Spice lovers, it’s time to stock up. Sriracha is the next pantry item to fall victim to supply chain shortages.
Huy Fong Foods Inc. — the Irwindale maker of one of the nation’s most popular condiments — has been forced to suspend production of its iconic spicy sauces.
The company confirmed Wednesday that an “unprecedented” shortage of chili peppers had affected the production line that churns out Sriracha Hot Chili Sauce, Chili Garlic and Sambal Oelek.
Representatives with the company declined an interview but said via email Thursday that it was “endeavoring to resolve this issue.”
“Several spiraling events, including unexpected crop failure from the spring chili harvest,” have disrupted manufacturing, the company said.
Sriracha was created in 1980 by Chinese immigrant David Tran. The spicy red concoction has become ubiquitous, often found on restaurant tables and sold at myriad grocery stores and mega-retailers including Target and Walmart.
An April letter from the company to buyers of the products, dated April this year, recently came to light online.
“Currently, due to weather conditions affecting the quality of chili peppers, we now face a more severe shortage of chili,” the letter reads. “Unfortunately, this is out of our control and without this essential ingredient we are unable to produce any of our products.”
The company asked its vendors to be careful what it promised to customers “unless you have the product in stock.”
At the same time, the company is scrambling to keep its employees on the payroll.
Tran is “trying his best to keep all of his employees and has not laid off any Huy Fong workers of about 100, in anticipation of any chili that might come in,” the company’s email reads.
Huy Fong Foods said it uses some 50,000 tons of chili annually, most of which are sourced from Mexico.
Chili-heads didn’t take the shortage news lightly on social media, with some lamenting the “worst news of the year” and the “end of days.” Others said they were planning to bulk buy Huy Fong’s sauces in case shelves ran empty.
Extreme weather, pandemic supply-chain snarls and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine have all taken their toll on food production this year. Sriracha is just the latest item on a growing list of foods in short supply around the world, which includes chicken, popcorn, salami and fries.
Sharokina Shams, a spokeswoman for the California Restaurant Association, said the Sriracha shortage is one more piece of bad news for the restaurant industry.
“Restaurants over the past couple of years have already faced supply issues due to backups in the supply chain, and inflation has made costs go up on top of that,” she said. “This is just one more challenge for restaurants looking to put this product in front of their customers.”
The Irwindale production line hasn’t drawn this much attention since the company was sued over odors emanating from the plant in 2013. Nearby residents complained the smell was causing headaches, heartburn and watery eyesight.
The maker of popular hot chili sauce made a banner reading, “No tear gas made here,” and placed it outside the North Azusa Canyon Road factory.
The South Coast Air Quality Management District did not find evidence of a harmful air quality violation.
Lawsuits filed by the city and the company over the matter all were subsequently dropped.
As for the chili shortage, Huy Fong Foods reps asked for patience.
“We hope for a fruitful fall season and thank our customers for their patience and continued support during this difficult time,” the company said.
Bloomberg and staff writers with the Southern California News Group contributed to this report.