Food Policy

Sriracha CEO Compares California to Communist Vietnam



David Tran is the founder and CEO of Huy Fong Foods, the maker of the famously tasty Sriracha hot sauce. Grappling for months with regulators and politicians in southern California about the spicy scents that his factory emits, Tran recently compared meddlesome government to that of a communist country.

It might sound hyperbolic, but he does know a thing or two about living under the nightmarish bureaucracy of a red utopia. NPR explains that Tran "escaped" Socialist Republic of Vietnam and "its many intrusions" three decades ago to start a new life in The Land of the Free.

"Today, I feel almost the same. Even now, we live in [the] USA, and my feeling, the government, not a big difference," Tran said on Monday from his factory outside of Los Angeles.

It's not the first time he's spoken out about the issue. He previously accused the local government of hating him and wanting to shut him down and said that the Irwindale City Council acts like a "local king."

Last month the city council deemed the $80 million business a "public nuisance" for giving off a peppery odor. In 2013, the city sued Tran (despite lobbying to get him to move Huy Fong Foods there in the first place) and California's health regulators shut down the factory for thirty days based on specious claims.

Tran has received offers from public officials throughout the country that want to court Huy Fong Foods. Texas, which is far more business-friendly than California, has made the biggest push. But, because his peppers are grown locally, Tran said he won't move the current operation. He did indicate that he may open another factory elsewhere to meet the growing demand for the sauce. 

Check out Reason TV's coverage of this saucy situation here:

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  1. Don’t chiles ship pretty easily, especially if they’re gonna be ground up and juiced? I gotta imagine shipping the chiles would be cheaper than jumping through all the fuckheaded hoops of the CA regulatory system.

    1. Solving Rubik’s Cube blindfolded, in the dark, after your eyes have been gouged out is easier than jumping through all the fuckheaded hoops of the CA regulatory system.

      1. its awesome. Start working at home with Google. It’s a great work at home opportunity. Just work for few hours. I earn up to $500 a week. I can’t believe how easy it was once I tried it out.

        1. speaking of fuckheaded…

    2. Or find a farm in Texas that can/will grow them. I’m sure about 80% of Texas is suitable.

      1. If so why does he stay in CA? Masochism?

        Or perhaps a guy who runs a giant chili sauce company knows more about what it takes to grow peppers than we do, and there’s some non-obvious reason that growing them just about anywhere isn’t as easy as the armchair ag-scientists here would suggest.

        If nothing else, one has to wonder why, if Texas is so suitable, hardly anyone in the state is bothering to do it:


        1. South Texas and Louisiana (you know, the place where Tabasco sauce is made) are both similar to SoCal in temperature:


          I’m guessing Tran’s reluctance to move is more about the sunk costs of his plant.

          Which might not seem all that relevant if CA keeps trying to screw him over.

          1. Yet, almost always missed in these discussions is the fact that the City of Industry issued a low-interest loan to Huy Fong Foods; the trouble started after that debt got discharged, although it may be just a matter of coincidental timing.

          2. In any case, I feel surprisingly little compassion for people who whine about CA yet refuse to relocate. It seems your choices are vast and obvious: leave the state and go somewhere with liberty; stay and hope someone gives a rip about your whining. I’m just not one of the people who gives a rip in scenario two.

          3. South Texas and Louisiana (you know, the place where Tabasco sauce is made) are both similar to SoCal in temperature:

            Huh? SoCal is always somewhere between 60 and 80 F with 5-20% humidity. South LA and TX can be 100 with 90% humidity in the summer.

            1. Much more of SoCal is desert than beach. We lived in Riverside for many years and they are similar in temperature to Texas. High today in LA is 101, mid May.

              1. The high here in Texas where I live was in the low 80s.

                Last night it got down to the mid 40s.

            2. Deniers all up in this bitch.

        2. If nothing else, one has to wonder why, if Texas is so suitable, hardly anyone in the state is bothering to do it:

          Might have something to do with Texas being located next to Mexico, which has a comparative advantage for growing stuff like chili peppers, as a quick browse through the grocery aisles at any H-E-B would illustrate.

        3. My guess is:

          1) Family in SoCal.
          2) Vietnamese community in SoCal is bigger and better than TX.
          3) The farmers he has used for years are Vietnamese (or not) and he feels some attachment to them.

      2. Yeah, good hot peppers like dry weather — originally they are native to somewhere in Northern Mexico. There is plenty of land in west Texas that fits this description.

