Old Bay Seasoning

Old Bay Seasoning is a blend of herbs and spices that is marketed in the United States by McCormick & Company,[1] and originally created in Baltimore, Maryland.

Old Bay Seasoning
Founded1939, in Baltimore, Maryland, U.S.
HeadquartersBaltimore, Maryland, U.S.
ParentMcCormick & Company, Maryland, U.S.

The seasoning mix includes celery salt, black pepper, crushed red pepper flakes, and paprika.[2][1][3] It is regionally popular, specifically in Maryland,[4] as well as in the Mid-Atlantic States, the Southern States, and parts of New England and the Gulf Coast.[5]


The Old Bay Line, after which Old Bay is named

Old Bay Seasoning is named after the Old Bay Line, a passenger ship line that plied the waters of the Chesapeake Bay from Baltimore to Norfolk, Virginia, in the early 1900s.[6] In 1939, a Jewish-German immigrant named Gustav Brunn[6] started the Baltimore Spice Company.[7]

The origins of the company began in Wertheim, Germany, where Brunn started a wholesale spice and seasoning business selling to food industries, seeing an opportunity as spices were in especially short supply amidst hyperinflation in the aftermath of World War I.[8] Due to rising anti-Semitism as the Nazi Party rose to power, the company moved to Frankfurt, Germany;[9] however, on the night of November 10, 1938, a massive pogrom against Jews, known as Kristallnacht, led to Brunn being arrested by Nazi soldiers and sent to Buchenwald concentration camp.[10]

According to Brunn's son, Gustav's wife paid a large sum of money to a lawyer for him to be released, and as they had already applied for and received American passports, were able to escape with their two children to New York City, and later Baltimore, Maryland, where Brunn had family.[11] There, having brought with him only a small spice grinder, [7] Brunn first produced the "Delicious Brand Shrimp and Crab Seasoning", which was later renamed Old Bay.

The rights to the seasoning brand were purchased by McCormick & Co in 1990.[12] McCormick continued to offer Old Bay in the classic yellow can.[13] Gustav Brunn had worked for McCormick for a short time before starting his own spice business.[14]

McCormick has a number of other products under the Old Bay banner, including seasoning packets for crab cakes, salmon patties and tuna, tartar sauce, cocktail sauce, and seafood batter mix. They also make other seasoning blends that mix Old Bay seasoning with garlic, lemon, brown sugar, herbs and blackened seasonings. McCormick has offered a lower-sodium version of Old Bay Seasoning.

In 2017, McCormick changed the packaging from metal cans to plastic containers in an effort to reduce the packaging costs.[15]


Old Bay is also now available in a standardized foodservice package but retains its distinctive yellow label.
Putting Old Bay on crab legs.

The seasoning is chiefly used to season crab and shrimp. It is also used in various clam chowder and oyster stew recipes. The seasoning is also used as a topping on popcorn, salads, eggs, fried chicken, french fries, tater tots, corn on the cob, boiled peanuts, dips, chipped beef, baked potatoes, potato salad, potato chips, and guacamole. Several movie theaters in the Chesapeake region offer it in the condiment section.

Potato chip manufacturer Utz created the original "Crab Chip" based on a similar mix of spices.[16] The popular potato chip variety was later copied and marketed by Herr's Snacks (however, Herr's uses Old Bay seasoning and it is sold as "Herr's Old Bay Chips").[17] Lay's introduced its own Old Bay-seasoned "Chesapeake Bay Crab Spice" flavored chips in 2018.[18]

Early in its history, the Subway sandwich shop used Old Bay when mixing their seafood and crab salad. Many local Subway shops still have Old Bay for use on sandwiches.[citation needed]

Old Bay is also occasionally used around the Chesapeake Bay region as an ingredient in Bloody Marys,[19] and even in places as far south as The Breakers Hotel in Palm Beach, Florida. Some bars in the Baltimore region also often sell what is known as a 'Crabby Bo', which is National Bohemian beer where the lip of the glass or mug that is being used is moistened and dipped into a container of Old Bay seasoning. In 2014, the Maryland-based brewery Flying Dog created an Old Bay-inspired summer ale named Dead Rise to celebrate the seasoning's 75th anniversary.[20]

