McCormick and Co. is hustling to keep demand for Old Bay at bay.
The seafood spice flew off store shelves as Americans embraced home cooking when the pandemic hit last year, and the Baltimore-based brand has toiled to keep the product in stock ever since, its chief executive revealed.
On Monday, McCormick Chairman and CEO Lawrence Kurzius got candid about the hot demand for the herb and spice blend.
"Oh my gosh, the demand for Old Bay has been extraordinary, and we've been hard-pressed to keep up with it. And even now, it's one of those items that we are still struggling with to keep in stock," Kurzius told Yahoo Finance. "The demand is just high for favorites like that."
At one point last year, McCormick even scaled back on stocking other products to keep an ample supply of bestsellers like Old Bay on supermarket shelves, the executive said.
"We hired 1,400 additional people mostly in our supply chain and we have added roughly the equivalent of an entire new factory by changing shift patterns and bringing in human resources," Kurzius said. "And so today, we are finally beyond the worst of the allocation time, and are rapidly closing in on the remaining 50% of all the items that we had on suspension. You should see that shelf position really accelerate."
Though capacities for dine-in restaurant service are slowly increasing across the country, the CEO said that shoppers are still stocking up on favorite spices and other popular condiments in the McCormick portfolio like French’s mustard and Frank’s RedHot sauce, with first quarter sales surging 35% from last year.
"Demand from consumers has really been strong through the entire pandemic, and really still is," Kurzius said.
Old Bay superfans are nothing if not loyal. Last year, the seafood spice’s website crashed when it released a limited-edition hot sauce, which sold out within an hour. Since then, the Old Bay Hot Sauce trial has been expanded and the spicy sauce is available at select stores across the U.S.
In other must-have condiment news, the foodservice industry is said to be playing catch up with a demand for ketchup, specifically in packet form. Restaurant takeout and drive-thru service remain popular dine-out options for hungry Americans as the pandemic continues, driving a shortage of the tomato sauce spread.