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Travis McGee 20-07-2014 05:05 AM

Sriracha plant in Irwindale gears up for chili grinding season
Sriracha plant in Irwindale gears up for chili grinding season
By Sarah Favot, Pasadena Star-News

IRWINDALE Parked outside the Sriracha factory Friday morning below
the U.S. and California flags were the two newest, bright-red additions
to the hot sauce plant on Azusa Canyon Road — mini tour buses.

The 14-seat golf carts are expected to give visitors who are touring the
factory a more comfortable ride, Huy Fong Foods Executive Operations
Officer Donna Lam said. The vehicles, affectionately named Hot 1 and Hot
2, are painted to match the color of Huy Fong Foods CEO David Tran’s hot
chili sauce.

It was clear Friday the plant is gearing up for the busy chili grinding
season next month, when Tran expects even more visitors flocking to
Irwindale for a front-row seat as bright red jalapeno peppers, grown by
Underwood Ranches in Kern and Ventura counties, are crushed into sauce.

A staffing agency conducted a job fair Friday to hire 50 seasonal
workers for the 16-week grinding season, when the factory runs three
shifts six days a week.

Another addition to the factory is The Rooster Room, which is filled
with merchandise emblazoned with the iconic bird.

Huy Fong does not make the merchandise, but has ordered the T-shirts,
socks, bags, hats, underwear, coffee mugs and posters from companies
that use the Huy Fong logo.

Tran was not interested in making the merchandise himself because he
says he’d prefer to focus on manufacturing the best possible Sriracha
sauce. But surveys from visitors who toured the factory asked for a
place to buy Sriracha souvenirs.

“From all those requests, David’s decided to do that,” Lam said.

Another popular request from the visitor surveys is a tasting room.

Since Tran opened the doors to his plant in February amid a legal battle
with the city of Irwindale and complaints that harsh chili odors seeping
from the factory caused health concerns, more than 1,200 visitors have
toured the plant.

The guests have included a Texas state representative and state senator;
a San Fernando Valley congressman; Irwindale’s mayor and city officials,
who declared the company a public nuisance; and an Irwindale resident
who has been one of the biggest critics of the harsh chili odors.

Other visitors have included Sriracha lovers from as far away as
Honolulu, Canada, Thailand and Japan.

A family from Ohio was visiting Los Angeles and made a stop Friday at
the plant.

Sota Baba, who lives in Tokyo and works for a licensing promotions
agency, also made the tour Friday. He and his partner Takuma Ogihara are
trying to bring Sriracha to Japan as they do with other American products.

“I stayed at hotels when I visited New York and I always ate Sriracha
and I thought why don’t they bring this stuff to Japan,” Ogihara said.
He said he brings back at least 10 bottles when he travels back and
forth to Tokyo.

“Japanese people like the flavor of Sriracha,” he said.

Huy Fong is hosting an open house Aug. 22 and 23 to kick off the chili
grinding season.

City officials and residents are eager to see if the filtration system
that Tran has installed is effective once the plant begins grinding the

“We’ll be back when the grinding season starts,” Mayor Mark Breceda said
in May after the city and the company forged an agreement.

Tran has said if there is a problem when the grinding season begins he
will solve it “right away.”

To schedule a tour or to visit the Rooster Room, call 626-286-8328.

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