Instead of hosting several hundred shareholders in a Baltimore-area ballroom with a breakfast buffet, McCormick & Co. executives offered performance highlights from an empty headquarters building in Hunt Valley.
The global spice maker held its first annual shareholder meeting in a virtual format Wednesday, reaching stockholders online. In Maryland, non-essential businesses are shut down and Gov. Larry Hogan imposed a a “stay-at-home” order Monday to help slow the spread of the new coronavirus pandemic.
“It will come to an end, and we will come out a better company,” McCormick CEO Lawrence E. Kurzius told shareholders, who were shown a series of slides narrated by executives. “Throughout the world, demand for flavor is growing."
McCormick’s consumer sales throughout the Asia/Pacific region plummeted 29 percent in the three months that ended Feb. 29. The brand withdrew financial performance guidance for the rest of the year because of uncertainty about the pandemic.
“Short-term results are being impacted by restaurant closures and consumers staying home,” Kurzius said during remarks Wednesday.
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But the spice maker stressed that as a “critical” food product supplier to consumers and food manufacturers, it is operating without interruptions to its supply chain or difficulty sourcing from more than 80 countries.
Most employees at the Shawan Road headquarters are working from home, and premium pay and other benefits have been offered to factory workers, said Kurzius, also chairman and president.
He took questions shareholders submitted via the web portal, including one about the popular gift bags McCormick is known for handing out at its annual meetings.
The bags, often stuffed with spices, sauces and new products, were donated this year to first responders and medical workers fighting the virus. Most were given to workers at University of Maryland St. Joseph Medical Center in Towson.
Responding to another question about steps the company’s taking to fight the virus, he said McCormick “is not in a position to make respirators or masks, but we are investigating whether we can make hand sanitizer," at a facility that makes extracts.