Does Your Hot Sauce Taste Any Different These Days?
Huy Fong Foods’ Sriracha sauce is now being made with different peppers, due to a heated battle with a grower.
Huy Fong Foods’ Sriracha sauce — the iconic red sauce, the proud rooster on the label, the jaunty green squirt top — is such a staple of restaurant tables and kitchen pantries, most of us probably take it for granted that it will always be there and just the same. But change has come to the hot sauce we all know and love and use to liven up everything from soup to scrambled eggs: a tweak in the recipe.
Here’s why: The specialty jalapeno chili peppers Huy Fong Foods has been using in its hot sauce since 1988 were supplied by a single grower — Underwood Ranches, in Ventura County, California — are now no longer available to the Irwindale, California, Sriracha sauce manufacturer, thanks to a fiery dispute that is raging between the two companies.
“In 2017, Underwood Ranches, who had made high profits with its relationship with HF, decided to stop growing chili peppers for HF without any warning,” Huy Fong Foods alleged in March in an Instagram post.
Huy Fong Foods filed suit against Underwood Ranches in 2017, saying the grower owed Huy Fong $1.46 million plus interest because it had failed to refund an overpayment, according to a local report in the San Gabriel Valley Tribune. Underwood maintains it was the party that has been wronged — that Huy Fong changed the terms of the entities’ longstanding agreement — and responded with its own countersuit, claiming it was owed $20 million in business losses due to the partnership ending. In 2018, as the legal standoff heated up, Underwood also launched its own rival Sriracha sauce. A trial is currently underway in a Ventura courtroom.
Meanwhile, on social media, everyone is pointing fingers and everyone else. Underwood has trademarked the phrase “The Pepper Makes the Product,” boasting on Twitter, “Our peppers are the key ingredients to our spicy products … Without Underwood’s pepper, it’s just another condiment.”
Huy Fong, for its part, has griped, “Underwood expects HF to pay back the ‘golden goose’ that they themselves killed.”
Or whatever, rooster, maybe. But in any event, the peppers in Huy Fong’s Sriracha sauce now come from a variety of other growers, according to information that has emerged at trial.
Sriracha fans, do you taste a difference?