McCormick’s Flagship Spices Up Retail

Feb 13, 2012

McCormick & Co., the spice and flavoring company, plans to open its first store, McCormick World of Flavors, this summer at the popular Harborplace tourist attraction in Baltimore.

The 3,800-plus square-foot store will include interactive and educational displays to engage families. Shoppers will be able to determine their personal flavor profile and chart the origins of spices, among other activities. In a cooking demonstration area, McCormick’s internal chefs and celebrity chefs will demonstrate recipes featuring McCormick flavors.

In addition to selling McCormick brand products for cooking, baking and grilling, the store will sell other McCormick brands like Grill Mates, Lawry’s, Zatarain’s and Old Bay.

"What better way to communicate what we do than to allow visitors to experience it personally," said president, chairman and CEO Alan Wilson in a statement. "It will show visitors how McCormick brings great taste to their lives — every day. You can see how our business, rooted in the exploration of the New World, has its sights on the newest frontiers of flavor."

The store is steps away from the site of the historic McCormick Plant and Headquarters that stood at 414 Light Street from 1920 to 1989. The facility was known for spreading the aroma of spices throughout the harbor. The company is now based in Sparks, MD.

"There is a wonderful historic link for McCormick to return to the Inner Harbor, and Harborplace is a perfect setting because it is such a popular draw for tourists and local residents alike to see the best of Baltimore," said Lori Robinson, McCormick vice president of corporate branding and communications.

Many apparel and footwear vendors operate their own retail stores and food brands such as Nathan’s, Starbucks and Ben & Jerry’s have a grocery shelf presence as well. But it’s rare for a food brand to have a flagship location. The most notable example is M&M, which opened a 25,000-square foot store in New York’s Times Square in 2006 that was followed last year by a second location in London.

Discussion Questions: Do you expect to see more CPG brands open flagship retail locations for marketing purposes? Will we see CPG brands engaging in more direct-to-consumer sales activities in the years ahead?

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17 Comments on "McCormick’s Flagship Spices Up Retail"

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Roger Saunders

We’ve all taken tours of plants and showrooms of manufacturing facilities that produce brands which may be familiar to us … Hershey, Pa., Mars’ Ethel M facilities in Las Vegas, or the the # 1 tourist attraction in Dublin, Ireland — the Guinness Brewery. Numerous others exist in the consumable space. Apple and Nike have effectively marketed their products in a CPG brand fashion — and that has lead to successful retail stores.

Great brands have a compelling story to share. Many of our favorite CPG brands are part of the fabric of people’s lives. While telling the “stories” of quality, innovation, people behind the ideas, what is new and we can expect next, and the benefits of these great and lasting products, a sale at a flagship store is inevitable. And, a further connection to the brand is solidified.

Smart move on McCormick & Company’s part.

Richard J. George, Ph.D.

Absolutely. CPG companies have watched Nike and LEGO create terrific venues to tell their story and to introduce new concepts and products that eventually make their way to Main Street retail. This will be particularly valuable to brands or products which are difficult to describe or explain their functions. How does one describe a new flavor or how does a consumer prepare a meal with new flavors and spices?

Harborplace is a stone’s throw from Camden Yards, where the Orioles play baseball. If executed properly, with the appropriate theater and flair, McCormick will hit this concept out of the park.

Ben Sprecher
Ben Sprecher
5 years 9 months ago
This is a great move for McCormick, but not for the reason the CEO cites (“communicat[ing] what we do”). I think most customers understand what McCormick does; it makes spices. And the number of customers who will pass through that store make for rounding error on McCormick’s business. Rather, the value of this retail foray will be in watching how consumers who care about spices (who else would spend time in a tourist area browsing a spice store?) interact with the different products, marketing, and displays that McCormick develops. Likewise, the store will provide a great format for experimentation with product, packaging, positioning, and price, and will give McCormick a quasi-realistic retail environment it completely controls in which to measure the impact of those variables. I do, however, disagree with Mr. Saunders’ point about Nike and Apple. Those retailers actually intended to drive meaningful sales volume through their stores (and succeeded), and the stores serve as brand embassies for products which consumers come to deeply associate with their own identities. Your clothing and your cell phone say a lot about who you are — there are *very* few, if any, people who identify themselves by the spice brand they use.… Read more »
Gene Hoffman
Gene Hoffman
5 years 9 months ago

This discussion returns me to my first trip to McCormick’s enchanting old HQ at 414 Light Street. It was a magical place steeped in history and, being a retailer back then, I tried to imagine what it would be like to convert those imaginative headquarters into a new-concept retail store. I pondered thoughtfully and then I concluded, rightly or wrongly, that the magical aura of that McCormick site would be not an easily replicated in non-historic sites.

Today I ask, where do the true values and rewards of direct-to-consumer sales activities rest? Are they in marketing purposes that sell the merits of the brand, or in boutique-level sales and profits from selling products? Or both … and at what additional cost?

Between an idea’s conception and its creation, between the emotion and the profitable response, falls the shadow of doubt. But do not put me in the doubters corner and label me as someone who said it could not be done. Just let me chuckle and reply, how will CPG companies know until they try?

Ben Ball

This idea works well for categories that are involved and, preferably, indulgent. Chocolate and candy in general certainly qualify. But if you consider yourself anything of a cook or “chef” spices are integral to the art. This is a great idea for McCormick.

The harder question is over how to commercialize the effort for a positive ROI. These things can easily become an icon unto themselves, worshiped only by the executives who feed them operating capital.

