham’, ‘spare meat’ or even an acronym for "Specially Processed Army Meat".

As of 2012, more than eight billion cans of Spam have been sold since it first moved off the production line and everyone from Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev to British PM Margaret Thatcher have sung its praises.

It’s also been the subject of numerous pop culture references, most notably the 1970 Monty Python sketch ‘Spam’ and the subsequent musical Spamalot as well as, apparently indirectly via the Monty Python sketch, its adoption for unsolicited emails during the 1990s.

Spam, which is now sold in 44 countries around the world and comes in 15 different varieties – from hickory smoke-favoured to teriyaki, even has its own museum located in Austin, Minnesota – the birthplace of the Spam brand which recently hosted a Spam-mad couple’s wedding. Since 2012, it has also had Sir Can-A lot as its spokes-character.

Love or hate it, there’s no doubt that Spam has certainly made an impact.