Here's a look inside the headline-making Huy Fong Foods Sriracha factory in Irwindale, CA. Eater recently took one of the public tours the factory now offers and had a brief chat with founder David Tran about the troubles his company has had with the city council and in court.
The tour itself covered the grounds of the company's massive Irwindale production facility, much of which was done from the comfort of a Huy Fong Foods-branded golf cart. According to the tour guide, the building is a whopping 650,000 square-feet. 40 customer-routed trucks depart from the factory each day bringing unthinkable amounts of endorphin-creating hot sauces across the country.
The tour followed the production narrative and, as explained by our guide (who was wearing a Sriracha t-shirt), it starts when chilis are picked nearby during the harvest and placed into giant hoppers outside of the building. They're washed three times, then ground, and then mixed with unspecified preservatives. They are never cooked. This "mash" is stored in blue drums until it's time to make sauce from it.
Chili grinding season begins in August, and the mash created in that four month period provides the base for all the Huy Fong sauces made year round. This mash is then sent to a second mixing room, where additional ingredients are added based on whichever sauce is being made. Huy Fong produces its own plastic bottles on site, which are silkscreened with their iconic rooster logo, filled, capped, and sealed. Packed into pallets and boxes by a "robot," the bottles must then be held for 35 days per the DOH. The tour guide said a DOH rep comes and tests samples from the batches every week.
While there was no grinding taking place at the time of Eater's tour, there were workers opening drums of chili mash. Fragrant? Yes. Irritating to the eyes, nose, or throat? Not in the slightest. There were also no perceivable odors in the office space above the factory or outside of the factory, where workers were eating lunch from a food truck on campus. (Eater asked another tour guide about whether the pepper smells ever bothered her and she said it didn't, but that "during grinding season you can smell it.")
People on the tour didn't leave empty handed. Each person was given a 9 ounce novelty bottle of Sriracha with the tag "I put Sriracha on my Sriracha" plus a handout called "The Big Lie" with quotes about how awful the odors from the factory are.
Following the tour, Eater had the chance to sit and chat with founder David Tran in a conference room on the second floor of the factory. Wearing a shirt that said "Srirachaholic," Tran told Eater that while there certainly have been plenty of politicians eager to see his factory move, he's not keen on the idea. "Why should I move?" he said. "I'm a citizen. The USA is my country. This building belongs to me."
He also told Eater that despite sending two invitations to visit the factory on a tour, the city council members have never visited. When asked why he thinks his factory has become a target for the city council he quickly answered, "Money. Nothing else."
Go, have a look around:
· All Sriracha Coverage on Eater [-E-]