Huy Fong Sriracha is facing a shortage, again — here’s why

Originally published by New York Post on May 8th, 2024

Written by Brooke Kato 


A memo to wholesale buyers revealed an impending shortage of sriracha from the chili sauce giant Huy Fong Foods.
Christopher Sadowski


Supply chain hurdles are putting the squeeze on Sriracha.

Huy Fong Foods, makers of the fan-favorite chili sauce — known for their signature green-capped branded squirt featuring the brand’s rooster mascot — has halted production of the zesty condiment after determining the supply of hot peppers was not up to snuff due to the harsh climate.

“After reevaluating our supply of chilis, we have determined that it is too green to proceed with production as it is affecting the color of the product,” the Los Angeles-based company said in a letter to wholesale buyers, obtained by USA Today.

The memo continued, “We regret to inform you that we have decided to halt production until after Labor Day, when our next chili season starts.”

A drought in Mexico, where the peppers are grown, could spell a flavorless summer, per experts.

This is not the first time the chili sauce maker has faced production stalls due to climate.

Huy Fong Foods’ sriracha recipe specifically calls for red winter jalapeños, which flourish only in cooler temperatures below 80 degrees, primarily in the northern region of the country, according to the the Washington Post.

According to climate scientist Guillermo Murray-Tortarolo, “there’s been basically no production of jalapeños” due to the harsh climate, an issue, he added, that could persist the remainder of the year.

“This case is very poignant because it shows how an extreme weather event — that has been fueled by climate change — results in major disruptions,” Murray-Tortarolo, of the National Autonomous University of Mexico’s Institute for Ecosystem and Sustainability Research, told the Washington Post.

Nassau Candy, a food distributor headquartered in NY, has seen its supply of Huy Fong Foods sriracha dwindle. In fact, customer support and sales specialist Jennifer Wunderlich said it’s been “months and months” since the pantry staple has been in stock, she told the outlet.

To combat a potential shortage, Nassau Candy has stockpiled sriracha from competing brands, which are “doing really well,” although they could soon face the same fate as droughts continue, experts posit.

The solution is not as simple as substituting its holy grail ingredients. Swapping the red winter jalapeños, of which Huy Fong Foods uses 50,000 tons annually, for another kind of pepper will result in a different taste.

“The problem with this sauce is that when companies have tried to make it with other types of jalapeños, it just doesn’t have the same flavor and consumers don’t like it,” said Murray-Tortarolo.

The peppers that give sriracha its fiery red hue and addictive bite come from the same plant as the green jalapeños that typically accompany a heaping platter of nachos — the red variety is just matured and, therefore, a bit sweeter.

“Growing chili peppers or jalapeños is a tricky crop. You definitely need to have experience and know how to get the crop to harvest,” Stephanie Walker, an extension vegetable specialist, told USA Today.

The New Mexico State University professor, who previously worked in the food industry, explained that the processing plant would reject chili peppers that were more than 5% green because it would “dilute the color” and yield a different flavor.

“It’s a double-edged sword when the success of this particular sauce comes from a jalapeño that can only be produced in California or Mexico,” said Murray-Tortarolo.

Huy Fong Foods previously sourced the coveted peppers from a California supplier, Underwood Ranches, before the two companies became embroiled in a legal battle in 2017, forcing Huy Fong Foods to find a new supplier in Mexico, where climate has proven to be a challenging obstacle in recent years.

This isn’t the first time chili sauce giant has been plagued by inventory challenges due to pepper production.