The threat of Sriracha apocalypse in 2014 that (thankfully) passed us was a friendly reminder of just how much the world rallies behind Huy Fong’s signature chili sauce, which has turned the Southeast Asian condiment—popular in both Thailand and Vietnam—into a household name in the U.S.
Founder David Tran’s product has gained a cult-like following, becoming a staple alongside ketchup and mustard, and even inspiring powerhouse brands like Tabasco and Trader Joe’s to feebly attempt their own versions. When asked what plans Tran has for the future of his sriracha, he states he only hopes that his product will become spicier and spicier.
While we know what makes the sauce taste so special, the company’s backstory is also the stuff of legend.
From secret Zodiac signs to unorthodox marketing, here are 10 interesting facts you didn’t know about Sriracha.
1. The name Huy Fong comes from the ship that sailed the founder to America.
Sriracha founder David Tran emigrated to Hong Kong from his home country of Vietnam back in the 1980s. Tran left his country with nothing but a few jars of his original sriracha recipe packed in Gerber baby food jars before boarding the Huy Fong ship. The experience inspired Tran to name his product Huy Fong as a reminder of his roots.
2. The chiles get spicier every year.
While the recipe for Sriracha hasn’t changed since David Tran boarded the Huy Fong ship, the chiles used to make the sauce have gotten progressively spicier. The chiles are harvested from the same farm only once a year so Huy Fong can monitor the quality of the ingredients.
3. The rooster on the bottle is the zodiac sign of the founder.
David Tran crafted the rooster into one of the most identifiable mascots on shelves today. The rooster symbolizes Tran’s zodiac sign, which conveys accuracy and precision.
4. Huy Fong produces more than a ton of Sriracha every hour.
Once the chiles are shipped from the farm, the Sriracha-making process begins within three to four hours after delivery. The chiles provide a year’s worth of ingredients, allowing the company to make 3,000 bottles an hour and about 200 tons per week. The millions of bottles are made and shipped out of Huy Fong’s only industrial plant in Irwindale, CA. The plant is able to crank out so much sauce that, in 2014, residents grew annoyed with the acrid smell of garlic that the sauce produced.
5. The name “Sriracha” comes from a town in Thailand called Sri Racha.
Tran named his sweet and spicy sauce after a seaside town in Thailand named Sri Racha. While Sriracha has now become the most popular hot sauce in the world, the town it’s named after is very small, with a population of only 19,221.
6. The company does not have an advertising department.
Unlike many of today’s brand-name products, the company has been able to reach peak levels of success without the use of an advertising company. Tran allows his sauce to speak for itself.
7. Sriracha can make you feel like you’re high.
Ever wondered why you can never seem to get enough of Sriracha’s intense flavor? Turns out that when the body ingests a pepper, capsaicin and dihydrocapsaicin, the elements in a chili pepper that make the pepper spicy, trick the nervous system into believing you’ve touched something extremely hot. In an attempt to combat this feeling, the brain releases endorphins, which give the body a natural high through its pain-numbing, morphine-like sensation.
8. The company sells more than 20 million bottles a year worldwide, making over one billion dollars in sales annually.
With only one plant and one chili harvest per year, Huy Fong is somehow able to provide millions of bottles to households across the globe. The brand has the process of hot sauce production down to a science, with a maximum production capacity of 18,000 bottles an hour. Tran notes that every year, the company increases production by 20%.
9. The company has its own snack line.
David Tran firmly believes that Sriracha tastes good on everything—and right he is. Various companies have been keen on collaborating. Products range from Sriracha-flavored popcorn to Sriracha-flavored Lay’s. There’s even a line of portable Sriracha key-chain bottles for when you need to take a kick of spice on the go.
10. The green cap is supposed to mimic the appearance of a chili.
The green cap on the top of each Sriracha bottle is meant to represent the green stem of a chili pepper. Tran explains that when the stem becomes yellow or dark, it means that the pepper is not fresh. Thus, the packaging of each Sriracha bottle is alluding the process that ensures each bottle is made with only the freshest of ingredients.