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Sriracha post-mortem

The Motley Fool wonders if State Rep. Jason Villalba should get the credit for the resolution of the Great Sriracha Dispute of 2014.

In early January, Texas state representative Jason Villalba made a public invitation to David Tran to pack up and move Huy Fong to Texas. In his announcement, Villalba contrasted “excessive government interference” by “government bureaucrats” in California to Texas’ “low regulations and limited government interference.”

This could have come across as one-off political grandstanding, but Villalba didn’t let go of the issue. His pitch later expanded to include the notion of Texas’ Rio Grande Valley as a possible pepper-farm location—despite the fact that the valley and Dallas are 500 miles apart, which would hike Huy Fong’s transport costs considerably. And on May 12, he brought a delegation of state legislators and Texas officials to Irwindale for a high-profile tour of Huy Fong’s plant and a private meeting with Tran.

Whether or not Tran was seriously considering relocating or expanding to Texas, the visit and the publicity it generated gave him leverage in his conflict with the city. And it gave GOP leaders both in Texas and in California a national platform to criticize what they saw as shortcomings in the Golden State’s business climate.

The dispute’s endgame began Tuesday, when representatives from Democratic governor Jerry Brown’s office held a private meeting with Tran and city officials. Wednesday night, Irwindale’s council voted to drop the issues.

Whether that settles the matter for residents living near the plant won’t be clear until this summer when the pepper harvest comes in for processing. But for now, it looks like Huy Fong will stay put and its most popular sauce will keep flowing.

This was of course a local dispute, one that had nothing to do with state regulations, and the leading suitor for a relocated Huy Fong factory was surely elsewhere in California. Be that as it may, California Gov. Jerry Brown wasn’t taking any chances.

Afraid of losing a few hundred jobs and the world’s best hot sauce, Los Angeles officials urged Brown’s office to take action. The Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development and the Los Angeles Economic Development Corp. began reaching out early this year to try to get the two sides talking, an adviser with knowledge of the meetings said.

Brown’s economic development team got the South Coast Air Quality Management District to evaluate Irwindale’s air — they found no significant odorous problems — and arranged for the mayor of Irwindale, Mark Breceda, and a city council member to visit the factory and begin making peace.

Leslie McBride, deputy director of business investment services in the economic development office, represented the Brown administration during the walk-through on Tuesday. Huy Fong showed city officials their new filtration system upgrades, which should help mitigate future air quality problems.

Brown was briefed several times on the progress of negotiations, the adviser said, though the governor’s office didn’t offer any specific incentives.

This LA Times story has more detail on the backstage activity. Honestly, I think this was more of a communications problem than anything else. For whatever the reason, the city of Irwindale and David Tran dug in their heels as the rhetoric escalated, and it wasn’t until the cooler heads from Gov. Brown’s office intervened, and the reality of maybe actually turning the business completely upside down as represented by the arrival of Team Villalba seeped in, that everyone came to their senses and worked out a resolution that should have been obvious six months ago. You can give credit to Brown, and if there is a real expansion opportunity in the future – still no word on that as far as I can tell – you can give plenty of kudos to Villalba, but from where I sit this was always how this should have ended up. Stuff does happen sometimes – ask a Cleveland Browns fan, or a Baltimore Colts fan, for two such examples – but what really mattered in the end was that the two sides finally started talking to, and listening to, each other. Isn’t that usually how it goes?

Sriracha dispute settled

The City of Irwindale’s long national nightmare is finally over.

Sriracha’s spicy relationship with the City Council cooled off a bit Wednesday after officials unanimously dismissed a lawsuit and public nuisance declaration against manufacturer Huy Fong Foods.

The standoff between the city and Sriracha creator David Tran began in October when the city filed a lawsuit against his iconic company. The battle sparked fears among Sriracha fans there would be a global shortage of the popular condiment and its bottle with the tell-tale green cap.

