You’ve heard of Spam, but what about Treet, Prem, Mor, and Bif? These ads from the 1930s – 1960s shows that, at least for a time, canned meats were all the rage.
Early on the scene with jarred alternatives to meat was Heinz with its sandwich spreads. Peanut butter and mayonnaise are familiar; others less so. And while the apple butter cookies sound delicious, we’ll pass on the banana, mayonnaise, peanut butter, and olive salad.
Although Spam was introduced in 1937, it didn’t take off until World War II, when canned meats were included in military rations. This early ad for Spam marketed the concept of swell Spamwiches.
Whether served cold with pineapple and strawberries or broiled, fried, or baked—“Hot PREM is grand, too”— Swift assured homemakers that this Spam competitor would be a hit at their next party. Prem is still made today.
Another pre-war canned meat choice was liver loaf, touted for its many health benefits. John Morrell & Co. has been in business since 1827, but it appears their smoothly blended liver loaf, “so vital for sound health, good appetite, and healthy nerves,” did not make it into the 21st century.
This ad was created by the American Meat Institute, which was established in 1906 to help meat packers comply with the new Federal Meat Inspection Act. The Institute turned its attention to consumer advertising in the 1940s, including this wartime ad that encouraged housewives to include meat in their hard-working husbands’ lunches.
Canned meat was a cornerstone of meals for the armed forces, but it wasn’t just for the troops. Many foods were being rationed, and canned meat was a less expensive alternative to fresh. Libby’s ad for deviled ham and Vienna sausage urged shoppers to consider that there was “no waiting for your points to accumulate—so few are needed!”
After the war, GIs rejected the canned meat they were forced to eat overseas; ads such as this one did little good in making it a dinnertime staple for most Americans.
After the war, canned meats were marketed as a quick and easy meal choice. Armour’s Spam competitor is Treet, a pork shoulder and ham concoction, which is still available. This serving suggestion is for a porch supper, a meal served outside and that requires little or no time in front of the stove.
By the late 1950s, Hormel was still working hard to market Spam to the masses, as shown by this full-page ad in the Post. “Watch folks sail into these!”
Wilson’s went for some international flair with “continental” sandwich ideas for its Bif (chopped beef) and Mor (its Spam competitor). Wilson was one of the top three companies in America’s meat industry (along with Armour and Swift), but was bought and eventually dismantled by a conglomerate in the late 1960s.
Become a Saturday Evening Post member and enjoy unlimited access. Subscribe now