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Not Old Spice: McCormick Refreshes Company Brand

Carol Ortenberg

Whether by innovating in some parts of its portfolio, acquiring for others, or just plain pointing out what it already does, spice company McCormick & Co., Inc. has spent much of the past year trying to show it’s keeping up with consumer desire for fresh, healthy and creative food options.

Today the company announced the release of a non-GMO vanilla extract in time for the holiday baking season — the first step in a series of portfolio changes that the company announced it will be making over the next year. In the U.S., 80 percent of its “Gourmet” line of spices and herbs business will transition to being both organic and non-GMO, while over 70 percent of all McCormick branded herbs, spices and extracts will be non-GMO.

It might seem like a huge leap — but it turns out that it’s more one of perception than transformation: the company mentioned in the same press release that most of its herbs and spices are already non-GMO. According to the company, the new callout is to promote transparency and educate consumers.

Lori Robinson, Vice President of Corporate Branding, confirmed via an email to Project NOSH that the Non-GMO Vanilla extract is “being verified through our own supply chain” but mentioned that McCormick is considering verification from the Non-GMO project for their Gourmet line.

McCormick has been diligently working to acquire new consumers. Recognizing that they must adapt in order to maintain shelf space in consumers’ pantries, McCormick has embraced new products and line extensions that fit within consumers’ desire for healthy, spice driven and globally influenced products.

On the recent 2015 2nd Quarter Earning call, President and COO Lawrence Kurzius stated “Our customers are moving toward more simple ingredients.” Chairman and CEO Alan Wilson echoed this sentiment, “We regard our categories as…on trend with spicy foods, fresh foods, ethnic cuisine, simple ingredients.”

Catering to the consumer desire for “fresh” and “simple,” in early 2015 McCormick relaunched its gourmet spice line; adding greater variety, a flavor seal technology to keep spices fresh, and a more premium, vibrant look — all to attract a more discerning consumer. When a July study found that many dried oregano products contained fillers, McCormick quickly issued a statement touting their “field to bottle” sourcing and that all of its oregano products are tested for purity and then “gently” dried to preserve flavor and color.

Fall and Spring 2015 McCormick new product launches included several line extensions designed to cater to health conscious and flavor adventurous consumers, including gluten-free recipe mixes and MSG and gluten free Kitchen Basics Stock Cubes. McCormick also introduced a coconut cream under its Thai Kitchen brand — a product that appeals both to consumers seeking a dairy alternative as well as to more adventurous cooks.

Within its spice business, McCormick is taking its greatest advances, with additions of globally influenced, spicy, and more premium seeming products. New Grill Mates Belgian-Style White Ale Seasoning, a line of flavored sea salt grinders and a Gourmet ground chili pepper line (which includes Sriracha seasoning) all seem to call out to the millennial foodie. New product releases are vital to McCormick’s sales as in 2014 8-10 percent of sales came from products launched in the past three years.

In addition to product line extensions, McCormick has also acquired brands that already reach its desired consumers. In August the company completed its $100 million dollar acquisition of Stubb’s barbecue sauces. In explaining the acquisition, Wilson stated “It’s a brand that has no high fructose corn syrup and has carved out a very nice free from all the stuff that consumers don’t seem to want right now. So, that one fits very well for us.” Teasing other possible acquisitions, Wilson continued “And we see some other opportunities like that that don’t impact or overlap with our critical customers. So, we’ve expanded our horizons in terms of the kinds of acquisitions that we’re considering.”

A source told Project NOSH that McCormick was one of the suitors for plant-based food company, Vega. Though Vega ultimately was sold to White Wave, this pursuit certainly speaks to McCormick’s desire to reach health conscious consumers.

It’s expected that recent Board of Directors appointee Michael Conway, president of Global Channel Development for Starbucks, will also help with McCormick’s goals. As his current role focuses on Starbuck’s CPG portfolio and “branded solutions” (which includes licensed stores and foodservice), Conway has a strong understanding of consumer flavor and snack trends.

Conway will also be an asset in helping an older company appeal to a health focused consumer. While serving as worldwide president of McNeil Nutritionals, Conway helped parent company Johnson and Johnson market food science products Splenda, Lactaid and Benecol as part of a healthy diet.

The full press release can be found below:

SPARKS, Md., Sept. 8, 2015 /PRNewswire/ — McCormick & Company, Incorporated (NYSE: MKC), a global leader in flavor, today announced plans to take a leadership position in Organic and Non-GMO herbs and spices ahead of the peak holiday season. McCormick’s commitment builds on its category-leading quality record. The company announced the introduction of a Non-GMO labeled Vanilla Extract as well as plans to significantly increase the number of Organic and Non-GMO offerings in 2016.

McCormick is making several important changes to its portfolio over the next 12 months. The company announced that 80% of its Gourmet herbs & spices business in the U.S. will be Organic and Non-GMO by 2016. Additionally over 70% of all McCormick branded herbs, spices and extracts in the U.S. will be labeled Non-GMO. Most of McCormick’s herbs & spices are currently Non-GMO. The company will begin to label Non-GMO products to help consumers at the point of sale as part of its commitment to transparency and educating consumers about the category. This move is the first announcement under McCormick’s new quality consumer education initiative. Non-GMO Vanilla extract will be the first to hit store shelves and has already begun shipping.

“Our consumers are increasingly interested in quality flavors with pure ingredients in their food,” said Lawrence Kurzius, McCormick’s President & Chief Operating Officer. “Our effort to increase our Organic and Non-GMO offerings proves that we are listening to consumers and are committed to continuing to evolve.”

The announcement comes ahead of the peak fall cooking and holiday season where consumer usage of herbs, spices & extracts as key ingredients in recipe favorites increase. Meals during this period highlight the importance of flavorful foods for everyone from kitchen masters to cooking novices.

About McCormick: McCormick & Company, Incorporated is a global leader in flavor. With $4.2 billion in annual sales, the company manufactures, markets and distributes spices, seasoning mixes, condiments and other flavorful products to the entire food industry – retail outlets, food manufacturers and foodservice businesses. Every day, no matter where or what you eat, you can enjoy food flavored by McCormick. McCormick Brings Passion to Flavor™.

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