An informal meeting Tuesday between Tran and city officials, accompanied by a written statement from Tran, provided the council the assurance it needed that Huy Fong will address residents’ odor complaints.

“We forged a relationship. Let’s keep that going,” City Councilman Julian Miranda said Wednesday.

[…]

Before the vote to dismiss the public nuisance order, Irwindale Chamber of Commerce President Marlene Carney gave a presentation to the council announcing the chamber will launch a marketing campaign “to talk about the positives of doing business” in Irwindale.

Tran on Tuesday credited representatives from Gov. Jerry Brown’s Office of Business and Economic Development for bringing the city officials to his factory.

Residents complained last fall the fumes seeping from the factory during the chile grinding season burned their eyes and throats and forced them to stay indoors.

The company recently installed stronger filters on its rooftop air filtration system, which Tran said he tested with pepper spray.

It is unknown if the new filters will be adequate until the company begins to process chiles, which is expected to begin in August.

“At the commencement of this year’s chile harvest season, if the air filtration system does not perform well, then Huy Fong Foods will make the necessary changes in order to better the system right away,” Tran wrote in a letter to the council.

With the settlement of this dispute, there’s now no impetus for Huy Fong to consider relocation, so this should bring the entire sriracha saga to a close. There may yet be expansion possibilities, but the prospect of moving the manufacturing facility, which never really progressed the “vague threat” status, is no longer operable. We can all now resume our normal lives.

I will say, it’s a bit mind-boggling that Huy Fong and the city of Irwindale could have had such a breakdown in communication. You would think this was the sort of routine disagreement that could have been resolved with some ordinary conversations and negotiations, instead of turning into international news. David Tran says in this LA Times story that he “fears that he’s lost market share because he has been forced to reveal so much about his production process”. Maybe, but I think he’s also discovered just how strong his brand is, and by all indications his business is continuing to grow. I’m pretty sure this will all be a net positive for Huy Fong in the end, if it isn’t already.

Finally, regarding that expansion possibility, a Google News search for “Jason Villalba”, the State Rep that has spearheaded the wooing of Huy Fong shows nothing new since his much-ballyhooed visit earlier this month. If there really is something to this possibility, I figure it’ll get mentioned as part of whatever ceremonial recognition of the peace accord with Irwindale takes place. If nothing like that happens, I figure it’s at best a long-term, not-yet-on-the-road-map idea. We’ll see.

The other reason why Huy Fong won’t move to Texas

In a word, water.

Huy Fong Foods, which is staying put for now, is different from Toyota and other companies that have recently been wooed or moved to Texas. It is an agribusiness, relying on thousands of tons of local fresh chiles to operate. And in rapidly growing Texas, where the population is approaching 90 percent urban, some farming advocates complain that agriculture is being left behind in the scramble to accommodate growth. That is especially true when it comes to water policy, water planning specialists say.

“One of the dominant water management strategies for meeting future water supply needs is a conversion away from agriculture” in Texas and most of the West, said Bill Mullican, a former state water planner in Texas who now writes plans for nearby states.

With that in mind, he said, “if you’re going to bring agribusiness to Texas, I would think that you want to focus on those activities that were not water-dependent or at least heavily water-dependent.”

[…]

Most of the stories of Texas agriculture recently have been about high-profile closings and economic losses in the midst of drought, including the loss of a Cargill beef processing plant that employed more than 2,000 people in the Panhandle and the decimation of the Gulf Coast rice processing industry.

Some legislators have suggested that certain crops should not be grown in Texas at all. As the reservoirs that supply both Austin and rice farmers downstream continue to shrink, Austin-area lawmakers argue that growing rice requires too much water, and that those who live and do business alongside the reservoirs have more economic muscle. Along the Brazos River basin, Texas regulators prioritized cities and power plants over rice growers when the river’s users were asked to cut back.

