Sriracha What makes this the best hot sauce ever?

David Tran is the 68-year-old founder and owner of Huy Fong, and the creator of the sauce that has propelled Huy Fong as one of the fastest-growing food companies in America. The company sells more than 20 million bottles per year.

Tran grew up in Vietnam. In the 1970s, he had a small business making a similar hot sauce. He was of Chinese descent, and the Vietnamese government had been making life difficult for minorities. So in 1979, he used his modest savings from his business and bought some gold and a ticket on a freighter, the Huey Fong. Within a year, he was making Sriracha in Los Angeles.

Tran started Huy Fong in L.A.’s Chinatown, grinding jalapeño peppers by hand. He figured he’d sell it to fellow Asian immigrants. “I had no idea Americans would ever even eat spicy food,” says Tran, and he determined from the start to keep the price low. “I make sauce good enough for the rich man that the poor man can still afford.”

Restaurateurs liked his sauce because it never went bad—a bottle could be left on the table. Tran slowly built a following. Eventually he encountered enough demand that he moved his operation in 1987 into a large factory in suburban California.

It took him only a few days to come up with his recipe—a blend of jalapeños, vinegar, sugar, salt, and, of course, garlic—and it hasn’t changed much since.

Sriracha became extremely popular with the Asian community, but had yet to make it big. Things changed when restaurants and big supermarket chains started stocking the sauce. The chef David Chang began carrying it on the counter of his Momofuku Noodle Bar in New York. Wal-Mart Stores started selling it in Los Angeles and Houston in 2003, eventually distributing it to 3,000 more stores around the country. Chain restaurants such as P.F. Chang’s and Gordon Biersch began introducing sriracha-flavored dishes and dipping sauces. Bon Appétit named sriracha Ingredient of the Year in 2010. And in 2011, the sauce got its first mainstream kitchen bible: The Sriracha Cookbook, by Randy Clemens.

So what has made Sriracha so successful?

1. Focus on product above all

Sriracha is made from chilli peppers only from one farm: Underwood Family Farms

Unlike other hot sauces that are made using dried chilli peppers, Sriracha is made only with fresh ones as Tran is unwilling to compromise on the quality of his recipe. That, as well to insulate Huy Fong from fluctuations in the price of peppers and to ensure the freshest product possible, Tran’s only supplier for the past 20 years has been Underwood Family Farms, an hour north of L.A. That means the peppers used for the hot sauce are processed within a day of being picked.

Tran wanted to always stay true to his product and keep perfecting its taste to make it spicier.

“Hot sauce must be hot. If you don’t like it, use less. We don’t make mayonnaise here.”

2. Word-of-mouth, not traditional ads

The company has achieved its phenomenal success without spending anything on advertising. Tran has had good reason for not doing so - Sriracha production is limited by the amount of fresh peppers available and so demand exceeds supply

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.
It targeted the Asian food market and started selling its products only to Asian restaurants

Some consumers started bringing in their own bottles of Sriracha to use at restaurants. Restaurant owners observed this, saw a signal that the sauce was good, and now had incentive to started stocking their own restaurants with the sauce. Sriracha still hadn't broken into the mainstream market but that happened when renowned restaurants like the Momofuku noodle bar in New York started using it and acclaimed chefs started citing the sauce as an ingredient for recipes in their cookbooks.

besides the popularity sriracha was gaining with the f&b scene, it was gaining even more popularity on social media
Consumers loved Sriracha and more than that, loved to share it with others on social media. People listed it as an ingredient in their recipes, instantly increasing brand awareness and providing free advertising for the brand

Griffin Hammond - a YouTube personality - loved Sriracha so much, he raised over $20,000 on Kickstarter (exceeding his $5,000 goal by 400%) to make a documentary about it. The documentary went on to win “Best Short Film” awards at multiple film festivals and includes a super-cheesy ‘Sriracha Anthem’.

3. Transparent, with a pinch of cheeky

Shortly after shifting to a bigger factory in Irwindale, California, Huy Fong was sued over concerns that fumes from grinding fresh chili peppers caused odors and eye-watering airborne irritants. That led to significant press coverage and some serious concern about the fate of Sriracha. To cope with the panic and the litigation, in February 2014 Huy Fong made an effort to kick off a culture of transparency, starting with offering public open houses at its 650,000-square-foot Sriracha plant. This meant even more (postitive) publicity for the brand, increasing sales.

“We started them initially because we wished to have the visitors judge for themselves whether we were a public nuisance or not,” says Donna Lam, executive operations officer for Huy Fong. “We read a post online that it was harder to get into our Rosemead plant than into the Pentagon.” The open houses caused a huge shift in the apparent public perception of secrecy behind the product.
Visitors get a walk through the factory, a taste of special Sriracha treats, temporary tattoos, a free T-shirt and an appearance by David Tran. It’s become a bit of a tourist attraction!

In 2014 revenue was close to $60 million on more than 20 million bottles sold. The company has 90 full-time employees and adds 70 to 100 seasonal workers after Labor Day, when California chilies are ready to harvest. Tran is proud that his sauce is made in America from locally grown ingredients.

No other country would accept him when he was fleeing Vietnam, he says, and he sees Huy Fong and its success as his way to pay back that debt to the U.S.
Sriracha - the best hot sauce in the world

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