        1. Especially since West Texas used to be Northern Mexico.

          1. And before that it belonged to Spain.

    3. I’m sure Tijuana would be happy to have him, although then he’d have to deal with a different sort of criminal gang than he does in LA.

      1. Yeah but that sort of gang leaves you alone if you pay them their protection money.

    4. It’s not like you can’t grow peppers in TX and most other states. Not sure why that would be an issue.

    5. What’s especially weird, to me, is that the peppers he uses are reported as “red jalape?os”. Most US production of jalape?os is in southern New Mexico and west Texas. Moving to (for example) El Paso should actually make it easier/cheaper for him to get the peppers.

    6. I think I read that shipping costs would be prohibitive. Small batches and all.

    7. You are missing the point…he should not have to move his company. Nor should he have to say Jawohl mein fuhrer to the local government intrusive bureaucrats.

  2. You know who else is the subject of constant negative comparisons?

    1. Nickleback?

    2. A cornerback acting as the fifth defensive back?

    3. Backbacon sandwiches?

    4. Nick Lechay?

    5. Nick Danger?

    6. Nick Cage?

    7. Nick the jacket?

      1. Theo LeSeig

    8. Shirtless sting harkonen?

  3. If the company is named Huy Fong Foods (and it is), the preferred style is to use that name for all of the references in the article, not just the first one.

    1. If you notice a writer made a couple typos (and you did), the preferred method to get them to correct them is to email them. That way, people don’t wonder WTF you’re writing about after he / she corrects them.

    2. I always say “Ford Motor Company”, not just “Ford.” Doesn’t everyone?

  4. Like Tran, I moved to America because of its reputation as an awesome capitalist paradise. But after living here for a while, I’ve realized that America is a weird mix of capitalism, crony capitalism, and socialism. And things seem to be getting worse by the day.

    1. Sorry, bro. Srsly.

    2. If only there were a substitute America to replace the America that is gone.

      1. I hear things are pretty good out in the asteroid belt.

        1. I sure hope we have a better, freer society in space, because it’s not looking so hot on Earth right now. I mean, what’s my back-up country if the U.S. keeps heading south?

          1. Well, if the US is heading south, and you want to go in the opposite direction, your choice seems pretty clear.

            1. Except for healthcare and weather, Canada isn’t so bad. :/

              1. And guns.

          2. We’re thinking about Panama, New Zealand, and Uruguay right now. Hubby and kids are fluent in Spanish, so it widens our options.

    3. That reputation is just a PR nightmare for capitalists. The sooner we lose it the better. (Sure, living up to it would be swell too, but let’s be realistic!)

  5. I bought a car last year from a guy that escaped communist Vietnam to come to America. Apparently when the communist party took over they said that cars were unnecessary and everyone would ride bikes. He was a car mechanic so he got in a boat with his family and left. He got picked up by a Navy ship, and some church group brought him to PA. He worked his way up and eventually bought a body shop and now sells used cars also. He said “I’m a capitalist, I couldn’t stay there”. Pretty impressive guy. He was also all about getting paid in cash so the government wouldn’t know what he was doing.

    1. He was also all about getting paid in cash so the government wouldn’t know what he was doing.

      I recall the days when I thought that practice was sketchy.

      Oh, young Knarf, you had so much to learn.

    2. I thought that within, like, 3 yrs. of taking S. Vietnam over, the Communists there had stopped being communists, and everybody was all free & nice & stuff.

      Perhaps I was misled by USAn media, where the emphasis at the time was all on whether a country’s gov’t was friendly with that of the USA?that if they were, that meant they weren’t communists, although they might still be authoritarian. It’s like when Ed Crane had to write an article, “Surprise! China Is Still Communist”.

