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The Nostalgic Secret Ingredient

Spam, the iconic canned meat, is making a comeback in the culinary world, and it’s not just for nostalgia’s sake.

From Spam musubi to Spam sliders, in 2024, chefs and food enthusiasts alike are rediscovering it.

Spam musubi is a Hawaiian staple, combining elements of Japanese sushi with Spam. The origin is a little murky, with some claiming that it was created by Barbara Funamura, a Japanese-American woman from Kauai, or during the Japanese internment camps during World War II. It’s simple to make and highly customizable.

Want to try? Here’s a recipe to get you started:

Ingredients:

  • 1 can of Spam (12 oz)
  • 5 cups of cooked sushi rice or short-grain rice
  • 5 sheets of nori (seaweed wrap)
  • 3 tablespoons of soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons of oyster sauce
  • 1 tablespoon of sugar
  • Furikake (Japanese rice seasoning, optional)
  • 1 Musubi mold (or an empty Spam can, cleaned and with both ends removed)

Instructions:

Prepare the Rice: Cook the rice according to the package instructions. Sushi rice is preferred for its stickiness and ability to hold its shape. Once cooked, optionally season the rice with furikake for added flavor.

Cook the Spam: Open the Spam can, remove the Spam, and slice it into 8-10 even slices. In a skillet over medium heat, fry the Spam slices until they are slightly crispy on both sides. This usually takes about 2 minutes per side. In a small bowl, mix the soy sauce, oyster sauce, and sugar. Once the Spam slices are cooked, pour the mixture over them and continue cooking until the slices are well-coated and the sauce thickens. This caramelization process adds a rich flavor to the Spam.

Assemble the Musubi: Cut the nori sheets in half lengthwise. Place the musubi mold (or the empty Spam can) in the center of a strip of nori. Scoop a layer of rice into the mold, pressing it down to about 1/2 inch thick. If you’re using furikake, sprinkle a bit over the rice. Place a slice of the cooked Spam on top of the rice. Add another layer of rice on top of the Spam, pressing firmly. If using a mold, press the plunger down to compress the layers. If using a Spam can, use a spoon or similar object to press down and compact the layers.

Wrap the Nori: Remove the musubi from the mold and place it at the edge of the nori strip. Wrap the nori tightly around the rice and Spam, moistening the edge of the nori with a little water to seal it.

Serve: Cut the musubi into halves or thirds, depending on your preference. Serve immediately or wrap them individually for a portable snack or meal.
Customize your Spam Musubi with additional ingredients like avocado, scrambled egg, or pickled radish.

If you want to win in our industry, you need to beat the odds. Thankfully, we have the data to make that possible.

What consumers want and need

Last month we talked about indulgence, this month we’re highlighting nostalgia as a major consumer need in food and drink.

Just like the desire for indulgent treats, nostalgia is an emotion we see most of in times of unrest and insecurity. The three main drivers for these feelings are:

  • climate change
  • global conflicts
  • inflation

But nostalgia is not just a fleeting moment of reminiscence – it’s a significant movement driven by Gen Xers and Millennials.

As these generations start families, there’s a desire to share the tastes of their youth with their own kids, sparking a renaissance of once-forgotten flavours.

The Hi-C’s Ecto Cooler

The comeback of Hi-C’s Ecto Cooler is a prime example of nostalgia’s power. Originally launched in 1987 in partnership with the Ghostbusters franchise, Ecto Cooler became a childhood staple throughout the late ’80s and early ’90s.

But as the Ghostbusters fever waned, so did Ecto Cooler’s presence on store shelves—until 2021.

Coinciding with the release of a new Ghostbusters film, a surge of nostalgia-driven demand among Millennials led to the drink’s return. This revival not only allowed parents to relive their youth but also introduced a new generation to a taste blast from the past.

This trend keeps on giving

From Dunkaroos to classic kiddie cereals, Taco Bell treats, and long-forgotten chip flavours, the market is witnessing a massive renaissance of retro products.

These comebacks are largely fuelled by social media, where nostalgic parents share their yearnings for childhood favorites and mobilize campaigns for their return. Brands keen to leverage this movement are rediscovering the potential of ’80s sweets and ’90s pizza-inspired products, finding that these flavors can captivate both those who remember them fondly and newcomers alike.

How to profit from this

  • Re-imagine food from 50-30 years ago – be sure to maintain the flavor and consumption experience that made the products a success originally.
  • Work with us to identify the most appealing flavors to score a nostalgic home run.
  • Consider updating the ingredients to make them relevant to today’s consumer sensitivities. Low/no sugar, more natural ingredients.