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TURNING UP THE HEAT

Everything we know about the Sriracha shortage

Bottles of Sriracha
REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson
  • Clarisa Diaz
By Clarisa Diaz

Things Reporter

Published Last updated

Huy Fong Foods Inc. has halted production of Sriracha due to an ongoing chili pepper shortage made worse this spring. Hot sauce lovers will have to go without new bottles for months, including Sriracha, Chili Garlic, and Sambal Oelek.

The company’s pepper inventory had been dropping since July 2020 because of drought. Now Huy Fong faces a more severe supply crisis and has advised businesses (pdf) not to promise any of its products to customers unless they already have them in stock.

Grocery stores are already selling out of Sriracha as people stock up. “We didn’t get Sriracha in our last shipment. People are definitely buying more than usual,” said Khanh Nguyen manager at Sunrise Mart in midtown Manhattan. The store has about 15 bottles left from their previous shipment at the time of writing.

The price of hot sauce

The US Bureau of Labor Statistics does not track hot sauces specifically, which are included under “sauces and gravies.” Prices for the category have increased by 6.4% since the beginning of the year.

Where Sriracha chili peppers come from, and why they’re gone

Huy Fong produces 20 million bottles of Sriracha per year, requiring about 100 million pounds of peppers. The type of pepper that makes the Sriracha base is a red jalapeño hybrid that is only in season for four months of the year. The chili peppers are sourced from Mexico, California, and New Mexico—all of which are experiencing drought conditions. Drought is covering more than half of Mexico, with some cities limiting water access to six hours a day. The country has recorded its worst droughts in recent years.

The impacts of the Sriracha shortage on businesses

The unprecedented shortage could impact other hot sauce companies, and restaurants may have to offer Sriracha alternatives this summer. Brady’s Sushi and Hibachi restaurant in Richmond, Kentucky said it may no longer offer free Sriracha and limit its spicy rolls.

Hot sauce companies that make small batches might be able to weather the pepper shortage. “I source locally as often as possible and use a wide array of peppers,” said Scott Zalkind, owner of Lucky Dog Hot Sauce in California. Zalkind says his company needs far fewer peppers than a giant like Huy Fong, with sales of  $150 million a year.

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