Other places in the world celebrate iconic local food, such as garlic, onions, pickles, oysters, mussels, lutefisk, and more. The annual Waikīkī SPAM JAM street festival is Hawaiʻi’s answer to an iconic food festival. Introduced in 1937 by Hormel Foods, more SPAM® is consumed per person in Hawaiʻi than in any other state in the U.S. Almost seven million cans of SPAM are eaten every year in Hawaii.
What is SPAM?
SPAM is a shelf-stable canned meat product. The original SPAM Classic contains pork and ham, salt, water, sugar, potato starch, and sodium nitrite. These ingredients are ground together, filled into the now-iconic 12-ounce square cans, and vacuum sealed. After cooking and cooling, the cans are labeled and off they go.
Interesting facts about SPAM
- In 1937, Ken Daigneau, a brother of a Hormel VP won a contest (and $100) for naming the new brand.
- During World War II, 100 million pounds of SPAM were shipped to allied troops.
- In 1959, Hormel produced its one-billionth can of SPAM. By 2012, production had reached eight billion cans. Today, SPAM is enjoyed in over 40 countries worldwide.
- In 1970, SPAM makes its TV debut in the British sketch comedy series “Monty Python’s Flying Circus”.
- In 1971, Hormel introduced its first new SPAM flavors: Hickory Smoke Flavored and SPAM with Cheese. Other flavors followed in subsequent years. Today, we count 11 flavors.
- SPAM Portuguese Sausage flavor was inspired by guess-who (eh brah: Hawaiʻi).
- In 1980, SPAM packaging was donated to the Smithsonian Museum in Washington, D.C.
- The SPAM Museum is located at Hormel headquarters in Austin, Minnesota.
- The SPAM mascot is SIR-CAN-A-LOT®.
- The SPAM® brand name is not a contraction of ‘spiced ham.’ The meaning of the name is known only by a small circle of former Hormel Foods executives. And they ain’t talkin’. Apparently.
Why does Hawaiʻi love SPAM?
Since the first Europeans arrived, Hawaiians have long been known to adapt and change. Foods and customs brought here were typically re-fashioned into uniquely Hawaiian traditions.
Hawaiian’s love for SPAM began during World War II, when the canned meat was served to American GIs stationed in the Islands. By the end of WWII, SPAM had been adopted into local culture. It’s not hard to see why. The isolated Island Kingdom was well-versed in providing in times of natural and other disasters (such as war). The shelf-stable protein was an easy and logical choice.
SPAM had made its way into Hawaiian cuisine at every level, becoming a fixture for in meals from breakfast to dinner to snacks: SPAM fried rice, SPAM saimin, SPAM musubi, SPAM bento, SPAM banh mi, SPAM quesadilla…and the list goes on.
The canned meat is added to potato salad, cole slaw, soups and stews, sandwiches and burgers, pot stickers, lumpia, omelets, and many other dishes. You’ll find SPAM dishes served at ʻahaʻaina (“parties” aka pāʻina or lūʻau), convenience stores, grocery delis, food trucks, and restaurants from fast food to fine dining.
About Waikīkī SPAM JAM®
Local residents and visitors alike flock to the Waikīkī SPAM JAM on Waikīkī’s main drag. During SPAM JAM, Kalākaua Avenue is closed to car traffic and replaced with food, vendors, and entertainment. Admission to the festival is FREE.
Experience the flavors of Hawaii’s favorite canned meat with delicious recipes from amazing restaurants. Attendees will find an enormous variety of preparations. FREE entertainment is interspersed with Honolulu’s restaurants who serve up SPAM® in many different ways. Merchandise vendors offer SPAM-themed merchandise, including t-shirts, shorts, sport balls, slippers, and more. Hawaiian craft booths feature a wonderful variety of local, unique handmade goods.
Donations of SPAM are collected during Waikīkī SPAM JAM. Look for the volunteer booths collecting donations of SPAM for the Hawaii Food Bank. Please bring a can of SPAM® to donate.
2023 Waikīkī SPAM Jam
When: Saturday, April 29, 2023
- Block party on Kalakaua Avenue in Waikīkī
- SPAM-themed events throughout Honolulu during the week-long festival, featuring food and merchandise
Cost: FREE admission, plus merchandise and food for sale.
Website: Waikīkī SPAM JAM (spamjamhawaii.com)
Parking at Waikīkī SPAM JAM
The following parking lots are conveniently located in Waikīkī and typically offer a special rate during Waikīkī SPAM JAM.
- King Kalakaua Plaza, 2080 Kalākaua Ave
- Waikīkī Parking Garage, 333 Seaside Ave
- Hyatt Centric, 349 Seaside Ave
- ʻOHANA Waikīkī East by Outrigger, 150 Kaʻiulani Ave
- Embassy Suites Waikīkī Beach Walk, 201 Beachwalk Street
- ʻOHANA Waikīkī Malia by Outrigger, 2211 Kūhiō Ave
- Waikīkī Beachcomber by Outrigger, 2300 Kalākaua Ave
- Club Wyndham at Waikīkī Beach Walk, 227 Lewers St
SPAM JAM® benefits community organizations
The Hawaii Food Bank is the beneficiary of funds raised by the Waikiki SPAM JAM®. Please bring a can of SPAM and other canned goods to the event and look for our Hawaii Food Bank collection tents. With each donation, you will have the opportunity for small gift and raffle prize entry.
The Waikiki SPAM JAM® also provides funding to the Waikiki Community Center and the Visitor Aloha Society of Hawaii each year.