McCormick World of Flavors, the only retail venture by the Hunt Valley-based spice company, is now open in Harborplace's Light Street Pavilion, offering shoppers grilling, baking and cooking products alongside interactive displays such as "Guess That Spice."
Shoppers will find tins of Old Bay placed amid platters, bowls and crab mallets stamped with the Old Bay brand name, tables of Grill Mates marinades and rubs and shelves full of Thai Kitchen rice noodles, fish sauce and sweet red chili sauce. Bottles of olive oil line up next to jars of salsa and vinegars. The line of 88 McCormick brand red cap spices - along with displays about the origin and manufacturing of those spices - are available too, as well as products from McCormick Mexico, Canada, El Salvador and France.
But don't expect McCormick & Co., a $3.5 billion manufacturer, to start getting into retailing in a bigger way. The new Harborplace store was designed as a one-of-a-kind showcase of McCormick's brand, history and transition from a spice maker into a "global flavoring company" that makes and distributes brands such as Zatarain's, Lawry's and Vahine.
Last week, McCormick announced that it has agreed to buy a bouillon maker in China, a $141 million acquisition that the company said fits its strategy of expanding in oversseas markets such as China. McCormick expects to acquire Wuhan Asia-Pacific Condiments Co . Ltd. by the middle of next year.
The company's flavorings, seasonings and products are sold in 110 countries, and its seasoning mixes, condiments and other products are sold to food manufacturers and food service companies.
During Wednesday's opening, McCormick CEO Alan Wilson said the company sees the new 3800-square-foot-store as a way to connect with the millions of people who visit Harborplace. The location is directly across Light Street from the former site of McCormick's long-demolished Inner Harbor spice factory and headquarters, which stood from 1920 to 1989 and was known for infusing downtown Baltimore with scents such as cinnamon.
"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 FlavorPrint station, shoppers can select favorites from various dishes on a touch screen and then get an analysis of their "flavor profile," designations such as "hot," "cheesy," "cool," "sweet tart" or "grill master." Armed with their profiles, shoppers can buy flavorings, sauces or spices in that category or promote their preferences with "Flavor Profile" T-shirts for sale. At Guess That Spice, visitors can sniff scents and choose from among several possibilities. Those with the best sense of smell get discount store coupons.
And visitors will occasionally get to taste how spices can enhance meals, such as the Tinga de Pollo seasoning mix used in Tinga Bits appetizers prepared for Wednesday's opening. Shoppers will be able to sample salsas and olive oils in the store. Once a month, McCormick chefs will be on hand at the cooking station to demonstrate cooking, grilling or baking skills.
McCormick has periodically talked about opening a retail flagship as a vehicle to tell the 123-year-old company's story for at least 25 years, said company spokesman Jim Lynn.
"People would say,'I miss the smell of cinnamon at the Inner Harbor,'" Wilson said during remarks at Wednesday's opening. He compared the store to the Hershey's store in Hershey, Pa.
The timing of an opening in 2012 means McCormick can make use of technology such as touch-screen displays and videos on flat screen monitors throughout the store that show how spices and herbs are made. The company also makes use of display cases full of memorabilia, 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.