Death to Acorn Woodpeckers
New York Times Crashed-and-Burned Watch (Minnesota Election Edition)

Spam Is an inferior Good

Yes, that is the technical economic term: "inferior good." Just as the technical economic term is "zombie bank."

Andrew Martin:

Spam Turns Serious and Hormel Turns Out More: AUSTIN, Minn. — The economy is in tatters and, for millions of people, the future is uncertain. But for some employees at the Hormel Foods Corporation plant here, times have never been better. They are working at a furious pace and piling up all the overtime they want. The workers make Spam.... Americans have turned to the glistening canned product from Hormel as a way to save money while still putting something that resembles meat on the table.... Hormel is cranking out as much Spam as its workers can produce. In a factory that abuts Interstate 90, two shifts of workers have been making Spam seven days a week since July, and they have been told that the relentless work schedule will continue indefinitely....

A 12-ounce can of Spam, marketed as “Crazy Tasty,” costs about $2.40. “People are realizing it’s not that bad a product,” said Dan Johnson, 55, who operates a 70-foot-high Spam oven. Hormel declined to cooperate with this article....

Even as consumers are cutting back on all sorts of goods, Spam is among a select group of thrifty grocery items that are selling steadily. Pancake mixes and instant potatoes are booming. So are vitamins, fruit and vegetable preservatives and beer, according to data from October compiled by Information Resources, a market research firm. “We’ve seen a double-digit increase in the sale of rice and beans,” said Teena Massingill, spokeswoman for the Safeway grocery chain, in an e-mail message. “They’re real belly fillers.” Kraft Foods said recently that some of its value-oriented products like macaroni and cheese, Jell-O and Kool-Aid were experiencing robust growth. And sales are still growing, if not booming, for Velveeta....

Spam developed a camp following in the 1970s, mainly because of Monty Python, the English comedy troupe. In a 1970 skit, a couple tried to order breakfast at a cafe featuring Spam in nearly every entree, like “Spam, Eggs, Sausage and Spam.” The diners were eventually drowned out by a group of Vikings singing, “Spam, lovely Spam, wonderful Spam.” (Familiar with the skit, Internet pioneers labeled junk e-mail “spam” because it overwhelmed other dialogue, according to one theory.)...

No independent data provider compiles sales figures that include all the outlets where Spam is sold, including foreign stores, so it is not clear exactly how much sales are up. Hormel’s chief executive, Jeffrey M. Ettinger, said in September that they were growing by double digits.... “We are scheduled to work every day except Thanksgiving and Christmas,” said Darwin Sellers, 56, a Spam “formulator” who adds salt, sugar and nitrates to batches of Spam. “Mr. Ettinger is negotiating with the man upstairs to get us to work eight days a week.” Mr. Sellers said he had not seen much of his family in recent months, but the grueling schedule had been good for his checkbook. He bought a new television and planned to replace a 20-year-old refrigerator...

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