“You already hear in the political realm, ‘Well, agriculture uses 95 percent of the water. We just need to turn the irrigation wells off,’” said Darren Hudson, an agricultural economist at Texas Tech University. “Those conflicts are going to just intensify.”

Villalba has suggested that the red jalapeño peppers needed to supply Huy Fong could be grown in the Rio Grande Valley. But the water rights system there, the result of a court case from the 1950s, prioritizes municipal use over agriculture.

“Agriculture is basically the user of last resort. They get what water is not for cities,” said Ray Prewett, the executive vice president of the Texas Vegetable Association, which is based in the border city of Mission. Even before the drought, agriculture in the region had suffered because of dwindling water supplies and urbanization, Prewett said. Farmers have found it more profitable to sell their water rights to growing cities, and to shift to dryland farming, which pays more in crop insurance.

Water for cities is also much more highly valued than irrigation water, according to the 2012 state water plan. The plan forecasts a shortfall of 260,000 acre-feet of agricultural water in the Rio Grande region by 2060, resulting in a loss of $48 million and 655 jobs. The water deficit for municipal users in the region is slightly above that, but its estimated impact is much greater — $2.2 billion and 54,000 jobs lost.

[…]

While chiles are a relatively drought-tolerant crop, requiring far less water than rice, other issues the agricultural industry faces could create problems. Ben Villalon, a well-known horticulturalist from Texas A&M University dubbed “Dr. Pepper” for his expertise in growing chiles, said chiles are largely gone from Texas because of higher labor costs and the difficulty of finding farm workers. Most Texas Republicans favor immigration policies that could further tighten the farm labor supply.

“It’s a sinking boat,” Villalon said. “They’ll never make it. The money’s just not there. It’s not profitable anymore.” Huy Fong’s pepper supplier has used mechanization and other techniques to cut costs, and in 2011, chile yields per acre were almost 10 times higher in California than in Texas.

See here for prior Sriracha blogging. I don’t really have a point to make about this, I just thought it was a useful perspective that hasn’t exactly been prominent amid the drama and the flood of Texas-versus-California stories. Besides, there’s nothing new to report since the Texas delegation visited the plant last week – the city of Irwindale still hasn’t taken action that might force Huy Fong’s hand, and may yet delay that decision again for at least another week – so here’s a picture of Rep. Jason Villalba in a hairnet to keep you amused until there is something new to note.

The Sriracha delegation arrives in California

Can you feel the excitement?

The self-styled “sriracha delegation” of Texas lawmakers heads to Irwindale, Calif., on Monday to woo the maker of a popular hot sauce to the Lone Star State. And the makeup of the delegation makes clear that bringing sriracha back to Texas is a spicy topic for both parties.

State Rep. Jason Villalba, R-Dallas — who has led the charge to bring the Huy Fong Foods sriracha factory to Texas since residents in its current host city in California complained of itchy eyes and unbearably spicy smells — will be joined by state Sen. Carlos Uresti, D-San Antonio, who represents the district where most of the chili peppers needed for the sauce are grown. San Antonio or a nearby city could be a good fit for the factory’s location, Villalba and Uresti have said.

State Rep. Hubert Vo, D-Houston, will also be in the delegation. Vo speaks Vietnamese, the native language of Huy Fong Foods founder and chief executive David Tran. Representatives from the offices of Gov. Rick Perry, Attorney General Greg Abbott and Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples will also be attending.

Tran has said he is not ready to make a final decision about moving his business. Huy Fong Foods has been in California since it was founded in 1980, and the Irwindale facility relies on a single pepper grower for the chilis used in its famous sauce. California congressmen and other politicians have risen to Huy Fong’s defense. And the Irwindale City Council has backed off of its plan to deem the factory a public nuisance.

See here for all my previous Sriracha-blogging. David Tran may say he’s not made a final decision about moving his business, but he sort of has.

Since the rumble with Irwindale, almost two dozen cities have urged Tran to relocate to their part of the country. For a while, he actually considered it.

