Emile Zatarain, Sr.

Emile Zatarain, Sr.

There are a number of trademarks that are inextricably linked to New Orleans and one of those is celebrating a its 125th anniversary. In 1889, Emile Zatarain, Sr. founded a business at 925 Valmont Street in New Orleans. His first product was root beer extract, but that soon grew to include seasonings and bleach. The product line continued to expand and included spicy Creole mustard and various pickled vegetables.

In 1922, Zatarain turned the business over to his son Emile Zatarain, Jr., whose wife, Ida May, contributed her own recipes for this such as remoulade sauce and olive relish to the company’s produce line. In time, was purchased by a succession of larger companies. The business moved to nearby Gretna, LA and less profitable products like bleach and pickled vegetables fell by the wayside. In the 1970s it concurrently grew into a regional food supplier and institutional food service.

zatarainsIn 1985, the company featured some 60 products, but began marketing boxes rice dishes for which it became known across the United States. Anyone could add Creole spice to their dinners with a box of Dirty Rice, Gumbo Mix or Jambalaya Mix. It temporary marketed some products as “Cajun,” but eventually settled on the more refined “Creole” image.

In 2003, Zatarain’s truly became national when it was purchased by McCormick & Company, the world’s largest spice and seasoning company based in Maryland. Coincidentally, it too began in 1889 as a purveyor of root beer flavorings. The purchase gave the company both national and international distribution, but at its heart, it remains New Orleans-centric. Many of its products, such as crab boil and Creole mustard are aimed at Louisiana chefs and a discerning local market. And as proof, it began a campaign a few years back to make Mardi Gras a national holiday. Needless to say, that has never caught hold, but cooks far and wide have nevertheless “Jazzed it up with Zatarain’s.”