Do you have Sriracha? The price of a bottle of Huy Fong’s iconic hot sauce turns spicy due to tight supplies


It’s not just you. Sriracha is hard to find these days, at least for a popular brand.

He Shortage of Huy Fong Foods’ Sriracha, the beloved red hot sauce packed in those green-capped bottles, isn’t new: The company points to a several-year-old chili supply shortage. And as frustrated fans continue to brave store shelves without the Huy Fong name, third-party resellers are jacking up prices.

Huy Fong Sriracha, which used to be less than $5 or $10 a bottle, now sells for shocking amounts on some listings posted on sites with vast third-party marketplaces, including Amazon, eBay, and Walmart. Many are simply out of stock.

For those that are still in stock, prices vary depending on where you look. As of Thursday morning, for example, listings for a single 17-ounce bottle on eBay have ranged from around $20 to a whopping $150, which is in stark contrast to the price tags of other salsa brands. Spicy, they don’t seem to have the same level of supply issues.

Huy Fong told The Associated Press this week that he continues to be plagued by shortages of raw materials, echoing a similar shortage last year when the company suspended sales of Sriracha and other popular products such as Chili Garlic and Sambal Oelek.

Huy Fong said Wednesday that «limited production» has recently resumed, though the California company did not specify how much or provide an estimate for when it believes suppliers will be able to deliver an adequate number of peppers.

«Because we do not sell directly at retail/market levels, we cannot determine when the product will hit the shelves again and/or who currently has the product in stock,» Huy Fong said in a prepared statement. «We are grateful for your continued patience and understanding during this unprecedented inventory shortage.»

Some experts say the Huy Fong shortage is partly a consequence of climate change, pointing to extreme climate swings and droughts in Mexico and the US Southwest, where Huy Fong sources all of its chiles.

“The main culprit here is the shortage of its main ingredient, the red jalapeño pepper,” said David Ortega, a food economist and associate professor at Michigan State University. “And that is due to climate change and the mega-drought.”

These peppers are generally grown under irrigation, with a large amount of water drawn from the Colorado River, which has hit record low levels in recent years, Ortega said. The region has suffered from insufficient rainfall and reduced runoff from snowpack.

Huy Fong’s problems with the supply of chili are not new. When the company suspended sales last year, it pointed to a 2020 email warning about a chilli shortage, noting that the lack of supply had become more severe due to recent weather conditions.

But while climate change affects agriculture as a whole, it’s «not the whole story» of the current shortage of Huy Fong Sriracha, said Stephanie Walker, a vegetable extension specialist and professor at New Mexico State University. She speculates that Huy Fong may not have enough suppliers with different farmers, and may be looking to build relationships with new growers.

“Last year (Huy Fong) just couldn’t get the jalapenos they needed,” said Walker, who also specializes in growing chiles. He pointed out the contrast with the offer of other brands. «It really comes down to the relationships that individual processors have with their grower base.»

He added that it looks like this year will be a strong growing season for jalapeños and other chiles in the region.

Founded decades ago by David Tran, Huy Fong currently sources its chiles from various farms in California, New Mexico and Mexico.

Before sourcing from these farms, California-based Underwood Ranches was Huy Fong’s sole supplier for nearly 30 years. The partnership collapsed in 2017 after a financial dispute. Two years later, a jury found that Huy Fong breached his contract with Underwood Ranches and also committed fraud: awarding Underwood $23.3 million.

In a phone interview Thursday afternoon, Craig Underwood, owner of Underwood Ranches, disagreed with drought and climate change explanations for Huy Fong’s shortages, arguing that Tran «hasn’t rebuilt its supply chain.» the way I needed.»

According to Underwood, there has continued to be a steady supply of jalapeno peppers from Mexico. Underwood Ranches, which now sells its own brand of Sriracha, also started producing red jalapeno peppers again this year, in part due to a shortage of Huy Fong, he added.

“Demand for our product has increased quite dramatically,” Underwood said.

The erosion of available supplies from Huy Fong has shaken prices for the brand Sriracha that is still available. In many places, the bottles simply sold out, giving resellers an advantage who list the now hard-to-find and highly sought after product.

Another market force at play is consumer behavior, in this case, hoarding. Panic around the possibility of losing access to a desired product leads many people to buy more than they would normally need, as seen with toilet paper at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“People just stock up and that exacerbates the situation,” said Ortega, also an expert on consumer decision making. “You have an increase in demand for the product, on top of these supply shocks. And prices really have nowhere to go but up.”

There is a wide variety of hot sauces, including other Sriracha-style items, which remain easy to find at reasonable prices. Tabasco, for example, has created a page dedicated to helping customers find nearby stores that carry its brand of Sriracha, noting that it has been able to scale production to «meet most of the increased demand» for its sauce.

There are a few possible explanations for this, experts say. Some speculate that Huy Fong is having problems with its current chili suppliers. Other brands could also use different pepper variants and source from more farms. Some might also be in a position to tinker with the recipes, but perfecting sauces takes as long as finding a new variant, experts say.

“Growing the crop in an area less affected by extreme weather or growing new pepper variants that are more heat tolerant and require less water, if possible, would take years,” Richard Howells, supply chain expert at SAP. , wrote in a blog post earlier this week.

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