Vietnamese refugee David Tran, who created Sriracha, a wildly popular spicy red Asian chili sauce, is facing competition from some big food manufacturers. Tran, who operates his family’s Huy Fong Foods business from Southern California, failed to trademark the iconic condiment, leaving the door open for corporations such as Heinz, Frito-Lay, Subway, and Jack in the Box to capitalize on his product’s popularity by creating products with “Sriracha” in the name.
Sriracha sauces have helped set U.S. hot sauce sales on fire. The market has grown from an estimated $229 million in 2000 to $608 million in 2014.
Tran says he doesn’t see this as a missed opportunity. Rather, he views it as “free advertising.” And sales of his Sriracha product have increased by double digits in the last two years. Tran has signed agreements with a handful of specialty food producers (including a brewery and a gourmet popcorn company) for use of his Sriracha in their products. Tran has trademarked his rooster logo and the product’s distinctive bottle, which includes a green cap.
“Tony Simmons, chief executive of the McIlhenny Co., makers of Tabasco, said Tran’s Sriracha sauce was the “gold standard.”
Fans stand by the original Sriracha product. Randy Clemens, who has authored two cookbooks featuring Tran’s Sriracha, says:
“What makes the original so great is that it’s bold and kicks you in the face.”
And on behalf of Huy Fong Foods, Donna Lam told the Los Angeles Times:
“If anything, we are proud we started the Sriracha craze.”