Sriracha has taken our taste buds hostage. Every single year, the company behind the beloved hot sauce, Huy Fong Foods, sees at least a 20% business increase.
The sauce of sun-ripened chilies, garlic, and sugar, packaged in a convenient squeeze bottle, adds spice to almost anything: soups, sauces, pastas, pizzas, hot dogs, hamburgers, and chowmein, just to name a few.
Even more, Sriracha embodies hipness (much to the dismay of diehard fans.) If you use it, you love it. And if you don’t, you’ll probably buy a red, rooster sweatshirt anyway and pretend.
The red sauce has also made its fair share of headlines recently, after neighbours complained about odours emanating from the factory. As a result, the state health department temporarily halted shipping to implement additional safety measures.
Even earlier though, Griffin Hammond, a filmmaker and Sriracha fan himself, found the company’s success a bit mysterious. So he launched a Kickstarter campaign to create a documentary about the spicy condiment — and America’s obsession with it.
He reached his goal and then some. Last month, “Sriracha: A Documentary” by Griffin Hammond debuted. Do yourself a favour and splurge on $US5 to download the full version.
These GIFs from Hammond’s recent flick show you how Sriracha goes from the fields to the grocery store shelves.
Just one company, Underwood Ranches in Camarillo, Cali., grows the chiles used to make Sriracha. And Huy Fong Foods only buys from them. Below, workers dump hand-picked chiles into crates.
Equipment does some of the work though. This year, the farm will grow 48,000 tons of peppers, according to owner Craig Underwood.
That would take up a field about the size of lower Manhattan, south of Houston Street.
After sorting, a conveyer belt hoists the peppers onto trucks. The farm sends about 30 semis to Huy Fong Foods daily, Underwood said.
Vietnamese refugee David Tran founded Huy Fong Foods, located in Rosemead, Cali.
He named the company after the ship that brought him to America.
Once the chiles leave the truck, processing starts.
They look like red quicksand funelling into factory machines.
First, a windmill-like device washes the chiles, removing any dirt or chemicals.
Then, they enter a grinder.
After that, industrial, blue barrels store the chile-mash.
Later, the mixture gets a dose of garlic and sugar. Below, the sauce cooks while churning.
Then, packaging begins. The old factory (not shown) could produce about 70,000 bottles daily. Huy Fong Foods’ new facility, however, is 2.5 times the size and yields about 18,000 daily — on one line.
Factory machines also take care of the the final touch, those signature green caps.
As the bottles leave the conveyer belt, workers package them, twelve to each box.
Aside from the 17- and 28-ounce bottles, the company plans to sell 9-ounce and gallon-sized containers too, according to Tran.
Heavy machinery transports large orders. Huy Fong Foods’ new factory more than doubles the old one in size.
Surprisingly, the company doesn’t advertise for any product. Fans, however, often pick up the slack. This dancing chicken comes from a YouTube video called “Sriracha Rap.”
Still, Huy Fong Foods has no trouble selling the special sauce. “The past 30 years, the economics sometimes up and down. For me, I feel nothing. Every day, every month, the volume increase,” Tran said.
Most importantly, Tran wants to keep the price low for his “chile friends.”
And they use it on almost everything.
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