City attorney Fred Galante says the problem can be fixed and he hopes it doesn’t come to a move.

“We continue to try to work this out informally,” he says.

And after thinking it over, Tran has decided to stay in his Irwindale factory. He’s lived in California for more than 30 years, and he says he’s not planning to move.

But he might open another site, outside Southern California. An additional location would allow him to keep up with the ever-growing demand for Sriracha, and develop an added source for peppers, in case climate change threatens his current supply.

The Trib confirms this, and point out some obstacles to Texas as a viable Sriracha location:

Tran said Monday the odor controversy hasn’t convinced him to leave California. He told reporters forcefully that he has no intention to move his business, which has been in Irwindale since 2010 and made $80 million in gross revenue last year.

[…]

Actually moving or expanding into Texas wouldn’t be easy, though, for the company. Tran works with a single pepper grower, Underwood Farms, and expects to get 58,000 tons of fresh chile peppers this season. In 2011, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Texas produced only 8,000 tons of chile peppers.

Crop yields in California and New Mexico are also much higher than they are in Texas — Underwood Farms can grow more than 10 times as many chiles on the same amount of land as Texas growers did in 2011. And most of the chile peppers grown in Texas are green; Huy Fong exclusively uses red chile peppers.

Craig Underwood, of Underwood Farms, said his business has produced all of Huy Fong’s chile peppers for 25 years. The company accounts for 75 percent of his revenue. A move to Texas would also be difficult because the weather patterns are very different, he said, and could make growing the chile peppers challenging.

Still, Tran said, Texas is a more viable state than most others because it’s possible to grow chiles there. While other states have expressed interest in his business, Tran said he has only had in-depth negotations with Texas officials, and he likes what he knows of the state so far.

“First-come, first-serve,” he told reporters, grinning.

So expansion is a possible option, and Texas – specifically, San Antonio – is in play for that. It’s too early to say how realistic that is. What is clear is that Tran and Huy Fong Foods have a very close relationship with their existing suppliers.

The jalapeño peppers that will be ground later this year at an embattled Irwindale factory and pureed into the red-hot chili sauce known as Sriracha are now being planted.

Wednesday morning in a Ventura County field off Highway 126, workers unloaded cartons of pepper plants from a Santa Maria nursery and then loaded up a tranplantation machine, which drops the plants into the soil.

Craig Underwood, 72, whose family has been farming in Ventura County for four generations, has been growing the jalapeño peppers that fill the bottles with the iconic rooster on the front and topped with bright-green lids for 25 years. That first year, he called Huy Fong Foods CEO David Tran and asked him if he could grow 50 acres of peppers for him. This year, Underwood will plant 2,000 acres, with plans to harvest 2,200 acres next year.

The international demand for Sriracha sauce has caused Underwood to double the acreage of his crops and expand his operation into Kern County.

“It’s amazing that the sauce has gotten such attention and it has such a cult following. Who would have guessed?” Underwood said.

[…]

Underwood said he and Tran have a special relationship. While most processors are trying to get the grower that will sell them the product for the cheapest amount of money, Tran cares about quality.

Tran insists on peppers that are bright red and have good flavor. He has even brought a taste-tester to Underwood’s fields.

“I don’t know how she did it,” Underwood said, eyes widening at the thought of the heat.

Peppers are always on Tran’s mind.

Underwood said at Tran’s daughter’s wedding, Tran pulled him outside on the balcony to talk about the crop.

“He’s very focused,” Underwood said of Tran.

Underwood will be present at the meetings Rep. Villalba and his posse will have with Tran, and he says in the story that he doesn’t think Tran will move. Who are we to argue with that?

Sriracha for San Antonio?

State Rep. Jason Villalba will finally make his pilgrimage to California to visit Huy Fong Foods and try to convince them to pick up stakes and move to Texas.

State and city officials are hoping to woo the CEO of Huy Fong Foods Inc. into moving or expanding production of Sriracha, the company’s increasingly popular spicy Asian sauce, to San Antonio.

