How Sriracha Became a Political Prop

It’s an immigrant-owned, widely popular product facing regulation from big, small-town government.

National Journal
Brian Resnick
Add to Briefcase
Brian Resnick
April 23, 2014, 9:55 a.m.

Ir­windale, Cal­if., has had enough of Sri­r­acha. Amer­ic­ans con­sumers are ob­sessed with it. And politi­cians are sens­ing an op­por­tun­ity.

Earli­er this month, the Ir­windale City Coun­cil de­clared Huy Fong Foods, the com­pany that man­u­fac­tures the gar­licky hot sauce, a pub­lic nuis­ance (Cla­ri­fic­a­tion: The city tent­at­ively de­clared the fact­ory a pub­lic nuis­ance in a un­an­im­ous de­cision two weeks ago. It will vote again to fi­nal­ize the meas­ure in two weeks). As much as liv­ing next to a bakery can be won­der­ful, liv­ing next to a hot-sauce fact­ory has proven to be grat­ing. Ac­cord­ing to the coun­cil res­ol­u­tion, neigh­bors have com­plained about “nosebleeds, swollen glands, a burn­ing sen­sa­tion of the throat and eyes, and head­aches, among oth­er symp­toms.”

If the de­clar­a­tion is fi­nal­ized, Huy Fong has un­til Ju­ly 22 to at­ten­u­ate the odor. If it doesn’t, the city can in­ter­vene and will bill Huy Fong the costs via a li­en on its prop­erty. Rather than reen­gin­eer pro­duc­tion, own­er Dav­id Tran tells the Los Angeles Times he’s think­ing of mov­ing the fact­ory.

That news quickly hit the ears of politi­cians. And it’s easy to see why.

For one, Sri­r­acha is an Amer­ic­an dream story. Dav­id Tran, Huy Fong’s founder, is an im­mig­rant. His vis­ion, he told our sis­ter site Quartz, is “to make enough fresh chili sauce so that every­one who wants Huy Fong can have it. Noth­ing more.” He makes some $60 mil­lion worth of it every year.

It’s also an im­mensely pop­u­lar, nearly cult-wor­shiped brand to be as­so­ci­ated with. When the fact­ory tem­por­ar­ily shut down in Decem­ber 2013 after a court or­der, Sri­r­acha fans pan­icked. Homemade Sri­r­acha re­cipes pro­lif­er­ated. Head­lines de­clared “The Days of a Sri­r­acha Black Mar­ket Are Ap­proach­ing,” and offered “How to sur­vive the im­pend­ing Sri­r­acha short­age” guides.

That, com­bined with the nar­rat­ive of the little guy vs. big gov­ern­ment, has proven to be pure polit­ic­al cat­nip, es­pe­cially for Re­pub­lic­ans. Ac­cord­ing to Re­u­ters, “the com­pany says it has more than two dozen in­vit­a­tions from of­fi­cials across the coun­try, sev­er­al in Texas.”

That in­cludes one from Rep. Tony Carde­n­as, D-Cal­if., who toured the Huy Fong fact­ory in an at­tempt to per­suade the com­pany to re­lo­cate to his dis­trict in the San Fernando Val­ley. An­oth­er came from Texas state Rep. Jason Vil­lal­ba, who wrote Tran, “You have worked too hard and have helped too many people to let gov­ern­ment bur­eau­crats shut down your thriv­ing busi­ness.”

The Cali­for­nia GOP has already made Sri­r­acha in­to a talk­ing point, with the Los Angeles chapter un­an­im­ously passing a res­ol­u­tion of solid­ar­ity with Huy Fong, and the chapter’s chair­man telling Fox News that Tran is “ba­sic­ally the story of Amer­ica.”

Here’s the text of their res­ol­u­tion:

Be it re­solved that the Re­pub­lic­an Party of Los Angeles County urges the City Coun­cil of Ir­windale to take such ac­tions as ne­ces­sary to keep Huy Fong Foods in Los Angeles County and,

There­fore, be it re­solved this 19th Day of April, 2014 that the Re­pub­lic­an Party stands with Sri­r­acha and sup­ports Huy Fong Foods as it con­tin­ues to grow, cre­ate jobs, and to bol­ster the loc­al eco­nomy.

The 2013 crisis was aver­ted, but the epis­ode surely only el­ev­ated the Sri­r­acha brand in the na­tion­al con­scious­ness. The in­vest­ig­at­ive news web­site Cal­Watch­dog.com goes so far as to call the Sri­r­acha story “an elec­tion-year gift” for state Re­pub­lic­ans look­ing to ap­peal to Asi­an voters. Neel Kashkari, a Re­pub­lic­an can­did­ate for gov­ernor, has a pe­ti­tion on his web­site to “tell Sri­r­acha’s lead­ers that we stand with them against big gov­ern­ment.”

In all, it’s a story about the little guy against the big, mean, (loc­al) gov­ern­ment. It’s also a chance for politi­cians to align them­selves with a pop­u­lar minor­ity-owned brand. It’s also a chance to lure a fact­ory that em­ploys 70 full-time work­ers in­to a dis­trict. In oth­er words, a talk­ing point with no down­side. Well, that is, un­til those politi­cians’ con­stitu­ents start com­plain­ing about the smell.

What We're Following See More »
STARTS LEGAL FUND FOR WH STAFF
Trump to Begin Covering His Own Legal Bills
18 hours ago
THE DETAILS
DISCUSSED THE MATTER FOR A NEW BOOK
Steele Says Follow the Money
19 hours ago
STAFF PICKS

"Christopher Steele, the former British intelligence officer who wrote the explosive dossier alleging ties between Donald Trump and Russia," says in a new book by The Guardian's Luke Harding that "Trump's land and hotel deals with Russians needed to be examined. ... Steele did not go into further detail, Harding said, but seemed to be referring to a 2008 home sale to the Russian oligarch Dmitry Rybolovlev. Richard Dearlove, who headed the UK foreign-intelligence unit MI6 between 1999 and 2004, said in April that Trump borrowed money from Russia for his business during the 2008 financial crisis."

Source:
BRITISH PUBLICIST CONNECTED TO TRUMP TOWER MEETING
Goldstone Ready to Meet with Mueller’s Team
20 hours ago
THE LATEST

"The British publicist who helped set up the fateful meeting between Donald Trump Jr. and a group of Russians at Trump Tower in June 2016 is ready to meet with Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller's office, according to several people familiar with the matter. Rob Goldstone has been living in Bangkok, Thailand, but has been communicating with Mueller's office through his lawyer, said a source close to Goldstone."

Source:
SPEAKING ON RUSSIAN STATE TV
Kislyak Says Trump Campaign Contacts Too Numerous to List
20 hours ago
THE LATEST

"Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak said on Wednesday that it would take him more than 20 minutes to name all of the Trump officials he's met with or spoken to on the phone. ... Kislyak made the remarks in a sprawling interview with Russia-1, a popular state-owned Russian television channel."

Source:
“BLOWING A SURE THING”
Sabato Moves Alabama to “Lean Democrat”
1 days ago
WHY WE CARE
×
×

Welcome to National Journal!

You are currently accessing National Journal from IP access. Please login to access this feature. If you have any questions, please contact your Dedicated Advisor.

Login