      1. Up to 155,000 refugees fleeing the final NVA Spring Offensive were killed or abducted on the road to Tuy Hoa in 1975.[73] Sources have estimated that 165,000 South Vietnamese died in the re-education camps out of 1-2.5 million sent,[74][75] while somewhere between 50,000 and 250,000 were executed.[74][76][77][78] Rummel estimates that slave labor in the “New Economic Zones” caused 50,000 deaths (out of a total 1 million deported).[74][76] According to the United Nations High Commission for Refugees, between 200,000 and 400,000 Vietnamese boat people died at sea,[79] although Rummel cites estimates ranging from 100,000 to 1,000,000.[76] Including Vietnam’s foreign democide, Rummel estimates that a minimum of 400,000 and a maximum of slightly less than 2.5 million people died of political violence from 1975-87 at the hands of Hanoi.[76] In 1988, Vietnam suffered a famine that afflicted millions.[80]

        Under the leadership of Pol Pot, the Khmer Rouge killed 1-3 million Cambodians in the killing fields, out of a population of around 8 million.[81][82][83][84] The Pathet Lao killed some 100,000 Hmong people in Laos.[85][86

  6. Mr. Tran should start preparing for his impending audit. How dare he speak up.

  7. How dare the residents of Irwindale complain that their town smells like chili sauce! Friggin’ pinko commies! They’re LUCKY to have a job creator in their town!

    1. Fuck off T o n y.

    2. especially after they lured him to open his factory there when they knew what it smelled like before they enticed him to move.


  8. Framing it exclusively as a “government intrusion” problem is certainly easy, but it’s also lazy. A simple Google search would show that when it comes time to grind the peppers, the area around his plant is toxic. And he has not been responsive when neighbors have complained. “Free market” is a great concept, but if you’re blinding your neighbors with fumes and don’t seem to care, then maybe government owes it to the people to try to help.

    1. And..being lazy by framing your search as it “blinding the neighbors with fumes” is also lazy.

      I work on the other side of the block. There have been no “blinding fumes” and the number of people who actually complained in Irwindale is a handful. One of my co-workers is on Irwindale’s city board; that person has the real information. The actual problem has been quite overblown by the media and too bad that the city of Irwindale now has a black eye because of it.

    2. JeffG|5.15.14 @ 12:58PM

      Jeff sis you conveniently skip over the part where the city lured him there with incentives ?

      They already knew, or should have, that grinding the peppers emits fumes.

      Once his loan was paid off they started fucking with him.

      Because they could and that justifies their salaries and pensions.

  9. The interesting question for me is what recourse should a community have if a company is fouling the air? I am not saying the allegations are legitimate, but suppose for a minute they are. Would a citizen have the right to sue the business for lowering the quality of the air they breathe?

    The Libertarian ideal is total freedom so long as you don’t infringe on others freedom. Well if you are a resident and the area surrounding the factory always reeks of peppers, is that impacting your freedom?

    1. Yes they would have that right, but they also have the right to file complaints with the local government which is what was done.

      The process does work, but it is the government and it moves at a snails pace.

      The other side of the coin with your ideal is what about a company’s rights when they are established prior to the neighborhood that is built up around them? I ask this because I used to work at a company finding themselves in that situation; the company has some noxious (not toxic, just annoying) fumes every now and then due to a certain process. The local neighborhood made complaints to the city and the city fined the company. Hmm….can you have it both ways?

      1. And so if that local government found that pollution noxious enough and a significant health hazard wouldn’t they be duty-bound to shut that factory down? Isn ‘to that what happened here?

        1. Read the example again. The people moved next to the factory not the other way around.

          In fact, I believe who was there first doesn’t always figure into the solution.

    2. They were lured to that location by the city with low costs loans.

      And now the city wan’ts to punish them ?

      Get real dude.

  10. California is a horrible place to start or have a business. We left 5 years ago. Governor Moonbeam and all of his cohorts totally rape new businesses’.

  11. I have lived in CA for the last 6 years. Prior to that I have lived in WI, VA, PA. What I have noticed is that Californians have lost, or never had, the education about what government can truly be good for. Maintaining roads, ensuring good infrastructure for water, electricity, and sewage, garbage. I am not saying those things don’t happen but it is an after thought. For, example, I asked many people if they knew where their recycling went and nobody knew. Many people think they are being “green” but in fact China just legislated a “green wall” for cheap plastics to be brought into their country. It is not all from CA but we are part of it. Things will change when more and cities declare bankruptcies like San Bernardino. I hope.

  12. Incidentally, apparently the most commonly-spoken language in Texas after English and Spanish is Vietnamese:…..nd-spanish

    Jes’ sayin.

  13. Within the past few days, Toyota gave California the finger and is moving to Texas.

    Hey Mexico, if you want California, take it. You can take New York too. Real Americans don’t need or want those cesspools anymore.

    You can make Che Guevara the image on your flag for a little truth-in-packaging.

    1. It’s pretty funny the snarling contempt you right-wingers have for Californians. You know we’re running a budget surplus and non-exploding factories out here.