State Rep. Jason Villalba, R-Dallas, is leading a delegation of Texas officials May 12 to meet with CEO David Tran and tour the company’s embattled factory near Los Angeles.

A California judge forced the company to shut down some production after complaints that fumes emitted from the facility caused asthma, nosebleeds and sinus irritation.

“These talks are still very preliminary and we haven’t drilled down on site-selection yet, but with it’s proximity to the Rio Grande Valley and the economic infrastructure to support this type of factory, San Antonio is high on the list,” Villalba said.

Mario Hernandez, president of San Antonio Economic Development Foundation, said the organization reached out two months ago to Tran, who indicated an expansion is more likely than a full-fledged relocation to the Alamo City, which would cost millions.

“We would welcome the opportunity on a complete relocation, but a more likely scenario is future expansion,” Hernandez said.

San Antonio is an ideal location for production of the spicy condiment because it is close to the Rio Grande Valley, a region with a large agriculture industry that could easily grow chilies for the product, Villalba said.

Because the chilies must be transported to a factory for production soon after being harvested, San Antonio, the largest city in South Texas, logistically would be a prime location for a manufacturing plant.

[…]

The Dallas Republican received an invitation from Tran last week and will be joined by state Rep. Hubert Vo, D-Houston, who speaks fluent Vietnamese; Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples; and officials from Gov. Rick Perry’s and Attorney General Greg Abbott’s offices.

“In one of the fastest-growing areas of the country there is an insatiable need for jobs of all types,” said state Sen. Carlos Uresti, D-San Antonio, who was invited by Villalba but couldn’t attend because of a scheduling conflict.

See here for all my previous Sriracha blogging. You have to admire Rep. Villalba for being a team player – it was originally the city of Denton that made a move on Huy Fong, but despite being in Rep. Villalba’s back yard, he’s going with the more practical possibility. I still don’t think Huy Fong is going to move its operations to Texas – if it moves anywhere, it’ll be elsewhere in California – but expansion is an intriguing possibility, one I don’t recall seeing mentioned before. If that really is on the table, it’s an attainable goal and would be a very nice coup.

Here’s a bit more on the expansion possibility from Forbes:

The city of Irwindale voted unanimously [last] Wednesday to table a vote on a resolution until the next meeting, delaying a final decision for another two weeks. If the city council had cemented their vote, the factory would have had until July 22 to stop releasing the peppery fumes that residents were complaining of suffering from heartburn, asthma and nosebleeds.

But aside from the meeting, Tran has given little indication that he is seriously considering moving out of California, where his business has operated for the last 34 years.

“We have never had any issues, so moving was never discussed,” Tran told Forbes. “But why would we need to move if we do not have harmful odors?”

One deterrent for the company to move is that the chili peppers used for the company’s sauces are geographically closer to the factory and must be immediately processed after being picked. But Tran doesn’t see either the proximity to the pepper farms or the city council’s decision to be the end of Huy Fong Foods.

“We could grow in the state [of Texas] if need be,” Tran said. “But after seeing the supporters yesterday, I don’t feel alone, so I need to try to stay here instead of relocating. There is, however, the possibility of expansion to other locations due to growing sales.”

See here for more on Irwindale City Council’s actions. I find it hard to believe the two sides won’t get this worked out. Given that Villalba and crew will be in town two days before Council votes on that resolution, perhaps his visit will serve as incentive towards a resolution.

Even if the Sriracha factory moves, that doesn’t mean it will move to Texas

There’s a lot of competition for them.

After months of heated negotiations with the city of Irwindale over the smell of Sriracha hot sauce, Huy Fong Foods Chief Executive David Tran is appealing to a higher power: a member of the U.S. House of Representatives.

