McCormick World of Flavors opens at Harborplace

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At McCormick & Co.'s new Inner Harbor store — the first retail venture by the spice maker — shoppers can stock up on Old Bay and grilling marinades, learn their personal "flavor profile" and discover an array of international spices.

McCormick World of Flavors opened Wednesday in Harborplace's renovated Light Street Pavilion, offering consumers grilling, baking and cooking products alongside interactive displays such as "Guess That Spice."

The Hunt Valley-based manufacturer, which had more than $3.5 billion in sales last year, does not plan any other stores. The aim of the Harborplace outlet is to boost awareness of the McCormick brand and history, company officials said.

At the store, customers are greeted by tins of Old Bay placed amid platters, bowls and crab mallets stamped with the Old Bay name. Grill Mates marinades and rubs and Thai Kitchen rice noodles, fish sauce and sweet red chili sauce make up table displays, while bottles of olive oil line up next to jars of salsa and vinegars.

The line of 88 McCormick spices — along with information about their origin and manufacturing — is available too, as are products from McCormick Mexico, Canada, El Salvador and France.

The 3,800-square-foot selling space chronicles the company's growth from a local spice maker into a global flavoring company that makes and distributes brands such as Zatarain's, Lawry's and Vahine.

The firm now sells its flavorings, seasonings and products in 110 countries; distributes seasoning mixes, condiments and other products to food manufacturers and food service companies; and has spent the past few years expanding in overseas markets.

Last week, McCormick announced that it had agreed to buy a bouillon maker in China, saying the $141 million acquisition fit the company's strategy of expanding in overseas markets. McCormick said it expects to acquire Wuhan Asia-Pacific Condiments Co. Ltd. by the middle of next year.

Last year, the company purchased Kamis SA, a privately held Polish company that makes spices, seasonings and mustards, as well as an 85 percent share in Kohinoor Foods Ltd., an Indian firm that sells basmati rice.

Speaking at Wednesday's opening, McCormick CEO Alan Wilson said the company sees the new retail outlet as a way to connect with the millions of people who visit Harborplace each year.

The store is directly across Light Street from the site of McCormick's former Inner Harbor factory and headquarters, which stood from 1920 to 1989 and infused downtown Baltimore with scents of cinnamon and other spices.

"It's our hometown and a great place to show what McCormick is in our hometown," Wilson said. "For us, the objective is to expose our products as opposed to becoming a retailer."

At the new store's FlavorPrint station, shoppers can select favorite tastes on a touch screen and then receive an analysis of their "flavor profile." Thus informed, shoppers can buy flavorings, sauces or spices in their favorite category or strut their preferences in a Flavor Profile T-shirt.

At the Guess That Spice station, visitors with the best sense of smell get discount coupons.

Visitors will also learn how spices can enhance meals and will be able to sample salsas and olive oils. Once a month, McCormick chefs will be on hand to demonstrate cooking, grilling or baking techniques.

The store has been long in the making. Over the past 25 years, McCormick executives talked about opening a retail store to tell the now-123-year-old company's story, said Jim Lynn, a McCormick spokesman.

"People would say, 'I miss the smell of cinnamon at the Inner Harbor,'" Wilson said Wednesday during remarks at Harborplace. He compared McCormick's store to the Hershey's outlet in Pennsylvania.

The store highlights McCormick's past, with display cases holding old photos, worn McCormick cookbooks and the small tins originally used to package spices.

"We wanted to tell our story, and downtown Baltimore is a great place to return to our roots," Lynn said.

lorraine.mirabella@baltsun.com

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