Sriracha hot sauce maker and the owner of Huy Fong Foods, David Tran, and the mayor of Irwindale, Mark Breceda, toured the company's facility on Azusa Canyon Road on Tuesday. An hour-long closed-door meeting followed and the session was described as cordial.
"They want to work with us," said Huy Fong Foods director of operations Adam Holliday. "The city wants us to put in writing the changes we have made to our filtration system and has asked that there be future testing." He said the mayor wants to visit again during the August to November harvest season when the odor from the chilis is at its peak.
About 58,000 tons of chilis are projected to be canned during the 2014 harvest season and the company's workforce will expand by up to 200 temporary workers employed on three shifts. Complaints led the city to consider declaring the popular manufacturer a public nuisance and giving it 90 days to clean up its production process. David Tran warned the city that making upgrades would be too expensive to implement and said he might have to shut down operations. The remarks led to widespread support for Huy Fong Foods.
One residential neighborhood is immediately west and a second neighborhood is less than a quarter-mile to the east. Tran decided to open the facility for the public to tour and experience the operations first-hand. "How's the odor?" asked Holliday, walking alongside two officials from the governor's office of economic development. "We're a small family business with nothing to hide. Over 600 people including families with infants have walked through here in the past few months."
Holliday said the odor is consistent and bottling is done year round. He said the issue is important to resolve because Huy Fong Foods continues growing. "We did about $ 80 million in sales in 2013 and about $ 60 million in 2012." He credits the foodie movement and David Tran's immigrant story as reasons for the company's fan base.
A concern Holliday brought up to the governor's office is a required 35 day hold on the product after packaging. It's a requirement from the Food and Drug Administration that the state enforces. Holliday mentioned the chili is stored for up to seven months prior to bottling and is well-tested for bacteria.
The company needed room to expand and moved from Rosemead to Irwindale in 2010. The city has 1, 436 residents and 700 businesses. City council meets 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, May 28 at Irwindale City Hall, 5050 Irwindale Avenue.