Sriracha shortage is taking away some of the spice in life
A fixture at Vietnamese restaurants, sriracha sauce can spice up pho with a puff of heat. It’s the star ingredient in the spicy mayonnaise that zigzags in countless sushi rolls, and it even inspires a group of fans to dress up for Halloween each year as a red plastic squeeze bottle with a green cap. tree.
But this year, a shortage of red jalapeños has threatened everything for sriracha, a beloved condiment made from ripe yellow peppers from Mexico and seasoned with vinegar, salt, sugar and garlic.
Huy Fong Foods, an Irwindale, California-based company that makes one of the most popular sriracha sauces in the world, confirmed that it is experiencing an “unprecedented shortage” affecting it. to all chili products, including chili garlic. sauce and sambal oelek.
In an emailed statement, a company representative said that the problem stemmed from “a number of spiraling events, including unexpected crop loss from the spring chili harvest.” Representatives of Huy Fong Foods generally make 100 million pounds of chiles per year.
The company heralded the shortage of sriracha in a letter to customers in April notifying that unfavorable weather conditions had resulted in a “severe shortage” of chili peppers. It said that all orders after mid-April will be paused until September.
“Unfortunately, this is beyond our control and without this essential ingredient we would not be able to manufacture any of our products,” the company wrote.
Guillermo Murray-Tortarolo, a climate researcher, said a persistent drought this year in Mexico has hampered irrigation and caused “spectacularly low yields” for red peppers, which are mainly grown. weak in 4 northern states of the country in the first 4 months of the year. Research at the National Autonomous University of Mexico.
Mr. Murray-Tortarolo said that climate change is a possible factor in the drought, adding that drought is likely to increase and cause production supply problems in the future and increase costs for customers.
In a 2013 documentary titled “Sriracha,” Huy Fong Foods founder David Tran describes the enduring popularity of sriracha and how he started it all.
After the Vietnam War ended in 1975, Mr. Tran went to Los Angeles, where he decided to make sriracha, a sauce believed to have been invented by a Thai woman named Thanom Chakkapak. By 1980, he was making sauces and deliveries in his blue Chevy van. In the decades that followed, interest in sriracha exploded, Tran said in the documentary.
Severe weather in the United States
“For the past 30 years, the economy has had ups and downs, for me, I don’t feel anything,” said Mr. Tran. “Every day, every month, the volume goes up.” In 2013, the company produced 70,000 bottles of the sauce a day from red jalapeño peppers, he said.
Now, squeeze bottles are a prized item for panicked customers clearing grocery store aisles and stocking up on the last of their inventory.
Joyce Park, a longtime sriracha fan living in Seattle, said she picks up bottles whenever she sees them at the store, a case she describes as increasingly rare. Ms. Park had hoped to marinate the meat in sriracha for her upcoming backyard barbecue wedding. She said she could make spiced chicken instead w/ Tajín, a Mexican chili salt product.
“I only have three such bottles. What am I going to do?” said Ms. Park, 53. “It’s an emergency but hopefully there will be other spicy foods.”
On Twitter, others have posted pictures of hopeful expeditions in search of sriracha. Some of those who were unsuccessful said they had to purchase alternative brands of sriracha.
Friends warned Lurene Kelley, 51, of Memphis, Tenn., about the spicy condiment. For a decade, she said, she was known for garnishing “pretty much anything savory” with sriracha.
It’s not just the sriracha she’s worried about, but also sambal oelek, a pure chili sauce also sold by Huy Fong Foods.
“I don’t even know how to eat a Vietnamese spring roll without that dipping sauce!” Miss Kelley exclaimed. “Now, it’s a food crisis.”
Restaurants say they are also feeling the shortage.
Hanoi House, a Vietnamese restaurant in New York City’s East Village, uses sambal oelek to make some of its sauces. Sara Leveen, co-owner of Hanoi House, said that when the restaurant’s agent sold out of sambal oelek in recent days, the restaurant had to collect a small amount from a number of retail stores.
“We were able to assemble a small amount of stock that could last for several weeks,” Ms. Leveen said. “Then we’ll go from there.”
Other companies, such as Mother-in-Law’s Kimchi, which also use Mexican peppers for their products, said they were bracing for the impact.
“It hasn’t reached a smaller supplier like me yet but I think it just means it’s coming,” said Lauryn Chun, who founded Mother-in-Law’s Kimchi in New York City.
The shortage of chili peppers is also another obstacle in the two-year supply chain crisis, Ms. Chun added.
“There has been an increase in the price of every single thing that goes into production of anything over the past two years,” she said.
As for what the future holds, Huy Fong Foods said in a statement that it is hoping for a “bumpy autumn”.
Kirsten Noyesresearch contributions.