For Marylanders, the mere mention of Old Bay elicits an almost Pavlovian response. The state’s beloved McCormick & Co. seafood seasoning has inspired tons of hometown merchandise, made its way into local beers and desserts, and even become one of the most common tattoos inked onto passionate Baltimoreans.
And on Wednesday, when McCormick announced what was supposed to be a gradual month-long rollout of its new limited-edition Old Bay Hot Sauce, that loyalty was on display once again, as the company’s website crashed in the midst of selling out its entire online supply.
“I feel like we took down the Internet,” says Laurie Harrsen, senior director of public relations and consumer communications at McCormick & Co., which is based in Hunt Valley. “Old Bay fans are incredibly passionate. Anytime they can show their love for it—and in this case get their hands on something that’s limited edition—they will go to the ends of the Earth.”
By the afternoon, a resale market had popped up on eBay, with some listings selling the sauce for more than $100. “It’s a compliment, but we don’t want people to have to [search secondary markets] to get their hands on it,” Harrsen says.
Because of this, the team is quickly working to restock the online store as soon as possible—you can even sign up for stock updates. In addition to buying online, beginning in February, 10 oz. bottles of the hot sauce at a suggested retail price of $3.49 will appear at local retailers including Acme, Giant, Food Lion, Martin’s, Safeway, Wegmans, and Weis. It will also be featured at to-be-determined restaurants across town. Though, in the midst of the mania that surrounded the Wednesday launch, McCormick might have to reconsider supply and strategy.
“We might have a different conversation moving forward,” Harrsen says. “When we planned everything out, everything was going to be moving forward over the course of the next month or so.”
For McCormick, this is obviously a good problem to have. As for what to expect next, Harrsen says to watch Old Bay’s social channels, assuring that the hot sauce—which McCormick experts say pairs well chicken wings, nachos, dips, and Bloody Marys—supply will meet its demand.
“The Internet works so well for when people are passionate about something and they want to share and talk about it—it’s the sweet spot,” Harrsen says. “We understand that everyone is passionate about Old Bay and the hot sauce, and we’re going to do everything we can to fill that need.”