In 2020, McCormick created Old Bay Hot Sauce in advance of the Super Bowl, which initially sold out within 30 minutes of its launch[21] and caused the Old Bay website to temporarily crash.[22] Some customers resold the 10-ounce bottles, retailing for $3.49, online for between $50 to $200.[23]


  1. ^ a b "Old Bay". McCormick. Retrieved 20 April 2019.
  2. ^ Tomlinson, Mary (2017-12-11). "What's Really in Old Bay Seasoning?". Coastal Living. Retrieved 2019-04-20.
  3. ^ "OLD BAY Seasoning". McCormick. Retrieved 2019-04-23.
  4. ^ Austermuhle, Martin (2019-02-15). "Nothing Gets Between Marylanders And Their Old Bay, Poll Finds". WAMU 88.5 American University Radio. Retrieved 2020-07-06.
  5. ^ Ingraham, Christopher (2014-05-07). "They put Old Bay on everything in Maryland. Soon you will, too". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2016-03-08.
  6. ^ a b Lane, Fran (2018-11-06). "The History of Old Bay Seasoning". WLIF 101.9 FM. Baltimore, Maryland. Retrieved 2019-05-20.
  7. ^ a b Graham, Connor (2018-03-14). "The Spice of Baltimore". Baltimore Jewish Times. Retrieved 2019-05-20.
  8. ^ Intern, Waxter (2017-04-28). "Old Bay was Created in Baltimore by a German-Jewish Immigrant". Preservation Maryland. Retrieved 2020-07-06.
  9. ^ Graham, Connor (2018-03-14). "The Spice of Baltimore". Baltimore Jewish Times. Retrieved 2020-07-06.
  10. ^ Goldstein, Eric; Weiner, Deborah (2018-03-28). "On Middle Ground: A History of the Jews of Baltimore". Johns Hopkins University Press. Retrieved 2020-07-06.
  11. ^ Intern, Waxter (2017-04-28). "Old Bay was Created in Baltimore by a German-Jewish Immigrant". Preservation Maryland. Retrieved 2020-07-06.
  12. ^ Atwood, Liz (1990-11-01). "McCormick adds Old Bay products to its spice rack". The Baltimore Evening Sun. Retrieved 2011-06-06.
  13. ^ Clark, Kim (1990-11-01). "McCormick buys locally invented Old Bay crab spice". The Baltimore Sun. Retrieved 2013-01-11.
  14. ^ Pelta-Pauls, Maggie (2017-04-28). "Old Bay was Created in Baltimore by a German-Jewish Immigrant". Preservation Maryland. Retrieved 2020-04-10.
  15. ^ "Old Bay's New Can is Coming Soon". Old Bay Seasoning. Archived from the original on 2017-06-23.
  16. ^ "Utz Potato Chips, Crab". Utz Quality Foods. Retrieved 2019-05-20.
  17. ^ "Old Bay Potato Chips". Herr's. Retrieved 2019-05-20.
  18. ^ Patrickis, Caroline (2018-07-19). "Lay's to release 8 regional chip flavors, including one from DMV". WJLA-TV. Washington, DC. Retrieved 2019-05-20.
  19. ^ "Baltimore Spice Co. doesn't have to work at promoting its famous Old Bay seasoning". Frederick News Post. Frederick, Maryland. 1983-08-29.
  20. ^ "Dead Rise Old Bay Gose". Flying Dog Brewery. Retrieved 2020-04-10.
  21. ^ Heil, Emily (2020-02-03). "We tried the sold-out Old Bay hot sauce, and it lived up to the hype". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2020-07-06.
  22. ^ Oxenden, McKenna (2020-01-29). "Old Bay hot sauce sells out less than an hour after launch". baltimoresun.com. Retrieved 2020-07-06.
  23. ^ Streicher, Sean (2020-01-30). "Sold-Out Old Bay Hot Sauce Was Project 5 Years In The Making, McCormick Says". CBS Baltimore. Retrieved 2020-07-06.

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