Americans have gobbled up Spam for 71 years, despite Monty Python parodies and countless jokes about the spongy stuff. But Spam's sales have spiked 10% over the past 12 weeks, as the economy has gone sour and soaring gas prices have been gobbling up household income. In fact, it's no cheaper than real meat, dollars-per-ounce. But its one of those things, like ramen noodles, bus transit and lipstick, Advertising Age reports, that people associate with belt-tightening.
Why? "Embedded in the Spam brand, which doesn't get much shrift in the economic analyses, is an association with time of strife. For instance, it was a staple for American soldiers during World War II," says a Spam product manager. Parent company Hormel isn't complaining—sales have risen for seven quarters straight, and second-quarter-earnings were up 14%. To capitalize on the momentum, they've even launched a new ad campaign around the idea of the "Spamburger Hamburger."