Is There Room in Our Cupboards for Old Bay and New Bae?

McCormick & Company, creator of Old Bay® seasoning, files a trademark infringement lawsuit against Primal Palate for their “New Bae” blend

From protein bars to salad dressings and everything edible in between, companies are seeking to provide healthier, Paleo-friendly options for consumers. One such company is Pittsburgh-based Primal Palate, which offers organic spice blends with a focus on ingredient quality and transparency. Primal Palate’s latest, Instagram-friendly blend, New Bae, has earned them plenty of new fans—as well as a lawsuit for trademark infringement from McCormick & Company, the brand behind the beloved, 18-herb-and-spice blend Old Bay®.

In November 2017, as Primal Palate was attempting to register New Bae as a “trademarked organic spice,” McCormick filed its opposition to the younger company’s patent application. It then sent Primal Palate a cease-and-desist letter when, in April 2018, New Bae rolled out onto store shelves.

“Bae” in this case refers to a millennial term of endearment meaning “before anyone else.” The husband-and-wife founders of Primal Palate were quick to assert that the name and new blend were also loving nods to Old Bay®, but McCormick is demanding that Primal Palate pull it from the market as well as forward all profits to McCormick, asserting that New Bae is too similar to their own seasoning.

Initially, Primal Palate requested a conversation with McCormick without attorneys present, in hopes of settling the issue out of court, but their request was denied. They later requested specific information from McCormick showing evidence of consumers’ confusion over the differences between the two seasoning blends, a request which was also declined. Primal Palate has subsequently decided to fight the lawsuit.

Primal Palate cofounders Bill and Hayley Staley

New Bae, a Paleo-friendly and versatile spice blend that also happens to be low-FODMAP, contains Himalayan pink salt, paprika, celery seed, black pepper, ancho chili powder, cayenne, cardamom, allspice, mace, and bay leaves.

“We don’t see any merit to the claims,” asserts Primal Palate co-founder Hayley Staley. “[Our] blend is different, because we created the blend ourselves and we don’t even know what the ingredients are in Old Bay. The flavor profile is different. The ingredients and name are different. Old Bay is such a loved product, but there are a ton of spice companies out there that use Chesapeake Bay seasoning.”

While there’s a concern about taking the issue to court against a massive company “that could bury us in legal fees,” co-founder Bill Staley says their counsel feels that a resolution points in their favor. “We don’t think McCormick should be able to tell us what to name our blends. We’re about effecting positive change and making products that are healthier for people.”

“We could walk away from the name and not deal with the legal fees or the stress or the distraction from work, but we want to stand up for the little guys who are trying to do the right thing and make change in the food industry,” adds Hayley. “The majority of our audience has significant food sensitivities and health issues, and we want to offer something with full transparency for our audience. We won’t eat a spice blend that doesn’t disclose its ingredients, because we need to know what’s in it. We just want to make healthy cooking easier for people.”

Stressful lawsuit aside, the team at Primal Palate says that social-media attention over the feud has only boosted sales. “We had a fantastic pre-Christmas season after the news broke,” Bill says.

McCormick & Company has not responded to Paleo Magazine’s request for comment.

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