The cause of the Sriracha shortage is revealed

Huy Fong Foods, makers of the Sriracha hot sauce with the iconic green cap and the rooster on the bottle, is warning of a shortage of its popular condiment this summer. That shortage can be attributed to weather conditions in a single region of Mexico, according to Donna Lam, executive operations officer for the company.

“It’s a crop thing and something that we can’t predict,” Lam told The Times on Thursday. “It’s been happening since last year and this year is a lot worse, and that’s what put us back.”

In a sign of how closely guarded and competitive the overall market is for Sriracha and Sriracha-like sauces, Lam declined to specify which region of Mexico is involved, or the name of the supplier. Still, the new information helps illuminate the state of panic sparked this week after word of the looming shortage spread to the public.

Huy Fong Foods goes through about 50,000 tons of chiles a year, used to make its Sriracha, chile-garlic sauce and a sambal oelek. Lam said the Irwindale-based company sources chiles from multiple suppliers in different regions of Mexico, but she declined to specify them. The chiles are grown during fall and spring seasons.

Huy Fong Foods has frightened its fans before. In July 2020, the company sent an email to distributors, warning of a shortage of chile peppers. In April, it sent a similar email informing customers of an even more severe shortage in the coming months.

“Currently, due to weather conditions affecting the quality of chili peppers, we now face a more severe shortage of chili,” read a statement from Huy Fong Foods. “Unfortunately, this is out of our control and without this essential ingredient, we are unable to produce any of our products.”

The letter informed customers that the company would not be accepting any new orders until September and that customers who placed orders after April would be fulfilled after Labor Day.

Up until 2017, Huy Fong Foods sourced its chiles from Underwood Farms in Ventura County, but the two entities parted ways after a lawsuit. Huy Fong Foods founder David Tran afterward started receiving chiles from growers in Mexico, New Mexico and California.

At the moment, the company is only sourcing chiles from Mexico.

“We have several sources sometimes, and we don’t want them to know who each other are,” Lam said.

Some Los Angeles are bracing for the Sriracha shortage, hoping the news doesn’t prompt a run to restaurants on the hot sauce or hoarding.

At Pho Saigon Pearl restaurant on Fairfax Avenue in Beverly Grove, there is a bottle of Huy Fong Foods Sriracha on every table. It’s a condiment used to spice up the restaurant’s signature pho or to add a little spice to the bowls of vermicelli noodles with char-grilled pork.

“We are indeed scrambling to figure things out as we speak,” Phuong Hoang, Pho Saigon Pearl manager and co-owner, wrote in an email. “We didn’t want to panic and buy and hoard as we know other businesses need them too, but now that it’s made national news, we might need to. We don’t want it to become a toilet paper effect.”

The Sriracha deviled eggs are the second bestselling appetizer at Gulp restaurant and brew pub in Playa Vista. The sauce is mixed into the deviled egg yolk filling as well as drizzled on the plate. It also appears on the Buffalo chicken sliders and as a frequently requested condiment with eggs at brunch.

According to manager Chris Sessa, the restaurant has about 20 bottles at the moment, but said his chef goes through six to 10 bottles a week.

“Right now it’s not impacting us, but if they completely have a shortage for a couple of months, it’s going to impact everyone,” Sessa said. “I’ll try to see if we can find something similar but if it doesn’t match the flavor, we’ll probably have to pull the eggs.”

According to Lam, all hope is not lost. The shortage isn’t expected to be permanent. Lam said the supply was at a “very reduced amount” but not totally wiped out.

“We are just hoping it will start flowing from a different region,” she said. “We are still working to resolve this issue.”

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