Vegan Spam Is Here! We Have So Many Questions…

Vegan Spam Is Here! We Have So Many Questions...

Vegan Spam has made quite the debut in the U.S.

A commercial version of a meat-free product called OmniPork Luncheon—a plant-based pork that’s an analog for the beloved processed canned meat—arrived stateside on April 22 (Earth Day!) in 10 high-end restaurants across California and Hawaii. 

OmniFoods, the creators of OmniPork, has joined forces with celebrated chefs in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Honolulu, including Chef John Javier and founder Humberto Leon of LA’s CHIFA, Chef Reina Montenegro of Chef Reina in San Francisco, and Chefs Ilan Hall and Rahul Khopkar of LA hotspot Ramen Hood.

CHIFA, an upscale Los Angeles eatery, serves Peruvian-Chinese cuisine and has plenty of vegan dishes on its standard menu. Via its partnership with OmniPork, the popular restaurant will serve vegan versions of Lion’s Head (Chinese pork meatballs), mapo tofu, and steamed loaf with shiitake mushrooms, all made with OmniPork Luncheon. The lion’s head will be served for Sunday Supper only.

At Chef Reina, the OmniPork menu will include several classic Filipino dishes that are typically made with Spam, which is very popular in Filipino cuisine. However, these menu items will feature vegan OmniPork Luncheon instead. OmniPork silog, musubi, lumpia Shanghai, misua soup, and bola bola are among the plant-based dishes diners can expect to see.

Chef Reina is serving up classic Filipino dishes with OmniPork. | Chef Reina/OmniFoods

Vegan Spam Precedes OmniPork U.S. Launch

This special restaurant launch comes several weeks before OmniPork products hit the U.S. retail market this summer. 

OmniPork is made using a proprietary blend of plant-based protein from non-GMO soy, peas, shiitake mushrooms and rice, and OmniPork’s products contain less saturated fat, less calories, and zero cholesterol compared to animal-based pork products. 

Additionally, OmniPork’s three varieties—Ground, Strips and Luncheon—allow chefs (and soon homecooks) to whip up a wide variety of plant-based dishes and can be steamed, pan- or deep-fried, and more.

In addition to CHIFA and Chef Reina, OmniPork products will launch at eight other restaurants. In Los Angeles, OmniPork will be available at RiceBox, Little Fatty, MANEATINGPLANT, Morning Nights, and Ramen Hood. San Francisco diners can find OmniPork at Shizen, and those in Honolulu can visit Tane Vegan Izakaya and GOEN Dining + Bar for their OmniPork fix.

We have seen an incredible response to our product in Asia and the U.K., and we anticipate the same enthusiasm here in the U.S. as more Americans adopt a plant-based or flexitarian lifestyle,” David Yeung, founder of Green Monday and OmniFoods said in a press release. “Our product is for anyone looking for a more sustainable, healthier alternative to their favorite animal-based pork products.”

News of OmniPork’s upcoming debut to the U.S. market comes about three months after the brand, which was founded in 2018, took part in a very successful and similar launch in the UK

In January, OmniPork was first made available in nine restaurants across the country as part of a soft launch, and it’s currently available via multiple UK retail channels. 

Upscale Los Angeles eatery CHIFA serves Peruvian-Chinese cuisine. | Chifa / OmniFoods

What Is Vegan Spam?

Spam, in its original form, is a canned cooked pork that was introduced by the American brand, Hormel, in 1937. It was initially created in order to increase the sale of pork shoulder, which at the time was an unpopular cut of meat. 

Spam gained popularity in America (and across the globe) during World War II because it had a much longer shelf life than traditional ham and was less expensive. During World War II and the occupations that followed, Spam was introduced into Guam, Hawaii, Okinawa, the Philippines, and other islands in the Pacific. It was absorbed into native diets almost immediately, and became a not-so-subtle symbol of American influence in the Pacific islands, where it is still widely used in cooking today.

By 2003, Spam was sold in 41 countries on six continents, and trademarked in more than 100 countries. It remains popular around the world today, and, because of the aforementioned American influence, has even become a significant ingredient in a variety of different cuisines. This makes the fact that a vegan version of Spam is now available even more impactful.

Vegan Spam, as its name implies, is a Spam dupe made without meat or animal products. For example, OmniPork Luncheon is made using a proprietary blend of plant-based protein from non-GMO soy, peas, shiitake mushrooms and rice.

Various food bloggers and recipe developers have also come up with their own versions of vegan Spam. Rose Lee, the founder of popular food blog and YouTube channel Cheap Lazy Vegan, crafted a take on Spam that’s made with homemade smoked tofu. Other non-commercial variations use Beyond Meat, soy flour, and more.

Tane Vegan is serving up vegan spam in Honolulu. | Tane/ OmniFoods

Is Vegan Spam Sustainable?

Since vegan Spam is a plant-based pork alternative, it’s inherently more sustainable than traditional Spam.

Need proof? According to the New York Times, beef and lamb have the biggest climate footprint per gram of protein, while plant-based foods typically have the smallest impact. Pork and chicken fall in the middle. 

More specifically, pork, which is the leading ingredient in traditional Spam, creates approximately 3.8 kilograms of carbon dioxide per 50 grams of protein. To put that in context, a standard can of Spam is 340 grams, which means one can of Spam is responsible for nearly 26 kilograms of carbon dioxide.

Omnipork can be used in a wide variety of dishes. | Goes/OmniFoods

And the environmental impact of Spam is compounded by the fact that the decades-old food has seen a surge in sales in recent years, especially since the start of the coronavirus pandemic. According to Bloomberg, the economic downturn, the shelf-stable nature of Spam, and shortages of some fresh meats contributed to the boost in popularity. Consumers’ increased desire for nostalgic foods also helped. 

The publication notes that in mid-June 2020, U.S. Spam sales were up 17 percent. In South Korea, which is the second highest Spam consumer behind America, Spam sales skyrocketed more than 50 percent in April and May of 2020 when compared to the same time the previous year.

By contrast, vegan Spam is obviously made without meat or animal products, meaning it doesn’t contribute to animal suffering or have a large carbon footprint like its meat-based counterpart does.