February 7, 2007


And the man behind the brand is...
Willoughby McCormick

"Make the best - some will buy it". That is the credo by which Willoughby M. McCormick ran his business of flavor extracts, exotic spices and teas. McCormick was born in rural Virginia in the midst of the Civil War in 1864 and after hostilities ceased his family emigrated to Texas where he found work as a clerk in a general store at the age of 14.

As a young man he returned east to begin a career in food merchandising. He chose Baltimore, then one of America's largest distributing centers. His first plant in 1889 on Hanover Street was one room and a cellar. The small back yard was used to store the flavoring extracts, spices and teas. McCormick never revealed where he happened upon the financing for the venture. "I saved a little and borrowed a little," he always said.

At the time food distribution was controlled by wholesale grocery houses. Quality was not a consideration to these profiteers who sought only the best margins in their dealings. McCormick was convinced that if a manufacturer supplied consistently high quality brand name products he could create consumer demand.

McCormick produced such goods under private names and trademarks for wholesalers. His business prospered until the Great Baltimore Fire of 1904. The entire business district was consumed, including the McCormick building. As he rebuilt McCormick began to realize that the goodwill generated by his products was reaped by his customers and not his company. He decided to market his own brands.

McCormick teas, introduced in 1905 became his leading seller. For his line of insecticides McCormick chose the Bee Brand because, " The study of bee culture has always been fascinating to me. One of the cleanest and most valuable of insects, the bee is discriminating. He selects the best for his production."

McCormick, who died in 1932, pioneered several marketing techniques. He always believed in sales conferences to train his field personnel. McCormick distributed a book of recipes using his exotic food products and published books on teas and spices. He opened the plant to tours of how spices, extracts and salad dressings were prepared. As one Baltimore paper paid tribute to the McCormick legacy: "Within the brick walls are all the odors of the Orient."

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