Perspectives

Sriracha: From Obscurity to Mainstream

Scroll For More

Sriracha: From Obscurity to Mainstream

It’s safe to say that in the food world, Sriracha has definitely hit its stride as a mainstream ingredient. There are Sriracha subs, Sriracha chips, Sriracha mayo, Sriracha ice cream and even Sriracha vodka, but just 10 years ago, this humble paste of fresh chile peppers, garlic and salt was almost unheard of, until some sort of epic shift occurred launching it from relative obscurity to a mega foodie crush. 

For those of us who track flavors, it’s interesting to look back and try to analyze the “why” of a flavor’s journey from emerging to everywhere.

Sriracha is not exactly a new invention. Created in 1980 by David Tran, a Vietnamese immigrant and owner of Huy Fong Foods in California, Sriracha quietly graced the tabletops of Asian restaurants for nearly 30 years before it caught on fire as the darling of everything. For more ways to Turn up the Heat, download the free Flavor Atlas™ white paper.

Tran originally created his Sriracha sauce as something he thought fellow Vietnamese immigrants might like with their pho soup. He didn’t advertise. He didn’t have a complicated business model. He just wanted to make a good sauce that made people happy. Kind of a mind-blowing philosophy in a fierce Shark Tank world, but perhaps one clue to the early Sriracha mystique.

As the culture has backlashed against corporate food megaliths, the unassuming rooster bottle with the green top might have been just the refreshing, anti-big-food story the world needed. Of course, like with anything, there are more threads to the flavor truth than one. And a host of other factors could have led to the out-of-the-blue success.

  1. Americans have a long-running love affair with heat. If watching the hot sauce sadist-enthusiasts around the office challenge each other to the “bell of shame” is any indication, heat seekers are better than bloodhounds at sniffing out the next new way to get their fiery fix. So in the big scheme of things, perhaps finding Sriracha was inevitable?
  2. Chefs used Sriracha as a mainstay in many trendy creations before Sriracha was cool. Early 2000s Spicy Tuna Avocado Roll, anyone? You can thank Sriracha.
  3. Influencers got a hold of a bottle of it. Seriously, if a Kardashian starts dressing up like your product and taking selfies, the popularity train has already left the station. . .
  4. Recipes sprouted up everywhere for sharing. For brownies, for wings, for stir-fry, for you-name-it. Like name-dropping at an A-list event, the addition of Sriracha secured the most ordinary of recipes the status of instant cool.
  5. Super fans. Why do people suddenly come out of the woodwork singing the praises of “their” secret sauce like they’ve been using it since birth? Maybe it’s the need to feel part of a special, in-the-know club. Maybe it’s because they really like it.  Or who knows, maybe it’s because they like feeling swept up in the magic of the hottest new thing. Whatever the reason, I’m pretty sure it’s all good to Mr. Tran.

As for the Turn Up the Heat theme of Flavor Atlas™, the question now becomes, is Sriracha a red flavor giant about to blow up and spectacularly implode? Not likely. As recently as July 2018, consumers rank Sriracha, Ginger and Wasabi as the top-3 “Turn Up the Heat” flavors1—so the beloved rooster sauce is not going anywhere soon.

The real question is which of the emerging flavors like gochujang, yuzo kosho, ndjua and harissa have the special something to become the next hot commodity along the flavor path? It’s a hard thing to prognosticate. But for now, I’m just glad there’s no end to exciting new contenders.

1MNCA Flavor Atlas Online Survey, July 2018

You May Also Enjoy Reading

Why You Want to Target Food-Fluencers

Christopher Wolf

Christopher Wolf

SVP of Insights
For most of human history, food was primarily a source of sustaining life vs. enjoying it. As technology and the economy progressed in the 20th century, it became possible for an increasing number of people to treat food as a lifestyle accessory or status symbol...
Taking a photo of beautiful food with a phone

Can “WFH” Produce Better Creative Work?

Tim Bade

Tim Bade

Chief Creative Officer
I’ve been wondering whether working from home can elevate our creative work. Many studies have been done and most point to enhanced efficiency from people working at home rather than an office. But how does that apply to the creative work we do?
Working from home with kids hanging on you

Six Factors That Drive Every Consumer Choice

Ron Halverson

Ron Halverson

SVP of Halverson
Some decisions are easy. Some are painstakingly hard. The rest fall somewhere in between. Where do your category and brand fit in? Knowing will allow you to influence the consumer decision. Halverson Group can help you find out.
Consumer trying to choose between products

What’s the Hubbub?

Jeff Daniel

Jeff Daniel

SVP of Integrated Connections
Apple, namely Tim Cook, has been talking about the need for transparency around data collected on consumers and to give consumers control over whether they want data collected about them or not...
Digital data security

Making Pandemic Lemonade

Christopher Wolf

Christopher Wolf

SVP of Insights
It will take many years to assess and mourn the devastating and lasting effects Covid is having on our collective mental, physical and economic health. But we can already begin to understand the ways the hospitality industry has adapted for the better and created new opportunity,directly as a result of the crippling lockdowns that laid waste to so many businesses and livelihoods in the past year...

Yuzu what?

Meredith Daca

Meredith Daca

Senior Culinary Planner
What’s happening in emerging citrus flavors. Lemons, limes, oranges and grapefruits. These are the usual suspects when it comes to citrus fruits. But have you tried yuzu?…
Yuzu
Locations In:

BENTONVILLE, Arkansas
BIRMINGHAM, Alabama
BOSTON, Massachusetts
CHICAGO, Illinois
DENVER, Colorado
IRVINE, California

KANSAS CITY, Missouri
MINNEAPOLIS, Minnesota
NEW YORK, New York
SPRINGFIELD, Missouri
ST. LOUIS, Missouri

For brands that are going places.

From daily coffee stops to weekend lunch capades to once-in-a-lifetime vacations, consumers are always on the go. Brands that meet them where they are with the products, services and experiences that delight will win. Marlin Network is a destinations marketing agency that understands where guests are going, what makes them stay and what brings them back for more.



Subscribe To Our Newsletter

You may unsubscribe from our newsletter at any time. See our Privacy Policy for more information on how we store and protect your data.

©2022 Marlin Network. An Advantage Marketing Partner. Trading as ADV.    |     Privacy & Cookie Policy     |     Careers

Scroll to Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website.