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Jury Finds Sriracha Maker Owes Its Former Chili Pepper Grower $23.3 Million

Plus, McDonald’s franchisees are begging for a chicken sandwich like Chick-fil-A’s, and more news to start your day

sriracha bottle on a table Photo: Steven Depolo/Flickr

Jury finds Sriracha maker owes its former pepper grower $23.3 million

The long and ugly legal battle between the maker of Sriracha and the ranch that used to grow red jalapeño peppers for the hot sauce finally came to a close last week, when a jury awarded $23.3 million to the pepper growers, the San Gabriel Valley Tribune reports. The jury found that Huy Fong Foods broke its contract with Underwood Ranches and committed fraud by misrepresenting and concealing information.

Huy Fong first filed a lawsuit against Underwood Ranches in 2017, alleging that the ranch owes the hot sauce manufacturer $1.5 million for not refunding an overpayment and terminating their partnership. Underwood countered with a $20 million lawsuit of its own, alleging that Huy Fong breached its verbal contract and owed them for costs incurred preparing for future crops. The jury, in siding with Underwood, found that Huy Fong owed Underwood for two years of monetary losses, totaling $14.8 million, plus an additional $10 million in punitive damages (the $1.5 million owed by Underwood was deducted from the total amount).

Undergirding everything revealed in the three-week trial was the human drama of how the decades-long relationship between David Tran, founder and CEO of Huy Fong Foods, and Craig Underwood, of Underwood Ranches, deteriorated. They had been “like family,” Tran told jurors through a Mandarin interpreter; Underwood had attended the weddings of Tran’s children. “A relationship that lasted 28 years, today, we ended up in court.”

And in other news…

  • McDonald’s U.S. franchisees want a Southern-style “premium” chicken sandwich to compete with Chick-fil-A, which is now the nation’s third-largest restaurant chain by sales, and the top-ranked in customer satisfaction. “A Chicken Sandwich at McDonald’s should be our top priority,” a board of operators wrote in an email. “JFK called for a man on the moon, our call should be a category leading chicken sandwich.” [CNBC]
  • Get ready for lab-grown dairy, straight from the test tube rather than the cow. [Bloomberg]
  • A pair of sisters, ages 9 and 7, are petitioning McDonald’s and Burger King to stop contributing to plastic waste by eliminating plastic toys from kids’ meals. More than 360,000 people have already signed the petition. [CNN]
  • Starbucks continues its tradition of novelty beverages with a new Tie-Dye Frappuccino, which launched yesterday and will be available for just five days (or as long as supplies last). Shares of the coffee chain climbed to a record high after the drink’s release — guess people really love colorful Instagram bait? [Insider]
  • A woman ordered a Moana-themed birthday cake for her 25-year-old daughter and received a marijuana-themed cake instead, complete with a cannabis leaf and a stoned-looking My Little Pony. “Moana” … “marijuana” … close enough. [BuzzFeed]
  • Sober bartenders in San Francisco have started wearing pins to signal their sobriety to customers and coworkers. [SF Chronicle]
  • Would you accept a slice of pizza that’s just six pizza crusts arranged in a slice-like formation? [BuzzFeed]
  • Netflix’s marketing budget strikes again, here with these Stranger Things-inspired ice cream pops made by renowned pastry chef Jordi Roca:

All AM Intel Coverage [E]