Business thrives for Maine hot sauce makers during Sriracha shortage across the country

Billy Barker wasn’t sure why there had been a slight increase in interest in her special hot sauces.

Then she heard about Sriracha’s national shortage.

Last year, Barker had a large harvest of organic hot peppers grown on his Fire Fly farm in St. Albans. She has four cans of her Sriracha sauce on hand and enough peppers to make four more.

“I was recently approached by someone who was wondering how much I could do to supply one of his clients,” Barker said. “I guess I’d better start bringing it to the farmers markets.”

Billy Barker uses a variety of his own organically grown red peppers in his homemade Sriracha sauces. Credit: Courtesy of Billy Barker.

Supermarkets in the Bangor area report empty shelves, usually home to California-made Sriracha with a rooster print and a green hat. With the end of summer, it can become harder to find hot sauce on the shelves. Instead, those looking for an extra punch may need to turn to local vendors or experiment with homemade recipes.

The reason for the shrinking supply is the severe weather conditions that affect the quality of hot peppers used to make the sauce at the Irvinedale, California plant, where Huy Fong Foods, Inc. uses approximately 50,000 pounds of peppers a year.

Ongoing drought conditions in parts of Mexico, where Huy Fong Foods supplies its hot peppers, have drastically reduced the quality and quantity of hybrid jalapeno red peppers. In an email to its customers in April, Huy Fong Foods said it would not be able to produce any of its products without the main ingredient, including Sriracha hot chili sauce, hot chili sauce and Sambal Oelek sauce.

The company also said it does not accept new orders and orders placed after April will not be executed until September.

This is bad news for lovers of the thick, spicy sauce, which is used for everything from wings to dips.

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