For many Americans, spam is a four-letter word for unwanted e-mail. In Hawaii, Spam is a beloved comfort food, with cans of the gelatinous pork bricks found in virtually every cupboard.
Hoping to cash in on Hawaii's love affair with the pinkish meat product, Burger King Corp. last month began offering Spam for breakfast — going head-to-head with rival McDonald's Corp., which has been featuring Spam in the islands for years.
Burger King is offering the Spam Platter — two slices of Spam nestled between white rice and scrambled eggs. The fast-food giant also offers the Croissanwich or Biscuit Sandwich with Spam.
Denise Yamauchi, Burger King managing director in Hawaii, said sales have been "very good and very promising."
"It's so popular with the locals, we wanted to cater to them," she said.
Putting Spam on the menu, alongside more traditional items such as the Whopper, has been in the works for about a year, and Burger King's corporate headquarters finally signed off on the idea.
"It's something that was a little unique and a little different for them, so it was a bit of a hard sell to bring to Hawaii," Yamauchi said. "But they finally realized it is a unique flavor and something the locals really like."
At a Burger King near downtown Honolulu, where a poster in the window proudly advertises "Spam in the A.M.," the Spam Platter was selling for $3.49. The nearly identical Spam, Eggs and Rice plate across the street at McDonald's was $3.39.
Melanie Okazaki, marketing manager for McDonald's Restaurants of Hawaii, said Spam has been offered at the chain's 75 island restaurants since 2002.
"In Hawaii, it is a very popular menu item and we will continue to offer it to our customers," she said.
Burger King's latest offering is counter to the chain's push to offer healthier fare, including salads and the meatless BK Veggie Burger. But no one can deny Hawaii's appetite for Spam.
Despite being one of the least-populated states, Hawaii leads the nation in consumption of the Hormel Foods Corp. product. It's been a hit ever since World War II. Isle residents consume more than 5 million pounds of Spam a year, an average of about six cans for every man, woman and child.
Spam "musubi" — a slice of Spam atop a block of rice and wrapped in seaweed — is an island favorite sold at nearly every convenience store, including 7-Eleven. Spam fried rice is a local classic.
There are also more varieties of Spam sold in Hawaii than anywhere else. There's Spam Garlic, Spam Bacon, Spam with Cheese, Spam with Tabasco, Spam Turkey and Spam Lite, which featured less sodium and less fat.
"We're pleased to see more and more restaurants adding it to their menu, providing Hawaiians additional opportunities to experience the savory, salty-sweet taste they love," said Dan Goldman, Spam's product manager.