How about commercials filmed in the “kitchens of McCormick”? Get the celebrity chefs in there for some of the reality shows. Start a “McCormick Menu Challenge” akin to the Pillsbury Bakeoff. Whatever the concept, use the asset. Don’t just enjoy it.

Cathy Hotka

Anyone who’s visited the World of Coca-Cola in Atlanta knows how fascinating it can be to interact directly with a brand. I wonder if they’ll limit themselves to the Inner Harbor location, or choose a few additional sites as well.

gordon arnold

Direct connection to the market is a low-cost means of measuring market acceptance of new product, with the ability to tweak a product still in development. I have seen nothing better for a company’s marketing group than to have these market access abilities and controls.

W. Frank Dell II

Many CPG companies have stores for employees, just not for the public. Also, many CPG companies simply don’t have a large enough product line to create a store concept. Pepsi has a store in New Bern in the drug store where the product was developed. A single store can be good from a public relations perspective. It also could be a great laboratory to test new products and packaging. Larger CPG companies could open a store, Smaller CPG companies are unlikely to.

Ed Rosenbaum

We are from Baltimore and used to spend countless Saturday evenings walking along the harbor. One of the attractions in those years was the wonderful aromas emanating from the McCormick plant across the street. Opening a retail outlet in the harbor area will again bring the past back to the future. I for one hope it will be a winner.

Doug Fleener

I think it is a great idea, and I do think we’ll see more CPG brands open experiential locations. The challenge is to create a retail format that has delivers a great brand experience at a reasonable cost to the company. These can be very expensive marketing tools. That’s why I believe McCormick & Co’s focus on selling additional products is spot on, and something other CPG companies will need to think about.

Carlos Arambula

I would like to see more CPG brands develop stronger marketing and brands before opening flagship retail locations.

Brands like M&M, Hershey, and Ben & Jerry’s have very well developed brand personalities and relationships with the consumer. Retail locations are simply an extension which allows them to engage consumers. I don’t believe McCormick & Co has developed its brands to the level of the aforementioned companies.

A spice store is a good idea; Penzeys ( in Los Angeles’s Southbay is a great concept and it does brisk business. But it’s worth noting that when I speak to fellow foodies about Penzeys, all of them mentioned the higher quality of products and superior alternative to grocery brands like McCormick.

CPG brands should refrain from building brick and mortar locations and focus on brand development and building that consumer relationship — the brand’s role in the consumer’s life. If they don’t, they will have to worry about brick and mortar brands like Penzeys entering the grocery aisles and taking their SOM.

Craig Sundstrom

“The facility was known for spreading the aroma of spices throughout the harbor. The company is now based in Sparks, MD.”

Some tradeoff, huh? Okay, but enough with the sour vanilla; I think the answer to the question is “yes,” if we mean it literally (in the sense that there will be at least one more), but in the more general sense of “will they become widespread?” my counter question is “why?” There’s nothing new about the concept, of course — promotional pavilions were always a staple of World’s Fairs, and after that sponsored shops at Disneyland have been around for a half-century — but I don’t really see any reason why they would now become widespread; haven’t web-sites and the demigod of Facebook lessened the need for this type of location? Or have they piqued people’s interest?

Ed Dennis
Ed Dennis
5 years 9 months ago

Many corporations now have excess capital sitting on the sidelines. Some retail experimentation may be justified. However, if I were McCormick, I would look at a very strong push on developing a premium brand of spices via direct delivery. A special label could be created that promised to deliver “fresh” spices to the consumer. This could include special blends for different dishes or even custom blends for a specific consumer or small customer situation. Spices are (in general) very light which makes for efficient direct delivery by the USPS or UPS. Blending equipment is relatively inexpensive and with computer automation, McCormick should be able to create a very lucrative business that would be incremental to its current business.

Dr. Stephen Needel

With everyone so positive about this, and Baltimore being such a tourist destination, I’m waiting for the next opportunity in Chatanooga — the Chattem Labs store. Learn about the mysteries of menstrual pain and how Pamprin solves the problem! See the exciting history of Icy Hot and get your picture taken with a life-like cutout of Shaq! And check out “The World of Dandruff,” sponsored by Selsun Blue!

Jason Goldberg

I’m eager to see what they do. I wrote a review of a Penzey’s shop last year, and it turns out, that it’s a fun category to build a retail experience for.

I’m sure McCormick understands the brand building benefits of a flagship store, but I doubt they will have tangible metrics in place to measure those benefits. They likely will have traditional retail metrics in place for the performance of the store, and as a result the operational team will be focused on profitability of the store. I can assure you that the store managers at Nike, Lego, Nokia (when they had stores), Disney, Hershey, Coke, etc., are not able to attribute costs to “brand building,” they are tasked with running profitable stores. What get’s measured, get’s improved.

Ralph Jacobson

I consider food as well as non-food companies entering into retail a great idea to build the brands. Nespresso, Toll House, and all the other flagship stores in Times Square and around the world are great examples of driving awareness in the marketplace of the wealth of CPG Brands available to consumers.

Ken Lonyai

This sounds like one of those amazing ideas that has nowhere to go.

It’s unlikely that enough people will view determining their “flavor profile” as important enough to make this a destination. Besides, people kind of know that already.

For locals, going to the supermarket and then the specialty spice store that sells the exact same products adds no value. For tourists, much more to see in the Inner Harbor.


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