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Popular maker of sriracha sauce is temporarily halting production. Here's why.

Sriracha shortage still ongoing
Sriracha shortage heads into second year 06:47

Your food could be decidedly blander this summer, with a major sriracha producer warning that it is suspending production because of a shortage of the Thai chili sauce's main ingredient — hot peppers. 

Huy Fung Foods, which makes a popular sriracha hot sauce, said it will stop producing the condiment until September because the red jalapeño chili peppers used to make it are "too green," according to a company memo obtained by CBS MoneyWatch. USA Today first reported the news. 

"After reevaluating our supply of chili, we have determined that it is too green to proceed with production as it is affecting the color of the product," Huy Fung Foods said in an April 30 letter to wholesale buyers. 

"We regret to inform you that we have decided to halt production until after Labor Day, when our next chili season starts," the company added, noting that all customer orders as of May 6 are canceled. Huy Fung Foods sells its products to retailers, restaurants and other businesses, rather than to consumers. 

The company declined to comment on its production pause or its memo to buyers. 

A red jalapeño chili pepper that's too green usually indicates it's not fully mature or ripe, according to Stephanie Walker, a chili pepper expert at New Mexico State University.

"If too many peppers are green jalapeños, that means they are the immature color of the reds," she told CBS MoneyWatch. "They haven't reached proper maturity, so it could be a timing issue, like maybe they were planted too late or adverse environmental conditions slowed down the ripeness."

It's not the first time sriracha supplies have been threatened, with Huy Fong Foods last year facing production challenges related to crop failures.

Maker Of Popular Hot Sauce Sriracha Warns Of Potential Shortage
Bottles of Huy Fong Foods Sriracha line a grocery store shelf on May 10, 2024 in Miami, Florida.  Joe Raedle/Getty Images

The warning comes as more frequent and severe weather events increasingly shape food supply. Although environmental conditions can hurt jalapeño pepper production, Walker said temperatures haven't been hot enough in Mexico to have affected chili pepper production. 

Still, some experts blame a changing climate for the subpar chili pepper growing conditions that have constrained the supply of sriracha in recent years. Mexico is suffering from a drought, with the most severe impact being felt in northern Mexico, where most of the peppers are grown, according to a map from Mexico's National Water Commission. 

California farmer Craig Underwood, who formerly supplied Huy Fung Foods with peppers for its sriracha sauce, said he used to produce 100 million pounds of red jalapeño chili peppers for the company on 2,000 acres. The sauce's distinctive taste is because 90% of its contents consists of fresh red jalapeños, he said.

"That's why it's such a good product," Underwood told CBS MoneyWatch. 

Underwood, who makes his own sriracha, also said he has a sufficient supply of jalapeño peppers, while noting that he produces the sauce at a much smaller scale. He said using green peppers would give sriracha a brownish color instead of its typical bright red hue. 

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