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

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

The seasoning is a mix of celery salt (salt, celery seed), spices (including red pepper and black pepper) and paprika.[2] Some of the other spices that may be used are laurel leaves, mustard, cardamom, cloves and ginger[3] as listed in the original product in the Baltimore Museum of Industry.[4] It is regionally popular, specifically in Maryland,[5] as well as in the Mid-Atlantic States, the Southern States, parts of New England and the Gulf Coast.[6]


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.[7] In 1939, a German-Jewish immigrant named Gustav Brunn[7] started the Baltimore Spice Company.[8]

The origins of the company can be traced back to 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.[9] Due to rising antisemitism as the Nazi Party rose to power, the company moved to Frankfurt, Germany;[10] however, on the night of November 9, 1938, a massive pogrom against Jews, known as Kristallnacht, led to Brunn being arrested by Nazi soldiers and sent to Buchenwald concentration camp.[11]

According to Brunn's son, Gustav's wife paid a large sum of money to a lawyer for him to be released; as they had already applied for and received American visas, they were able to escape with their two children to New York City and later Baltimore, Maryland, where Brunn had family.[9] There, having brought with him only a small spice grinder,[8] Brunn founded the Baltimore Spice Company and produced the "Delicious Brand Shrimp and Crab Seasoning", which was later renamed Old Bay.[12][13]

The rights to the seasoning brand were purchased by McCormick & Co in 1990.[14] McCormick continued to offer Old Bay in the classic yellow can.[15]

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.[16]

In 2017, McCormick changed the packaging from metal cans to plastic containers in an effort to reduce the packaging costs.[17]


Putting Old Bay on crab legs

The seasoning is chiefly used to season crab and shrimp.[16] It is used in various clam chowder and oyster stew recipes. The seasoning is also used as a topping on popcorn, salads, eggs, fried chicken, chicken wings, 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.[citation needed]

Potato chip manufacturer Utz created the original "Crab Chip" based on a similar mix of spices.[18] 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").[19] Lay's introduced its own Old Bay-seasoned "Chesapeake Bay Crab Spice" flavored chips in 2018.[20]

An Old Bay foodservice package

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] Convenience store chain Sheetz also offers Old Bay as an option in its delis due to their large presence in the Mid-Atlantic region, including areas beyond Old Bay's traditional territory.[21]

Old Bay is also occasionally used around the Chesapeake Bay region as an ingredient in Bloody Marys,[22] 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 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.[23]

In 2020, McCormick created Old Bay Hot Sauce in advance of the Super Bowl, which initially sold out within 30 minutes of its launch[24] and caused the Old Bay website to crash temporarily.[25] Some customers resold the 10-US-fluid-ounce (300 ml) bottles, retailing for $3.49, online for between $50 and $200.[26] In 2022, the company collaborated with Pepperidge Farm to produce Old Bay-flavored Goldfish crackers. The crackers sold out online within nine hours.[13]

In June 2021, Old Bay worked with the True Temper Sports company and released a lacrosse stick with an Old Bay decal,[27] both in the standard short and defensive long lengths. Both sticks are currently sold out online.[28][29]