Rep. Tony Cardenas (D-Los Angeles) visited the hot sauce factory Tuesday and spoke with Tran about potentially relocating to the San Fernando Valley. Cardenas is one of dozens of politicians nationwide who have publicly invited Sriracha to locate within their jurisdiction. Offers have poured in from Alabama, Pennsylvania, Louisiana, Kansas, Ohio, Georgia, Iowa, Arizona, New Mexico and West Virginia.

Last week, Tran signaled his intent to consider relocating his factory and invited potential suitors to pay a visit. Cardenas was one of the first. His own experience of the odor was pleasant, Cardenas said.

“Full disclosure, they weren’t in chile grinding mode…but it was a mild smell in my opinion,” Cardenas said.

[…]

Cardenas and Tran also discussed some federal tax incentives for companies that export a certain proportion of their product overseas – which Huy Fong Foods does – but they did not identify any sites for relocation or discuss any specifics of a deal.

“There’s lots of places in Socal, and Tran provides more than 200 jobs making a nationally and internationally recognized product,” Cardenas said.

See here for the background. Rep. Jason Villalba can talk all he wants about what a great climate for bidness we have in Texas – he can even pay a visit out there and say those things in person – but that only gets you so far. There are a lot of logistical reasons for Huy Fong to stay put, or at least stay nearby, and it’s not like California doesn’t have a card or two it can play. Also, and I know this will be hard to believe, some people prefer to live in states that aren’t Texas. I know, I don’t get it either, but there it is. Bottom line, if I were a Vegas oddsmaker, I’d have “Huy Fong does not relocate anywhere” as the favorite, with “Huy Fong moves to some other location in California” as the runnerup. Sorry, Denton.

Sorry, the Sriracha factory will not be coming to Texas

The ongoing battle between the makers of Sriracha sauce and their hometown flared up again last week.

The Irwindale City Council has voted unanimously to declare the spicy smell of Sriracha hot sauce production a public nuisance.

Once the council adopts an expected official resolution at its next meeting, hot sauce maker Huy Fong Foods will have about 90 days to mitigate the odor, which residents say burns their eyes and throats at certain times of day.

The 4-0 vote during a Wednesday night hearing came despite assurances from company attorney John Tate that Huy Fong Foods planned to submit an action plan within 10 days and have the smell fixed by June 1.

Officials with the South Coast Air Quality Management District have been performing tests at the facility and have offered to help the company craft a mitigation plan. Although they would not release the test results, AQMD officials indicated that the smell issues could be resolved with active carbon filters — a technology the company has used in the past.

“The City Council is determined to assert its authority regardless of the status of the odor remediation efforts,” Tate said.

[…]

No demonstrators showed up Wednesday night. But state Sen. Ed Hernandez sent a representative to deliver a statement, calling Huy Fong Foods one of the “shining stars” of the San Gabriel Valley’s vibrant business community and offering to help the sauce maker find a home in a neighboring city.

“I ask that the city of Irwindale reject this inflammatory and unnecessary ‘public nuisance’ designation and constructively work with Huy Fong Foods to resolve these issues,” Hernandez said in a statement.

Councilman Albert Ambriz said that the city wants to keep the hot sauce factory.

“I respect the fact that they are here. But they know there’s a problem and it needs to be fixed,” Ambriz said.

The fuss is basically a tempest in a Rooster Sauce bottle.

But company owner David Tran, a Vietnamese immigrant who founded Huy Fong Foods in 1980, has insisted the odor concerns are overblown — and indeed there are signs the controversy may be as manufactured as Sriracha itself.

The South Coast Air Quality Management District, which includes Irwindale, has never issued a citation to the company and Sam Atwood, a spokesman for the district, says that many of the 70 odor complaints the district had received as of April 7 came from just a handful of households. The first person to file a formal complaint was the relative of a city official, according to court documents. Atwood says inspectors from the district visited the Huy Fong Foods factory and determined the company was not in violation of current air quality regulations. If a smell is bad enough that the district would take action, he says, “You’re going to get dozens if not hundreds of complaints.”

