McCormick & Company (NYSE: MKC) is the largest spice company in the world with $2.9B in sales (2007), 40% of which were generated outside of the U.S. It produces and supplies spices, herbs, flavorings, and seasonings to consumers and food-service providers around the world.
In the spice business size matters, and with twice the revenue of its next largest competitor MKC has a decided advantage over other spice companies. Consumers of spice tend to be very price sensitive, and McCormick also competes with private label brands. MKC has been able to distinguish its branded offerings from those of its lower priced private label competitors by spending substantial amounts on R&D to come up with new products and by increasing spending on advertising to convince consumers that its products are worth the premium. Products introduced since 2004 contributed 10% to 2007 sales. Ironically, the company is also the largest producer of private label spices and seasonings in North America. According to analysts, its large presence in this market allows it, at least to an extent, ensure that private label brands do not price their brands so low that its branded products appear overpriced by comparison.  Finally, the company's size means that it can fuel its growth by making frequent acquisitions. In 2008, the company announced plans to acquire Unilever's Lawry's, its last major branded competitor in the consumer seasonings market. The year before, it acquired to Simply Asia, a company that specializes in Asian spices-- Asian spices are one of the fastest growing spice segments. In the short-term, however, rising prices for the raw materials and spices MKC uses for its products have decreased profitability margins and forced McCormick to raise their prices.(Read more at Wikinvest )