See also


  1. ^ "The History of Old Bay Seasoning". G & M Crabcakes. February 8, 2021. Retrieved February 3, 2022.
  2. ^ "OLD BAY Seasoning". McCormick. Retrieved July 22, 2022.
  3. ^ "OLD BAY SEASONING". February 26, 2009. Archived from the original on February 26, 2009. Retrieved July 22, 2022.
  4. ^ Tkacik, Christina (August 13, 2018). "A bit of history on the German-born Baltimore man who invented Old Bay Seasoning". baltimoresun.com.
  5. ^ Austermuhle, Martin (February 15, 2019). "Nothing Gets Between Marylanders And Their Old Bay, Poll Finds". WAMU 88.5 American University Radio. Retrieved July 6, 2020.
  6. ^ Ingraham, Christopher (May 7, 2014). "They put Old Bay on everything in Maryland. Soon you will, too". The Washington Post. Retrieved March 8, 2016.
  7. ^ a b Lane, Fran (November 6, 2018). "The History of Old Bay Seasoning". WLIF 101.9 FM. Baltimore, Maryland. Archived from the original on February 10, 2020. Retrieved May 20, 2019.
  8. ^ a b Graham, Connor (March 14, 2018). "The Spice of Baltimore". Baltimore Jewish Times. Archived from the original on February 29, 2020. Retrieved May 20, 2019.
  9. ^ a b Pelta-Pauls, Maggie (April 28, 2017). "Old Bay was Created in Baltimore by a German-Jewish Immigrant". Preservation Maryland. Retrieved July 6, 2020.
  10. ^ Graham, Connor (March 14, 2018). "The Spice of Baltimore". Baltimore Jewish Times. Archived from the original on February 29, 2020. Retrieved July 6, 2020.
  11. ^ Goldstein, Eric; Weiner, Deborah (March 28, 2018). On Middle Ground: A History of the Jews of Baltimore. Johns Hopkins University Press. doi:10.1353/book.58245. ISBN 9781421424538. Retrieved July 6, 2020.
  12. ^ Tkacik, Christina (August 12, 2018). "A bit of history on the German-born Baltimore man who invented Old Bay seasoning". The Baltimore Sun. Retrieved October 20, 2021.
  13. ^ a b Elwood, Karina (May 17, 2022). "Before Old Bay Goldfish, a man fled Nazi Germany with a spice grinder". The Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved May 17, 2022.
  14. ^ Atwood, Liz (November 1, 1990). "McCormick adds Old Bay products to its spice rack". The Baltimore Evening Sun. Retrieved June 6, 2011.
  15. ^ Clark, Kim (November 1, 1990). "McCormick buys locally invented Old Bay crab spice". The Baltimore Sun. Retrieved January 11, 2013.
  16. ^ a b "OLD BAY® Seafood Seasoning". Old Bay. Retrieved February 3, 2022.
  17. ^ "Old Bay's New Can is Coming Soon". Old Bay Seasoning. Archived from the original on June 23, 2017.
  18. ^ "Utz Potato Chips, Crab". Utz Quality Foods. Retrieved May 20, 2019.
  19. ^ "Old Bay Potato Chips". Herr's. Archived from the original on May 11, 2019. Retrieved May 20, 2019.
  20. ^ Patrickis, Caroline (July 19, 2018). "Lay's to release 8 regional chip flavors, including one from DMV". WJLA-TV. Washington, DC. Retrieved May 20, 2019.
  21. ^ "Calories in Sheetz Old Bay Seasoning - Nutritional Information and Diet Info". www.fitbit.com.
  22. ^ "Baltimore Spice Co. doesn't have to work at promoting its famous Old Bay seasoning". Frederick News Post. Frederick, Maryland. August 29, 1983.
  23. ^ "Dead Rise Old Bay Gose". Flying Dog Brewery. Retrieved April 10, 2020.
  24. ^ Heil, Emily (February 3, 2020). "We tried the sold-out Old Bay hot sauce, and it lived up to the hype". The Washington Post. Retrieved July 6, 2020.
  25. ^ Oxenden, McKenna (January 29, 2020). "Old Bay hot sauce sells out less than an hour after launch". baltimoresun.com. Retrieved July 6, 2020.
  26. ^ Streicher, Sean (January 30, 2020). "Sold-Out Old Bay Hot Sauce Was Project 5 Years In The Making, McCormick Says". CBS Baltimore. Retrieved July 6, 2020.
  27. ^ "LacrosseMonkey: New True Old Bay Lacrosse Attack & Defense Shafts". Milled. Retrieved August 2, 2022.
  28. ^ "TRUE Temper Comp 4.0 Old Bay Composite Attack Lacrosse Shaft". SportStop.com. Retrieved August 2, 2022.
  29. ^ "TRUE Composite SF 4.0 Old Bay LE Defense Lacrosse Shaft". www.lacrossemonkey.com. Archived from the original on June 2, 2021. Retrieved August 2, 2022.