That hasn’t happened yet, but the factory remains in danger of being shut down. Irwindale officials have even said they may have the right to install air-filtering equipment inside the factory and bill Huy Fong Foods for the expense.

Some locals seem baffled by all the fuss. Tania Bueno, who owns a salon a few blocks from the factory, told TIME in February she’s never detected an odor from the Huy Fong Foods factory. “None of my clients have mentioned any smells.” Tran recently opened his doors for public tours to allow Irwindale residents to decide for themselves how strong the smell is.

But then maybe it’s more than that.

After a months-long battle with the city of Irwindale over complaints about a spicy odor, Sriracha sauce creator David Tran said Wednesday he is now seriously considering moving his factory to another location.

Tran responded Wednesday to the politicians and business leaders from 10 states and multiple cities in California that have offered to host the Sriracha factory. He invited them to tour the facility in Irwindale and decide if their communities would complain about the odors that arise during production.

Tran stressed he has not decided whether to move, but would like to explore his options.

The Irwindale City Council voted unanimously to designate the factory a public nuisance last Wednesday despite promises from the saucemaker that they would submit an action plan and fix the smell by June 1.

Tran said he fears the city won’t accept any solution he proposes. If Irwindale residents continue to complain even after smell-mitigation technology is installed, Sriracha’s legal troubles could have no end, Tran said.

“[City officials] tell you one thing, but think another,” Tran said in an interview at Huy Fong Foods on Wednesday. “I don’t want to sit here and wait to die.”

Irwindale City Attorney Fred Galante said he was confused and disappointed by Tran’s actions. Irwindale officials just want an action plan to be submitted, and Galante said that Tran has not proposed any solutions for the city to reject.

“This seems very extreme,” Galante said. “It’s disappointing giving that [air quality officials] have explained that there are readily available solutions.”

[…]

Relocating Sriracha production would not be simple. Tran has been working with a single pepper grower in Ventura County for years, and the businesses have shaped their operations around each other, expanding in tandem. Since peppers for Sriracha hot sauce must be fresh ground on the day they are harvested, Tran said he’ll have to find a new grower if he moves, as well as replace or relocate 60 to 200 employees.

Tran said his first choice is to stay in Irwindale, but the city government’s actions have created an uncertain business climate.

“I have had the bad luck to move into a city with a government that acts like a local king,” Tran said.

See here, here, and here for the background. State Rep. Jason Villalba has been beseeching Huy Fung Foods to consider moving to Texas, where we care a lot less about such niceties as clean air, and he’s back on Facebook pitching his message again. Until this week, his message had not been received by Huy Fung, but now Villalba may get his chance.

Villalba says he’s received a call from the Sriracha maker about setting up a meeting “as soon as possible.” Says the state rep, “We’re assembling our team now and getting ready to go to California.” That meeting will likely take place in early May, he says, and include Texas Commissioner of Agriculture Todd Staples and other state politicians.

“We’re pretty excited,” says Villalba.

Well, good luck with that, but as the title of this post suggests, I remain highly skeptical. Not being near their supplier of peppers would be a significant change to their business, and likely a significant cost increase. Lots of other groups are lining up to make their pitch as well, including other cities close by in California. Anything is possible, but I wouldn’t hold my breath.

Still seeking Sriracha for Texas

State Rep. Jason Villalba has a dream.

Rep. Jason Villalba wants to move production of his favorite spicy condiment to the North Texas area.

A plant in Dallas, Richardson, Plano, or another Texas community could help bring jobs to the state, he said.

Citing “greater opportunities for success” thanks to Texas’ business-friendly environment, the Dallas Republican sent a letter to Huy Fong Foods, the makers of the chili and garlic hot sauce Sriracha.

In the letter, he offered to organize a delegation of Texas dignitaries to talk about the benefits of moving to Texas.

