The untold story of Sriracha

Photo by Flickr user Dov Harrington [idovermani], used under a Creative Commons license (CC BY 2.0)

Just days after I caught a reference to “rooster sauce” on Orange is the New Black*, I happily came across this recent story by Roberto A. Ferdman at Quartz (reposted at HuffPost) about Sriracha, the popular hot sauce made in California. As Ferdman begins,

If David Tran were a more conventional CEO, he would be a fixture at conferences, a darling of magazine profiles, and a subject of case studies in the Harvard Business Review. Sriracha hot sauce, made by Huy Fong Foods, which Tran founded 33 years ago in Los Angeles, is one of the coolest brands in town. There are entire cookbooks written to celebrate Sriracha’s versatility; memorabilia ranging from iPhone covers to t-shirts and all sorts of other swag; a documentary in the works to chronicle its rise; and innumerable imitators. Sriracha sales last year reached some 20 million bottles to the tune of $60 million dollars, percentage sales growth is in the double digits each year, and it does all this without spending a cent on advertising.

Yet Tran shuns publicity, professes not to care about profits, hardly knows where his sauces are sold, and probably leaves millions of dollars on the table every year. His dream, Tran tells Quartz, “was never to become a billionaire.” It is “to make enough fresh chili sauce so that everyone who wants Huy Fong can have it. Nothing more.”

It’s a fascinating look at a unique corner of the modern food system and well worth a read, whether you love the rooster or not. Find the full article here.


* OITNB Season 1, Episode 7, time mark ˜6:00, Tasha aka ‘Taystee’ to Mr. Healy: “The hot sauce in the commissary is bullsh*t. We want that Thailand sauce, the one with the rooster on it.”


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