Sriracha Shelves Are Emptying — How Long Will the Shortage Last?
A few months ago Huy Fong Foods, the maker of the sriracha hot chili sauce sold in a clear plastic squeeze bottle with a bright green top, announced in a memo to its customers that they're suspending production of all of their products for the time being. But why, and for how long?
We dug into the reason behind the suspension of manufacturing Huy Fong Foods' sauce, and what sriracha's future looks like here in the U.S.
Why Did Huy Fong Foods Stop Making Sriracha?
In its memo dated April 19, 2022, Huy Fong Foods shared, "Currently, due to weather conditions affecting the quality of chili peppers, we now face a more severe shortage of chili. Unfortunately, this is out of our control and without this essential ingredient we are unable to produce any of our products (Chili Garlic, Sambal Oelek, and Sriracha Hot Chili Sauce)."
The top chile pepper-producing state in the U.S. is New Mexico, followed by California, Arizona and Texas. According to the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service, 2021 chile production in New Mexico weighed in at 51,000 tons in 2021, which was a 22 percent decrease from the 2020 figures. Though there was a decrease in production, the chile acreage remains the same in 2021 with 8,700 acres planted. Of all the red and green chiles grown in New Mexico, 91 percent of the 2021 crop was sold for processing.
What Is Causing the Chile Shortage?
"The decrease in production is the result of several factors, including drought and labor issues," Kristie Garcia, director of public affairs with the New Mexico Department of Agriculture, told Allrecipes.
Travis Day, executive director of the New Mexico Chile Association, agrees.
"Labor shortages continue to plague our industry, and water availability continues to be an issue," Day told Allrecipes.
"Surface water allocations in the lower Rio Grande have dropped to six inches, forcing our members to rely on groundwater pumps," he continued. "The usage of groundwater pumping puts an additional financial burden on our farmers with the increased costs in fuel. Fertilizer prices have tripled in some cases, which also plays a role in the drop of chile acreage.
"To simply put it, it is much more expense and harder to produce and harvest chile in New Mexico," Day added.
Garcia also mentioned that, regarding labor issues, the State of New Mexico provided funding to supplement chile harvest labor wages in order to help get the crop out of the ground.
Will the Chile Shortage Impact Other Hot Sauces?
While sriracha may be harder to find on grocery store shelves over the summer, we wondered how chile shortages are impacting other hot sauce manufacturers.
"McCormick is not experiencing chile/hot pepper shortages," Kendra Ferguson with McCormick & Co. told Allrecipes. "We've worked hard to ensure that customers and consumers will find both Frank's RedHot and Cholula hot sauce products on their local grocery shelves."
When We'll See Sriracha Back On Store Shelves?
In its April 2022 memo, Huy Fong Foods informed its customers, "…all orders submitted on or after April 19, 2022, will be scheduled AFTER Labor Day (September 6, 2022) in the order it was received."
"We have no data for this year yet, as harvest is not until early August or so," said Garcia.
A statement Allrecipes received from Huy Fong Foods this week reads, "We are still endeavoring to resolve this issue that has been caused by several spiraling events, including unexpected crop failure from the spring chili harvest. We hope for a fruitful fall season, and thank our customers for their patience and continued support during this difficult time."
"In discussions with our members, 2022 looks like it will be a strong year for chile," Day added. "Plants are looking good right now, but it is all dependent on weather."
What To Do About the Sriracha Shortage
If you can't find your favorite hot sauce on the grocery store shelves, check the produce department instead. If you can find fresh chile peppers, you can make homemade sriracha. And who knows? Maybe you'll never go back to store bought.