“As a public official and a corporate attorney for small businesses, I am extremely troubled by excessive government interference in the operations of private, job-creating businesses like Huy Fong Foods,” Villalba said in the letter. “You have worked too hard and have helped too many people to let government bureaucrats shut down your thriving business.”

[…]

Villalba said if the plant were to move to Texas and if complaints were filed, “we’d have to address that.”

“We’d want to make sure we can continue to create a strong and vibrant economy and we’re very safe with the companies we do have here,” he said.

That’s in regard to the environmental concerns that temporarily halted production back in November. Hard to imagine Texas being any harder on the environmental regulatory front than California, which the Huy Fong folks may see as a plus or a minus. In the meantime, Villalba’s entreaty comes as the hot sauce makers are at the end of a thirty day moratorium on shipping their product out of state “to ensure that the contents of the uncooked sauces are free of microorganisms, according to a California Department of Public Health order.” Again, whether a Texas approach to such things would work in Huy Fong’s favor or not is open to debate, but moving here could cause other problems.

Huy Fong has been buying peppers from the same Southern California farm for decades. The peppers arrive at the plant within hours of being harvested and are used quickly after that.

It’s all about the local sourcing, y’all. I respect Rep. Villalba for chasing a dream, but good luck solving that.

Sriracha update

For the rooster sauce lovers in my audience, which I figure is most of you.

A Los Angeles County Superior Court judge Tuesday ordered a Sriracha hot sauce plant in Irwindale be partially shut down in response to odor complaints from nearby residents.

Judge Robert H. O’Brien ruled in favor of the city and ordered sauce maker Huy Fong Foods to cease any kind of operations that could be causing the odors and make immediate changes that would help mitigate them.

The injunction does not stop the company operating or using the property entirely, or specify the types of actions that are required.

[…]

It is unclear what the ruling means for next year’s supply of Sriracha hot sauce. The factory harvests and grinds chilis for three months out of the year, and the grinding of this year’s chilis has been completed.

But the mixing and the bottling of the sauce occurs on an ongoing basis. [Irwindale City Attorney Fred] Galante said he did not know if the injunction applies to those aspects of production.

The city’s goal is not to stop the production of the sauce, Galante said.

“We’re going to try to keep having a conversation with Huy Fong and working out some collaborative way to test and make sure the odor problems are addressed,” he said.

The case could still go to trial, but Galante said that the city hopes the matter can be resolved out of court.

See here for the background. It’s not the Srirachapocalypse that some had feared, but you still might want to stock up a bit, just in case.

Bringing sriracha to Denton

It could happen.

It’s not exactly trending — not yet, anyhow — but #Sriracha2Denton is a thing, thanks to a Denton City Council member who smells an opportunity in the wake of a Southern California dust-up involving the beloved hot sauce that’s giving some residents burning eyes and headaches.

Kevin Roden threw it out there earlier today, and it caught on — because, well, why not. We asked via email if he’s serious. His response, via email: Absolutely.

“We have ample assets for a company like this,” he responded. Among them: “ready to go industrial land, a city-owned energy company with much power to leverage, located right where I35E and I35W converge for easy logistics and distribution, two major universities, a growing urban farm district, and citizens who love the product.”

Roden looped in Aimee Bissett, the director of Denton’s Office of Economic Development, who said that the city has yet to reach out to Huy Fong Foods or its president, David Tran. There’s still much research to be done, she says. For instance, she says, “I suspect but haven’t confirmed yet that their pepper supply may be grown in California.” That could put a dent in Denton’s dreams of becoming home to the most beloved hot sauce this side of, oh, Tabasco.

But, she says, “we have a growing urban farm district and local food movement and have the ability to bring them here.”

I suspect a devil-may-care attitude about environmental regulation may be a factor as well. I doubt this will amount to anything, but you do have to admire the initiative. See here and here for more on the dispute, and here for some helpful hints on how to survive the shortage if the dispute drags on. Texas Monthly has more.