In 1946, Hoagy Gamble was born in Hawaii. And if you ask him, he’s been eating SPAM, eggs and rice for just as long.
“From pretty much day one,” he says.
This should come as no surprise to those familiar with Gamble. Since 1950, L.H. Gamble Co. has represented Hormel Food Corporation in the Islands, handling the multinational manufacturer’s sales and marketing in the state.
Plus, Gamble’s father, the late Lester Gamble Sr., is credited with pioneering the brand in Hawaii beginning in 1948.
Its presence in Hawaii, says Gamble, began during World War II when it was first introduced. SPAM was used as part of military K-rations, and returning local soldiers also had become familiar with it abroad.
Today, its sales in Hawaii continue to increase. Last year, roughly 7 million cans of SPAM were sold, up from 4 million in the early 1990s.
“Hawaii has had a love affair with this product for more than 50 years,” says Gamble. “We think that one of the key reasons is that the product taste profile goes so well with white rice, another local favorite.
“The product is very versatile and is useful in all kinds of ways,” he adds. Part of that versatility not only comes from the different ways SPAM can be incorporated into meals, but from Hormel itself. There currently are 16 varieties of SPAM, which include standard options of SPAM Classic and SPAM Lite to the more unusual like SPAM with Cheese, SPAM with Bacon and SPAM Jalapeno.
In Hawaii, SPAM Less Sodium is the No. 1 variety sold. But Gamble thinks that Portuguese Sausage SPAM will also be a favorite once it is added to its lineup.
“I think it’s the best!” he says.
You can expect to see Portuguese Sausage SPAM in stores soon, and it also will make a debut at the 13th annual Waikiki SPAM Jam Saturday, May 2. During the event, attendees will have the opportunity to sample another new product: SPAM Snacks, which Gamble describes as being similar to beef jerky.
Fans of the brand can be on the lookout for SPAM Hawaii merchandise,such as T-shirts and hats, that have begun making their way into stores. At Haleiwa Store Lots, SPAM Hawaii has its own kiosk.
But it isn’t only in Hawaii that SPAM continues to gain popularity. Gamble says the Mainland has seen an increase in sales as well.
“One of the great trends we’ve seen over the past couple of years is the appearance of the SPAM brand on high-end restaurant menus throughout the country,” he says. On the West Coast in particular, he adds, SPAM musubi has made its way onto more menus.
For 43 years now, Gamble has been with L.H. Gamble and Co. after he and wife Pat joined his father in the business in 1972. Twelve years ago, sons Scott and Craig stepped in.
It has, he says, truly been a family affair. “Our food brokerage company is very grateful for the opportunity to represent Hormel Food here with this special product,” he says.
For more information on the 13th annual Waikiki SPAM Jam, visit spamjamhawaii.com.