The Highly Unusual Company Behind Sriracha

by Rachel Baker on October 24, 2013

The owner of Sriracha hot sauce, David Tran, only wanted to make a hot sauce worthy of vietnamese pho soup. Starting a business and providing the coolest hot sauce on the market was never even in the plans. Here’s the story from Quartz:

Most commercially distributed hot sauces are made with dried chilies to make it easier to harvest, process and bottle the product at scale. McIlhenny, the maker of Tabasco, for example, buys its chilies from producers around the globe. But Sriracha is—and always always has been—made with fresh chilies. It’s what separates it from the competition, says Tran.

One of the few data points Tran will reveal about Huy Fong is that it processed some 100 million pounds (45 million kilograms) of fresh chilies last year over the course of its harvest season, which lasts only 10 weeks and provides for the entirety of the company’s yearlong Sriracha sales. ”We can only grow as quickly as our ability to harvest chilies grows,” Tran said.

His unwillingness to compromise on quality means that the chilies for Sriracha need to be processed within a day of being picked. So Huy Fong’s Rosemead factory sits only an hour away from Underwood Family Farms, which has been the company’s only chili supplier for the past 20 years. Its new plant in Irwindale is only a few miles further away. Finding new land fit for further chili harvesting has proved difficult—the land needs not only to be vast, but also fit for the purpose. “I can’t buy land that’s being used to harvest oranges,” Tran explained. “It’s not right for chilies.”

The other upshot of the high demand is that in 33 years, according to Tran, Huy Fong Foods has neither employed a single salesman nor spent a cent on advertising. Advertising would merely widen the gap between demand and supply even further. ”I don’t advertise, because I can’t advertise,” Tran explained.

Huy Fong also doesn’t have a Twitter, Facebook or Google Plus account, and its website is bare-boned. As a result, patrons of Sriracha tend to know little if anything about the company whose product they consume by the gallon. “It’s all been word of mouth,” Hammond says. It takes little more than a glance at the bottle to learn that Sriracha is currently made in Rosemead, California, but “most people still think Sriracha comes from Asia.”

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