05/02/2015 05:00 EDT | Updated 05/02/2016 05:12 EDT

Honolulu food festival near Waikiki Beach celebrates the wonders of canned meat

HONOLULU, Hawaii - In Hawaii, Spam rules. No, not the kind that you get in your email, but the kind you eat — or don't eat, as it may be for many mainlanders.

To honour Spam lovers in Hawaii, Hormel Foods will release a new flavour — Portuguese sausage Spam — exclusively for the state at a street festival on Saturday in Honolulu. The flavour, which will be available to sample at the event, may eventually be sold elsewhere in the region and internationally, the company says.

Spam was introduced by Hormel in 1937. The history behind the salty luncheon meat in Hawaii goes back to World War II when the company started shipping it to military personnel stationed in the islands. Spam did not need to be refrigerated, so it could be shipped to the state without spoiling during the long journey from the mainland.

Spam quickly cross-pollinated from the military population into the local diet, and its popularity has grown ever since.

Now, Spam can be found pretty much everywhere that serves food in Hawaii: gas stations, local markets, diners and even in Hawaii's fast-food chains like McDonald's and Burger King.

Fried Spam and eggs is a staple breakfast combo in the state, but people here eat it for lunch and dinner as well. In fact, people in Hawaii eat more Spam than any other state in the nation, consuming nearly 7 millions cans per year, according to the Hormel website.

Spam Musubi, a sushi-inspired variation, is one of the more popular forms in Hawaii. It consists of a slab of Spam, rice and sesame seeds tied in seaweed.

The restaurants participating in this weekend's event will serve up creative versions of the classic. Organizers say there will BBQ Spam, spicy garlic shrimp with Spam and even Spam cupcakes, just to name a few.

According to Hormel, the meat is not such a mystery. They list the ingredients as pork, salt, water, potato starch, sugar and sodium nitrate.

Many people have theories about what the name Spam actually means. Many believe it's short for "spiced ham." Others might say it stands for "shoulders of pig and ham."

But Hormel won't answer the question, saying on its website that the true meaning is known by only a small circle of former executives, and "probably Nostradamus."

According to event organizers, last year Spam Jam raised about $25,000 in donations for local charities including The Hawaii Foodbank, which feeds low-income and homeless families in the state.


Follow Caleb Jones on Twitter: @CalebAP