NEW YORK (AP) — It's not just you. Sriracha is hard to come by these days — at least for one popular brand.
The shortage of Huy Fong Foods' Sriracha, the beloved red hot sauce packaged in those green-capped bottles, isn't new — with the company pointing to a scarcity of chile pepper supply for several years now. And as frustrated fans continue to face store shelves missing the Huy Fong name, third-party resellers are punching up prices.
Huy Fong Sriracha, which used to go for under $5 or $10 a bottle, is now selling for shocking amounts in some listings posted to sites with vast third-party marketplaces — including Amazon, eBay and Walmart. Many are simply sold out.
For those still in stock, prices range depending where you look. As of Thursday morning, for example, ads for a single 17-ounce bottle on eBay stretched from around $20 to a whopping $150 — contrasting significantly from the price tags of other hot sauce brands, who don't appear to have the same level of supply troubles.
Huy Fong told The Associated Press this week that it continues to be beset by shortages of raw materials, echoing a similar scarcity last year when the company temporarily suspended sales of Sriracha and other popular products like Chili Garlic and Sambal Oelek.
Huy Fong said Wednesday that “limited production" resumed recently, although the California company didn't specify by how much or provide an estimate of when it believes suppliers will be able to deliver an adequate number of peppers.
“Because we do not sell directly to retail/market levels, we cannot determine when the product will hit 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.”
Huy Fong's troubles with chile supply aren't new. When the company suspended sales last year, it pointed to a 2020 email warning of a chile pepper shortage, noting that a lack of supply had become more severe due to recent weather conditions.
“Last year (Huy Fong) just couldn’t get the jalapeños that they needed,” Walker, who also specializes in chile pepper breeding, said — noting the contrast to other brands' supply. “It really does come down to relations that individual processors have with their grower base.”
She added that it looks like this year will be a strong season for jalapeño and other chile growth in the region.
The erosion of available supplies has rocked the prices of Huy Fong Sriracha that is still available. In many places, the bottles are simply sold out — giving leverage to resellers listing the now hard-to-find and highly sought-after product.
Another market force at play is consumer behavior, in this case, hoarding. The panic around potentially losing access to a desired product leads many people to buy more than they would typically need, — much like what was 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 in consumer decision-making. “You have an increase in demand for the product, on top of these supply shocks. And prices have really nowhere to go but up.”
Huy Fong, which was founded decades ago by David Tran, currently sources its chile peppers 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 following a financial dispute. Two years later, a jury determined that Huy Fong breached its contract with Underwood Ranches and also committed fraud — awarding Underwood $23.3 million.
Underwood Ranches, which sells its own Sriracha sauce, has not had trouble getting jalapeños from Mexico, owner Craig Underwood told The New York Times this week — while also pointing to “huge demand for our product from Huy Fong's former customers.” The Associated Press reached out to Underwood for further comment on Thursday.
There's a myriad of hot sauces, including other Sriracha-style products, that remain easy to find at reasonable prices. Tabasco, for example, has created a page dedicated to helping customers find nearby stores that sell its brand of Sriracha.
There are a few possible explanations for this, experts say. Again, some speculate that Huy Fong may have issues with its current chile suppliers. Other brands could also use different pepper variants and source from farms that haven't been hit as hard. Some might also be in a position to tinker with recipes — but perfecting sauces take a long time, as would finding a new variant, experts say.
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