Originally invented for use in Pho soup and other traditional Vietnamese foods, Sriracha sauce has since infiltrated much of the food industry due to its endless versatility and compatibility with many different types of food such as noodles, pizza, hamburgers, etc.
“My American dream was never to become a billionaire. We started this because we like fresh, spicy chili sauce.” said Huy Fong Foods founder David Tran to The Los Angeles Times in 2013.
Huy Fong Foods is a hot sauce company based in Irwindale, California by founder David Tran. It is well known for its Sriracha sauce. Sriracha is a hot sauce made from a paste of chili peppers, distilled vinegar, garlic, sugar, and salt. It is sometimes referred to as “rooster sauce” due to the image of a rooster on the bottle. The rooster logo comes from the fact that Tran was born in the Year of the Rooster on the Vietnamese zodiac.
Tran’s hot chili sauce, Sriracha, has become so popular over the last several years, generating millions of dollars. More incredible than the meteoric success of Huy Fong Foods and its signature hot sauce is the story of Tran, his humble beginnings, and his dream to create and sell simple, quality products.
The Tran family business, staffed by eight members of the family, started in the 1970s in Vietnam. Tran filled recycled glass baby food jars with his first successful hot sauce called Pepper Saté. He would deliver this sauce to the local restaurant via bicycle. Unfortunately, Tran and his family had to flee his country when North Vietnam took power in the late 1970s. They settled down in Los Angeles, USA.
Starting up the family business once again, Tran officially named his company Huy Fong Foods. The name was inspired by the freighter that brought him and his family to safety. He set up shop in a small 5,000 square foot building in Los Angeles, making his previously successful Pepper Saté sauce, as well as Sambal Oelek, Chili Garlic, and Sambal Badjak sauces. All of his sauces were made using authentic ingredients from eastern Thailand. Tran later developed what would be his signature sauce, the Sriracha sauce. He wanted to make this a fresh, new sauce that would meet his standards of taste and match well with his cuisine. It didn’t take long for Sriracha to become one of the best-loved condiments in the states!
Similar to the way he started out in Vietnam, Tran sold his sauces to local restaurants, delivering them himself by van every day. Tran decided to revamp his signature sauce and emerge with new Sriracha flavors such as Chili Garlic and Sambal Oelek.
Tran takes pride in never having to advertise his products. The sauces were simply made popular by word of mouth or having simply tasted it at a restaurant. He purchased a 68,000 square foot facility in Rosemead, California, but due popular demand he needed to upgrade his space to a second 170,000 square foot building nearby. Demand exponentially increased in the late 2000s when celebrity chef David Chang used Sriracha sauce on the menu of his acclaimed New York restaurant Momofuku Noodle Bar.
This new wave of popularity prompted Tran to move the company again. He purchased a state-of-the-art facility in Irwindale, California in 2013. However, Huy Fong’s welcome was short-lived when the Irwindale City Council filed a lawsuit against the company. Many residents complained headaches, heartburn, and watery eyes most likely due to the spicy fumes emanating from the plant. After Tran made changes to the manufacturing process and air quality filtration system, the suit was dropped in 2014. The incident, rather than turning people off to the brand, garnered the company even more attention.
Huy Fong is poised for continued growth in the years ahead. The company reportedly generated over $60 million in 2014. Sales typically increase by 20% each year. While there is always competition from large brands such as Tabasco and Heinz, Tran is positive that Sriracha will continue to be a success for generations to come.