Is There Really A Sriracha Shortage?

Jimmy Lee, one of New York City’s Vietnamese restaurants, orders nearly 150 bottles of sriracha from Huy Fung Foods each month. This sauce brings out the richness of a pho soup or adds heat to banh xeo, a Vietnamese crepe.

“Not too spicy, not too spicy. Not too light,” Lee said. Sriracha “really hits the sweet spot in terms of spice, sweetness, sourness, just sourness.”

But a few months ago, supplies began to dry up.

Ms. Lee, who runs Madame Vo and Monsieur Vaux in Manhattan’s East Village, said the vendor couldn’t source the sauce, nor could she find it in New York City grocery stores. So he, like other Hui Phong enthusiasts, bought two large bottles on eBay for his $35, about five times the normal amount, for his home use. But the price was insurmountable for his business.

Hui Fung, the maker of the most popular variety of sriracha, has faced production problems for the second year in a row, the company said in a statement this month due to “shortages of raw materials”. I have no idea what,” he said. supply will increase. ”

Shortages are forcing chefs like Lee to look for alternatives and alter recipes. Plastic squeeze bottles with green caps are disappearing from grocery stores. walmart sells two packs of 17-ounce bottles for $86. Some die-hard fans took the tough line by paying exorbitant prices. Some people have given up on the mundane life.

Huy Fong said in a statement that “limited production has recently resumed,” but because the company does not sell directly to consumers, it “cannot determine when the product will hit stores again.”

The shortage doesn’t seem to extend to other hot sauce makers.

“We have contracts with small farmers in New England who buy our products,” said Gabe Disaverio, founder of hot sauce craft maker Spicy Shark. “I haven’t seen any problems there. I’ve seen the inventory of all the peppers really pretty stable.”

Disaverio speculated that Huy Fung’s sriracha shortage was due to supplier issues. Huifeng Foods did not respond to repeated requests for comment.

Tabasco, which uses red jalapenos from the United States and Latin America, isn’t in short supply either, although the company acknowledged last year’s bad weather had an impact on the industry.The company announced that it has expanded production and started production Sriracha short To meet surges in demand.

Hot sauce makers also emphasize that sriracha is a type of sauce, not a spice or pepper. With so many people equating Hui Fong with Sriracha, there may seem to be a shortage of this sauce all over the world. It doesn’t.

George Milton, co-founder of Yellowbird, another hot sauce maker, says, “When you hear ‘shortage’ you think you have sriracha peppers, but they don’t.” He said orders of sriracha, including those from restaurants that don’t keep the bottle on the table, have increased since the shortage of Hui Fong sriracha hit the news again.

Milton also said he was not affected by raw material shortages. “The growing season is getting weirder every year,” he said, adding that in the past he had to rely on multiple suppliers to get his ingredients.

Huy Fong’s origins date back to 1975, when the company’s founder, David Tran, fled Vietnam and settled in Los Angeles. He began mixing his own version of sriracha, a sauce believed to have been invented by a Thai woman named Thanom Chakkapak, and by 1980 was delivering orders in his blue Chevrolet van.

Hui Fung partnered with California-based Underwood Ranch in 1988 to provide the red jalapenos that give Hui Fung’s sriracha its distinctive flavor. By 2015, Underwood, 110 miles east of Hui Fung’s operations in Irwindale, was growing over 100 million pounds of peppers a year for Hui Fung products.

However, that exclusive relationship ended in a payment dispute in 2016. In 2019, The jury awarded Underwood $23 million for damages.

Since the fallout, Hui Fong has had to look beyond his backyard for his peppers, relying primarily on farms in Mexico.

In recent years, Hui Fong has argued that the chili pepper shortage is due to climate change and severe drought in Mexico, which has hit the jalapeño crop hard. That’s true, but Stephanie Walker, a chili pepper researcher at New Mexico State University, said growing conditions have improved this year. She added that Hui Fong’s shortage problem may be due to the company not having enough contracts with various farmers.

Craig Underwood, owner of Underwood Ranches, which now makes its own sriracha, said he had no trouble getting jalapeños from Mexico.

“There was a huge demand for our products not only from former customers of Hui Fung, but also from street people looking for sriracha,” he said.

Still, for many people, sriracha should be the one made by Hui Fung.

Home to the country’s largest Vietnamese population, Houston’s popular restaurant Mize consumes at least 15 sticks of sriracha a day. The restaurant’s general manager, Anna Pham, said the restaurant had been warned of a shortage and had restocked. However, its reserves have been depleted and it is now following information from distributors as to where Huifong Sriracha can be obtained.

Pham recently went to a grocery store in Berea, Texas, about 20 minutes from Houston, where he said he was restricted to buying 12 cans for an “exorbitant” price of nearly $10 each. Told.

“For Americans, it’s like ketchup. It’s a staple,” said Pham. “It’s like having a salt and pepper shaker on the table. I can’t imagine not having it.”

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