Huy Fong sriracha is almost impossible to find. Have we already moved on?


“After reevaluating our supply of chilli, we have determined that it is too green to proceed with production as it is affecting the colour of the product,” Huy Fong told customers in a letter published online.

A local distributor of Huy Fong products, who did not wish to be named, confirmed he had received the same letter. He doesn’t expect Australia to get Huy Fong products until October or November, given the backlog of global demand and the extent of the shortage.

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It’s far from the first time Huy Fong’s production has been interrupted; sriracha lovers struggled during 2022 and 2023 as drought in Mexico impacted red jalapeno crops, which are more labour-intensive and need to be de-stemmed by hand. The shortage pushed prices up to exorbitant levels as high as US$180 a bottle online in some instances.

Some customers have also complained that the taste profile has changed. And that’s because it probably has; for decades, Huy Fong had a long-running relationship with a key jalapeno grower Underwood Ranches – until 2016, when Huy Fong accused it of overcharging the company.

Underwood countersued and won; Huy Fong was forced to cough up US$25 million. (Underwood Ranges has since launched their own hot sauce.)

As the shortage stretches on, local restaurants have had to find alternatives – and producers are cheering the gap in the market.

Minh Nguyen, the managing director of Madame Nhu, a small chain of Sydney-based pho restaurants that have been around for nearly two decades, said they hadn’t used Huy Fong’s sriracha for two years.

Pho restaurant Madame Nhu.

Pho restaurant Madame Nhu.

They’re not alone. Nguyen said “a lot” of Vietnamese restaurants in Australia don’t use Huy Fong any more. “Since we found it had [reached] icon status around the world, the price is almost unsustainable for a restaurant,” he said.

If it wasn’t for the price, Madame Nhu might keep using the brand, which Nguyen grew up eating. “As a brand, they sort of represent who we are as Vietnamese immigrants into a Western country … there’s a lot of sentimental value with that brand,” he said.

Madame Nhu now uses a Chinese brand of chilli oil, Koon Yick Wah Kee, which Nguyen says offers a point of difference for consumers. “Since [Huy Fong has] become so popular, it’s almost mainstream.”

A packer grabs bottles of sriracha for packing at a Huy Fong facility.

A packer grabs bottles of sriracha for packing at a Huy Fong facility.Credit: Getty

Younger customers are increasingly favouring an up-and-coming sauce by a Vietnamese brand, Chin-Su, which he says has a very different texture to sriracha. Could it eventually take the crown as the new cult favourite?

“I doubt that. Huy Fong is so established,” Nguyen said.

Meanwhile, local producers have found that Huy Fong’s absence has put some wind in their sails.

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Veteran Australian sauce maker Emelia Prendergast, 74, started her business by whipping up condiments in her kitchen 25 years ago. Now with dozens of award-winning products manufactured in Victorian town of Kyneton, she insists Australian-sourced ingredients and all-natural recipes are what Australians really want – and are prepared to pay for.

A 482 gram bottle of Huy Fong sriracha retails for $7.50 at IGA – Prendergast’s version is $21 for a 500ml jar.

“They are half the price of what we are, yet we can’t keep up because ours is a superior product,” Prendergast said.

The Victorian business owner is also keen to point out that her products are free of preservatives, unlike Huy Fong sriracha which contains potassium sorbate and sodium bisulfite. She believes this, and the fact that her product is Australian, will see her keep any customers that might have once preferred Huy Fong.

“We need to look at home, meaning Australia,” she said. “I think we’ve been fobbed off and brainwashed with the stuff coming in from overseas that we’ve become so used to it, we’re not even taking the damn time to have a look at what we’re consuming.”

“There’s no shortage of sriracha.”

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