      1. american socialist|5.15.14 @ 4:30PM|#

        It’s pretty funny the snarling contempt you right-wingers have for Californians. You know we’re running a budget surplus and non-exploding factories out here.”


        Budget surplus ? In California ?

        You are economically illiterate if you believe that, and if not then you are:


        B. BOTH

        I suspect both.

        1. Technically he is correct; however since this shithole state is some $700 billion in the hole he is still a stupid jacktard

      2. Hey american socialist must have nothing better to do then go on a Libertarian website and “heckle” the “right wingers”-
        Why the F*** is that the default position of so many of you lefties? Are you guys to freakin stupid to know the difference between a right winger and libertarian? geez.

  14. Why doesn’t he just clean up his smelly factory? There ‘s a lot of bad things about living in the u.s., but I suppose one selling point compared to places like China and Vietnam is that we haven ‘t subordinated air quality for the corporate bottom line. If this whiny polluter wants to relocate his factory maybe he should consider Ho Chi Minh City. But good luck breathing or not getting cancer.

      1. It’s a good thing I read your links…

        “Huy Fong executives said they were cooperating with the city to reduce the smell, but balked at the city’s suggestion of putting in a new, $600,000 filtration system that may not be necessary.

        Company founder David Tran said his privately held business took in about $85 million last year.”

        Gee another company maximizing profit over environmental concerns.

        1. Tran told local public radio station KPCC this week that he has installed filters on rooftop vents at the factory that he says absorb about 90 percent of the chili and garlic odors from the processing exhaust.

          “To filter 100 percent, I haven’t found any engineer (that) can do it,” Tran said.

          1. Too bad you did not read the entire link.

            Your still fired.

      2. Wow. It seriously looks like he’s been way more cooperative than most people in his position would be.

        Most people would have relocated the factory and sued the city on the way out (I mean, the city DID invite him to build the thing).

    1. He did. american socialist. Your Fired !!!

  15. Well the hipster obsession with cocksauce ends here, I guess.

  16. Texas, my friend, Texas.

  17. What doesn’t make sense to me is that the City of Irwindale invited his factory in to begin with and I imagine he had to jump through all sorts of hoops, file all kinds of reports, etc., even with that invitation. What were they expecting a chili sauce factory to smell like, exactly? Rose bushes?

    Now, I’m sure there are some NIMBY people closish to the factory in Irwindale who are pissed that the factory got built to begin with but, I’m sorry, tough. If the City wasn’t looking out for them then, they should be pissed at the City, not the factory. This just seems like a change in political winds at the City which the factory SHOULD be at least somewhat protected from.

  18. Well, it is California after all, no surprise that they are being difficult, there is no way effing way I would open a business in that taxpayer raping, bloated sick cow of a government that does not bear even a remote semblance of a free society,
    I think it’s high time they carve the shit out of that state and make at least three or four new states,
    Screw that cesspool of big government,

  19. I’m a fourth generation Californian. I’ve lived here since birth in 1957. I’ll end up dying here too as my dreams of leaving for parts north were dashed by family restraints and the fact that, economics makes cowards out of all of us.

    But, I do find all of the anti-California diatribe here quite entertaining. It’s not that I would say any of you are wrong. I certainly agree with 99.9% of it.

    But, there is this demographic anomaly that is being overlooked or, at least not explained. There are more than 38M souls who choose to make this place their home. In fact, I’m pretty sure that the Reason Foundation is based out of Los Angeles.

    Looking at the human population growth in CA since as far back as we have records…and then some……… the trend continues. More people come than go.

    I guess either a majority of people are stupid or, the best marketing people in the world are here singing the siren song to many.

  20. Maybe we should listen to the guy

    The end goal of the Marxist is total control over a people to live for the State. That is obvious. Karl believes that one is not capable of sustaining himself?that the State must sustain him through a collective effort.

    The elimination of poverty in the Marxist mind means the erosion of prosperity. As I predicted in my own fiction of our collapse. A fiction that was based on history. History is an outstanding mentor for a writer—because the lecture is based on fact not university ideological conjecture of a make believe world that does not exist. The Marxist has tried to make this world exist?and failed every time. If my prophecy is correct, or should I say History’s, then we will see it fail again as our nation falls to tyranny.

    Charles Hurst. Author of THE SECOND FALL. An offbeat story of Armageddon. And creator of THE RUNNINGWOLF EZINE

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