skip to main content

Listen

Read

Watch

Schedules

Programs

Events

Give

Account

Donation Heart Ribbon

Sriracha Maker Says Factory Will Remain In California

Sriracha hot sauce maker Huy Fong Foods has been tussling with the city council of Irwindale, Calif., near Los Angeles, for months now over whether the factory emits spicy smells that harm the neighbors. There's been legal action and suggested fixes, but also pleas from other cities for the company to consider moving there.

Sriracha hot sauce is produced by Southern California-based Huy Fong Foods.

David Tran, the CEO of Huy Fong, says he escaped from Vietnam almost 35 years ago to be free of the communist government there and its many intrusions.

"Today, I feel almost the same. Even now, we live in [the] U.S.A., and my feeling, the government, not a big difference," Tran says.

Irwindale's city attorney, Fred Galante, says the city loves having the cult condiment factory, but must pay attention to the health of residents.

"It's difficult to tell a resident that suffers from asthma or their child that suffers from asthma 'sorry, we do not want to be considered business-unfriendly; just keep your child indoors,' " Galante says.

It's a tough call, because Sriracha is a glamorous commodity. Bon Appetit named it one of its favorite foods last year. Chili-heads began to hoard it when it looked like Huy Fong might be forced to stop making it.

Food writer Andrea Nguyen says Huy Fong Sriracha appeals to a certain palate.

"For people who are seeking to turn their bland food into bold food very quickly, the Huy Fong stuff will definitely do it," Nguyen says.

The Huy Fong stuff is now an $80 million business, made in a 600,000 square foot plant.

Tran designed the plant to be self sufficient. The peppers are ground here and stored in huge plastic tubs manufactured on site. The sauce is mixed and bottled on site. Even the machines are repaired on site.

Sitting in his conference room, where a credenza displays the three chili sauces Huy Fong makes, David Tran refers to the plant he's designed to his specifications as his "loved one."

And he's wounded that Irwindale's government is finding his loved one not so attractive anymore. But there are other suitors. Since the rumble with Irwindale, almost two dozen cities have urged Tran to relocate to their part of the country. For a while, he actually considered it.

City attorney Fred Galante says the problem can be fixed and he hopes it doesn't come to a move.

"We continue to try to work this out informally," he says.

And after thinking it over, Tran has decided to stay in his Irwindale factory. He's lived in California for more than 30 years, and he says he's not planning to move.

But he might open another site, outside Southern California. An additional location would allow him to keep up with the ever-growing demand for Sriracha, and develop an added source for peppers, in case climate change threatens his current supply.

There is also the allure of less regulation.

On Monday, Texas State Rep. Jason Villalba is visiting with a contingent of business and agricultural people, to urge David Tran to consider expanding to the Lone Star state.

Soon they will be countered by Rep. Tony Cardenas, who'd like to keep the business in Southern California, if not his San Fernando Valley district — all promising to do right by David Tran's loved one.

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/

Comments

Avatar for user 'Eddie89'

Eddie89 | May 12, 2014 at 8:09 a.m. ― 4 months, 1 week ago

Hooray! My husband and I LOVE your Sriracha sauce and we love that it's made in California and will continue to be made in California!

We too LOVE living in California and we hope that common sense and compromise will keep this wonderful company and its products in California!

( | suggest removal )

Avatar for user 'CaliforniaDefender'

CaliforniaDefender | May 12, 2014 at 12:26 p.m. ― 4 months, 1 week ago

David Tran, the CEO of Huy Fong, says he escaped from Vietnam almost 35 years ago to be free of the communist government there and its many intrusions.

"Today, I feel almost the same. Even now, we live in [the] U.S.A., and my feeling, the government, not a big difference," Tran says.

===

Wow! There you have it!

Democrats and Republicans have created a government that reminds refugees of the oppressive regimes that caused them to flee in the first place.

( | suggest removal )

Avatar for user 'wallallison'

wallallison | May 12, 2014 at 10:19 p.m. ― 4 months, 1 week ago

a gov't that reminds him of communist vietnam - wake up america, wake up!

( | suggest removal )